How to View an Image Folder With Quick Look in Mac OS X

Look at multiple files easily without installing third-party programs

What to Know

  • Open your desired folder of pictures. Any folder of pictures works.
  • Select your desired pictures, and press Option+Spacebar to open the first image in full-screen.
  • Use the arrow keys to view different images from your selection of images.

The Mac operating system has a little-known feature called Quick Look. Quick Look provides a shortcut for viewing pictures (and other content) on Macs. You don't need to open Photos or install any third-party software to see a thumbnail index or a quick slideshow of your pictures. Information in this article applies to Mac OS 10.8 Mountain Lion and later.

How to Open Quick Look

Viewing a folder full of images takes only seconds with the Quick Look feature.

  1. Double-click a folder of pictures or use Finder to locate and open the folder of pictures you want to view. The pictures can be in any kind of media—hard disk, CD, flash drive, or memory card.

    A folder on a Mac containing image files
  2. Select the pictures you want to see. If you want the whole folder, use the keyboard shortcut Command+A to select all the files.

    A selection of all the files in a folder on a Mac
  3. Press Option+Spacebar to open the first image in full-screen mode. Quick View launches a slideshow of the chosen images automatically.

    If you don't want a full-screen view, tap the double-arrow icon at the bottom of the Quick View image to go to Window view.

    Quick View full screen view with window button option highlighted
  4. A slideshow doesn't launch in Window view. However, you can use the navigational arrows at the top of the screen to move from image to image. Still, some options are not available unless you are in full-screen mode.

    Quick Look in window view showing navigation arrows

    Using Quick Look

    When you first use Quick Look, the images open full-screen by default, with a control bar at the bottom of each one and on a black background. They operate in slideshow mode, slowing moving from one image to the next unless you select the Play/Pause control at the bottom of the screen to stop on a photo.

    Each Quick Look Screen contains a control bar at the bottom

    You can use the Right Arrow on the control bar or the keyboard to move forward in the group of images or the Left Arrow to move backward, in either Play or Pause mode.

    Index Sheet in Quick Look

    Not interested in slowly scanning the images via a slideshow? Select the Index Sheet icon (four boxes) at the bottom of any photo in Quick Look to see a full screen of the chosen images on a black background.

    Index View in Quick Look on a Mac

    Tap any photo in Index View to go to it in Quick Look.

    Sharing From Quick Look

    When you find the photo you are looking for, click the Sharing icon at the bottom of the image.

    Sharing options in Quick Look

    You can email the photo, AirDrop it to a nearby device, or add it to the Photos app, a Note, Reminder, or Message.

    To exit Quick View, press ESC on the keyboard or click Close on the image control bar.

    Another way to open Quick Look is to select the folder contents and click File > Quick Look in the Mac menu bar or press Command+Y on the keyboard.

    Beyond Photos

    Quick Look doesn't only work with images. It can be used with a folder containing documents and other media such as video. Remember to open the folder and select the files inside before pressing Option+Spacebar.

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