Finder and Quick Look

Sometimes it takes a while to get to know a new piece of software. There’s always a learning curve when it comes to figuring out how to maximize a program’s strengths and to minimize its weaknesses. And the bigger the piece of software, the longer this process can take.

There’s no bigger piece of software for Mac users than OS X. So when Leopard came out late last year, we all started to climb that learning curve. Some of OS X 10.5’s strengths and weaknesses were immediately apparently. (Yes, translucent menu bar, we’re talking about you.) Some took a while to uncover. We’re still finding stuff we didn’t know about last October, when Leopard was first released.

With all that in mind, here are a few things we’ve learned about OS X 10.5 while living with it for the past few months. We’ve got 50 tips and tricks for working smarter with the new Finder and Quick Look, the Dock and Stacks, Spaces, Expose, and more.

Today, we begin with Finder and Quick Look.


Remove the Stripes - Leopard’s new Finder includes a number of aesthetic changes. One of them, the blue-and-white-striped background for List-view windows, isn’t universally liked. If you’d rather have white backgrounds, open Terminal and type defaults write FXListViewStripes -bool FALSE. Then relaunch the Finder by holding down the option key, control-clicking on the Finder icon in the Dock, and selecting Relaunch. To get the stripes back, repeat the procedure, substituting TRUE for FALSE.—Dan Frakes

Put the Path Bar on Top - The Finder’s Path Bar is one of Leopard’s handiest features. Select View: Show Path Bar, and the path to the current open folder will appear at the bottom of the window. That display is also functional: you can drag an item onto any of the folders shown in the Path Bar to move the item to that folder, and you can double-click on any folder in the path to quickly switch to that folder. If you want to see the path to the current folder at the top of the window, open Terminal and type defaults write _FXShowPosixPathInTitle -bool YES. Then press return. Next, hold down the option key and control-click on the Finder icon in the Dock; then select Relaunch. From now on, the path should appear, in traditional Unix format, in the title bar of all your Finder windows. To undo the change, repeat the procedure, replacing YES with NO.—Dan Frakes

Get Info Anywhere: You can open the Get Info screen for any file from within Open and Save As dialog boxes by pressing Command-I.

Get Info in Open and Save As Dialog Boxes - While browsing an Open or Save As dialog box, you can get information about any file by selecting it and then pressing Command-I.—Dan Frakes

Add More Canned Searches - There are a number of predefined searches available in the Search For section of the Finder’s sidebar—and there are some other searches that didn’t quite make the cut. To find them, go to /System/Library/CoreServices and control-click on From the pop-up menu, choose Show Package Contents; then navigate to /Contents/Resources/CannedSearches. There, you’ll find searches for All Applications, All Music, and All Presentations, among others. If you’d like to add any of these canned searches to your sidebar, first copy it to the desktop. Then control-click on it and choose Show Package Contents from the pop-up menu. In the first folder that opens is a search.savedSearch file. Rename this file to whatever you like, and drag it into the sidebar. (Of course, instead of doing all that, you might just want to write a canned search of your own.)—Rob Griffiths

More Canned Searches: Leopard comes with its own collection of searches, but they’re buried deep in the CoreServices folder.

Save Searches in Open and Save Dialog Boxes - The sidebar in Open and Save dialog boxes is similar to the sidebar in Finder windows—except that the Search For section and its saved searches are conspicuously absent. But you can add saved searches to Open and Save dialog boxes: In the Finder, go to the folder containing your searches (your user folder/Library/Saved Searches by default), and drag the desired searches to the sidebar’s Places section. The next time you’re in an Open or Save dialog box, you’ll be able to access the contents of the searches saved in Places.—Dan Frakes

Preview PDFs in Column View - When you’re browsing your files in Column view, a large preview icon of the selected item appears in the rightmost column. If you’re previewing a PDF document, moving the mouse cursor over the preview icon brings up back and forward buttons that let you flip through the pages of the document right there in the icon preview.—Dan Frakes

