Using OSX Quick Look Feature to View an Image Folder

Look at multiple files easily without installing third-party programs

The Quick Look window is over the images in the folder.

The Mac operating system is packed with little gems to make your life easier. One of these is the little known Quick Look feature.

Suppose you have a folder full of images sitting on your desktop or on a thumb drive and you want to view them quickly, or you're looking for a single photo you meant to email a friend and don't remember where you put it.

There is a built-in feature for quickly 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—without opening the photos. Just use the built-in Quick Look feature.

Information in this article applies to computers running Mac OS 10.8 Mountain Lion or later. It is shown here in macOS Mojave (10.14).

How to Open Quick Look

  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.

    An open folder on a Mac showing 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 new window with the images in it. The first image in the selection fills the window. If you don't want full-screen view, tap the double-arrow icon at the bottom of the image to go to window view. This is the Quick Look feature of the Mac operating system.

    Quick Look view of the images in a folder on a Mac

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 press 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

As you might expect, 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.

If you don't want to view the images in full-screen mode, press the double arrow icon on the control bar at the bottom of the image. However some options are not available unless you are in full-screen mode.

Index Sheet in Quick Look

Not interested in slowing 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, add it to the Photos app, a Note, Reminder, or Message.

To exit Quick View, click ESC on the keyboard or 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

One final note. Quick Look doesn't just work with images. It can be used with a folder containing documents and other media such as video. Just remember to open the folder and select the files inside before clicking Option+Spacebar.