BetterZip Quick Look Generator 1.1

Quick Look is one of my favorite Leopard features; select a file and press the space bar, and you get an instant preview of the file’s contents. Or at least you do if Quick Look supports that particular type of file. Fortunately, many common file types, from images to Office documents to videos, are supported.

But did you know that you can expand Quick Look’s functionality via third-party plug-ins? For example, there are plug-ins available for ZIP files; EPS, Illustrator, InDesign, EPS, and XML documents; folder contents; source-code files; Flash media; and clipping files. (QLPlugins.com is one of the better guides, providing an up-to-date list of available Quick Look add-ons.) You just download a plug-in and then place it in ~/Library/QuickLook (to add the functionality to only your own account) or /Library/QuickLook (to enhance all accounts on your Mac). If the appropriate QuickLook folder doesn’t already exist, just create it yourself. Unfortunately, after installing a plug-in, it can take some time before Quick Look realizes its new abilities; if you're tired of waiting, sometimes you can force this to occur by force-quitting the Finder, but sometimes it’s easier to just log out and back in or to restart.

Which brings me to today’s Gem, and one of my favorite Quick Look plug-ins, MacItBetter’s BetterZip Quick Look Generator 1.1 ( ; free). If you're anything like me, there are plenty of times when you come across a zip archive on your Mac and want to see what’s inside without actually expanding the archive. Perhaps you created the archive a while back and forgot what you put inside, or maybe you downloaded something from the ‘net and you want to be sure what it contains before opening it. Yet even though zip compression and expansion are built into Mac OS X, Quick Look doesn’t show you what's inside an archive. Instead, when you use Quick Look on a zip file, you see something like this:

Standard Quick Look display

Yep, just a generic zip-file icon along with the size of the archive and the date the archive file was modified.

But after installing the BetterZip plug-in, using Quick Look on the same zip archive shows this:

BetterZip Quick Look display

You can see the actual contents of the archive, including detailed information about each file. Especially interesting are the Size and Packed numbers, both for the archive as a whole and for each item inside the archive; the difference between the two numbers is how much space archiving saves compared to the original. (In the example above, not much, because the archive contains already-compressed disk images.)

The BetterZip plug-in also adds Quick Look support for ARJ, BinHex, BZip2, CAB, CHM, CPIO, DEB, DiskDoubler, GZip, ISO, LZH, MacBinary, SIT, RAR, RPM, TAR, and 7-Zip archives (but not SITX, StuffIt’s newest archive format).

BetterZip Plug-in configuration

By clicking on Configuration in the BetterZip display, you can change the view options. For example, you can choose to show hidden files or the contents of Mac OS X packages inside zip archives; you can also opt to show or hide particular columns of information. Unfortunately, these settings don’t stick in the current version of the plug-in; if you log out, they reset to their default values. The developer provides a workaround—which involves editing a configuration file inside the plug-in package—but hopefully this will be fixed in a future version.

One other feature I’d like to see is the ability to extract a particular file or files from an archive without having to expand the entire archive. (Currently, double-clicking on any file in the BetterZip Quick Look display expands the entire archive, just as if you’d double-clicked it in the Finder.) MacItBetter offers just such a feature in the company’s $20, full-featured BetterZip utility, along with a number of additional capabilities, but it would be especially useful if you could do this from within Quick Look; in fact, people might even pay a few bucks for such a feature.

BetterZip Quick Look Generator 1.1 requires Mac OS X 10.5 or later.

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