Using OSX Quick Look Feature to View an Image Folder

Look at many pictures easily, without installing third-party programs

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


We have all had this experience. You are sitting with a group of colleagues and one of them mentions, "I just found this killer feature on my Mac." Then he or she flips open his or her Mac Book Pro and proceeds to demonstrate something that just made your life way easier. Your response is inevitably, "Wow, I didn't know that!" 

The great thing about working on the Macintosh platform is there are tons of these little gems tucked away in OSX that do indeed make your life so much easier.

A common complaint is having a folder full of images sitting on your desktop and you want to view them. There are several ways of doing this. For example, you could:

  • Open the folder and make the icons bigger using the View Options.
  • Add them to Photos.
  • Open the folder in Adobe Bridge.
  • Add the images to a Lightroom CC collection.

What if you just want to have a quick look at the contents without wasting time?

Many people don't realize there is a built-in feature for quickly viewing pictures and other content in Mac OS X. You don't need to open iPhoto or install any third party software to see a thumbnail index or a quick slideshow of your pictures—just use the built-in Quick Look feature of OSX. 

You would need Mac OS 10.8 or higher to view photos using Quick Look.

How to Open Quick Look in OSX

  1. Use Finder to open the folder of pictures you'd like to view. The pictures can be in any kind of media—hard disk, CD, flash drive, memory card, network share, etc.
  2. Select the pictures you want to view. If you want the whole folder, just press Command-A to select all.
  3. Press Option/Spacebar. A new window opens and the first image in the selection fills the window. What you are looking at is the Quick Look feature of OSX.

Using Quick Look

  1. To move between the images press the Right Arrow key to move forward or the Left Arrow key to move backward.
  2. At the top of the window are right and left arrows. Click them to move forward or backward.
  3. If you have a Magic Mouse, swiping left and right will move you forward and backward through the images.
  4. There is another way to open Quick Look. Select your folder content and in the Finder select File > Quick Look or press Command-Y.
  5. Want to have a full-screen view? Click the Full-Screen button to the right of the close button.
  6. Want to view the images as a slideshow? Go into Full-Screen view and click the Play/Pause button on the controller that appears.
  7. Want to see an Index Sheet of the images? Click the Index Sheet button (The button with four rectangles) in the Quick Look interface or press Command-Return.
  8. Want to see an Index Sheet in Full-Screen view? Click the Index Sheet button in the Controller.
  9. To return to Quick Look from the Index Sheet, press the Esc key.
  10. To zoom in on an image in Quick Look, press the Option key, With the Option key held down, click and drag around the image.
  1. Click the Open with Preview button to open the current image using the Preview application.
  2. Click the Share button to share the current image using Mail, add the image to Photos, post it to Twitter or Facebook and other social media outlets.

You should also know that Quick Look isn't limited to the Finder. It is found in FTP applications such as Transmit and Cyberduck. For example, in Transmit you can launch Quick Look by selecting File > Quick Look. This feature is also built into mail and messages. In Mail, click the paper Clip button which adds attachments. Navigate to the folder you wish to attach, select it and Right Click on the folder to see Quick Look appear in the resulting Context Menu. This is especially useful if you have a few dozen images in the folder and only want to attach one.

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.