Preview: Not Just an Image Viewer

Preview: Not Just an Image Viewer: “

preview-supermanWith the release of Preview 4.0 in Leopard, the little application far superceeded its function of ‘previewing’ files. With useful annotation features to editing PDFs, Preview has been turned into a relatively powerful editor for viewing and editing your documents. At the surface however, Apple has maintained the simplicity and user friendliness of the application, so even a new user will feel right at home. It’s only when you dig into the app will you find all sorts of goodies…

Preview Basics

When it comes to images, Preview will only allow you to switch between images that are currently open in the application. So if you want to view a bunch of images, you need to open them all in Preview. To open up multiple images in Preview, you can either drag them into the dock icon, drag a folder into the dock, or select them just double click!

Before I go any further, I also need to mention the customization sheet that holds all the advanced icons. Right click on your toolbar, select ‘Customize’, and a whole sheet full of functionality pops in. If you don’t find any of the buttons I mention below, they are in that sheet.


Editing Images

You can crop images using the rectangular crop tool, an ellipse, using a lasso, or even use the sophisticated instant alpha tool to automatically detect edges. Preview also features the extract shape tool, which allows you to draw around the edges, and refine them further. This gives you much more control over your select rather than using the straightforward lasso tool.

To crop using the selection tools, merely drag out your selection, and then go to Tools » Crop (Cmd + K). Change your tool type by clicking and holding down on the Selection button in the toolbar.

To use the extract shape tool, paint over the edges. Once the two end points are met, you will be able to refine the selection by dragging the handles. Hit Return to accept your changes.


The instant alpha tool can be used to quickly remove backdrops from an image. Simply click in the background and drag out to increase your circle. Preview will tell you which areas are going to be cropped. Once you’re satisfied, hit Return to accept changes.

Adding Annotations

To bring up your annotations, from the tool sheet, drag in ‘Annotate’ button symbolised by a red circle.

Just select from the rectangular, elliptical, note, or arrow tool to add markup to your images. Once you draw out your annotations, you can resize them as well. To change the colour, select any element, and hit Cmd+Shift+C to bring up the systemwide colour picker [Guide to using the Color Picker]. To change font, including shading and size, hit Cmd+T.


Sure third party apps like Skitch and LittleSnapper do a much more professional job, including uploading your file to a server, but if you need a quick job, Preview can work just fine.

Batch Resizing

With Preview, not only can you resize your images, you can also do it for multiple images at the same time. Either drag in two or more images into the preview icon to open them up, or show the sidebar and drag in additional images there. To resize multiple images, just Cmd+click them in the sidebar to select, and then go to Tools » Adjust Size… to specify your values.


Adjusting colour

If you like the adjustment tools in iPhoto, you will be pleased to know that Preview features a similar tool. Just select Tools » Adjust color, and use the slider to make adjustments. You cannot make detailed adjustments like in iPhoto, and certainly not precise ones like in Photoshop or Aperture.


PDF markup

If you open up a PDF in Preview, the toolbar will change accordingly. Use the customise toolbar function to add the Markup and Annotate tools to your toolbar.


Apart from regular annotations, you can add text markup like highlighting, strikethroughs and underlininig. Great features while editing documents. You can also add PDF standards compliant notes to your document using the Annotations tool.

PDF editing

With Preview, you can now easily edit or delete PDF pages without requiring complex applications like Acrobat. Simply select a page in the sidebar and hit delete. You can also reorder pages by dragging.

If you want to merge two PDFs, just drag the second (or multiple) one in to the sidebar. Then save your document. If you want, you can also save multiple images opened up as a PDF document.

A lot more…

As you can see, Preview has taken a giant step forward with Leopard. If you haven’t given this tool a second look, I’d highly suggest you do. There’s even more inside this brilliant little application than I’ve mentioned here. It’s fast, sleek, and now, very powerful. If you have any tips for making better use of Preview, leave em out in the comments. Widgets

(Via Clippings.)


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