Reorder File Names with Leading Spaces - There’s an old trick many Mac vets use to force certain files and folders to the top of directory listings: they insert a leading space at the beginning of the file’s or folder’s name, which forces that item to the top of any view that’s sorted by name. You can control the order of many items at the top of such a list by using multiple spaces, too. Items with more spaces in front of their names move closer to the top of the list. And until Leopard, you could select one of these files by just pressing the spacebar while browsing a directory with such files in it. In 10.5, however, the spacebar has been assigned a new task in the Finder: it invokes Quick Look. But you can still use the old leading-space trick by adding the option key to the mix. When viewing a folder containing a space-named file, press and hold option, and then press the spacebar. This will select the first file name with a leading space, without invoking Quick Look. If any of your other files have multiple spaces at the start of their name, you can just press the spacebar again to select them each in turn—you needn’t hold down the option key after the first press of the spacebar. If you want to preview a file with a space at the front of its name, wait just a second or two after selecting the file or folder, and then press the spacebar again to invoke Quick Look.—Rob Griffiths

Preview Fonts: There are several ways to preview fonts in the Finder; Quick Look is the best.
Preview Your Fonts - Prior to 10.5, you could preview a font in Font Book or in a program that supported font previews. Leopard offers several new ways to preview fonts. If you just want a quick idea of what your fonts look like, open a fonts folder (your user folder/Library/Fonts, /Library/Fonts, or /System/Library/Fonts) in the Finder. In List view, the file icon will contain a very small preview of the letters A and g in that font. In Column view, you’ll see a slightly larger version of those letters in the preview pane. Switch to Icon view, and you’ll get a slightly larger preview. Switch to Cover Flow, and you’ll get still larger, flippable icons. The best way to preview fonts, though, is with Quick Look. Select a font file in the Finder, and press the spacebar. Instead of seeing just the A and the g in that font, you’ll see uppercase and lowercase versions of the entire alphabet; some fonts will also include the digits 0 through 9. This makes it simple to get a quick glance at a font. If you want to take a really close look, press command-equal sign (=) while you’re still in Quick Look; you should get a close-up view of your selected font; you can zoom back out with command-minus sign (–).—Rob Griffiths

Quick Look

Toggle Quick Look Views - You can use Quick Look with more than one file selected—Quick Look will show the first file in the selection, and you can then use the left- and right-arrow keys to move through your selection. You could also click on the four-paneled icon in the Quick Look toolbar to view an index page showing thumbnails of every selected file, but there’s an easier way to do that without leaving the keyboard: Press command-return. (For extra eye candy, hold down the shift key, too, and you’ll see the switchover between the two view modes in glorious though time-consuming slow motion.)—Rob Griffiths

Mix Files in Quick Look - You can open a mix of files in Quick Look. Just select the items you want to view—pictures, text documents, movies, and audio files, for example—and press the spacebar. Click on the Index Sheet button in the resulting Quick Look window, and all the items you’ve selected will appear on a grid. To move from one item to another, use your arrow keys. To bring a document to the front, press the return key. To play a media file, click on the Play button. Note that the Play/Pause button is active even when you’re looking at a file that doesn’t “play”—a Word document, for example. If you click on Play when such a document is showing and then press the right-arrow key, the media file that appears will play without your having to once again click on the Play button.—Chris Breen

Quick Look Multiple File Types: You can use Quick Look to preview multiple files, and those files can be of completely different sorts—just select them all and press the spacebar.
Take a Quick Look at the Trash - How many times have you tried to open a file in the Trash—for example, to make sure it’s the one you wanted to delete—only to have OS X tell you that you can’t open the file because, well, it’s in the Trash? Thanks to Quick Look, you never have to face this situation again. Just open the Trash, select the items you want to preview, and press the spacebar to view them in Quick Look.—Chris Breen

Play a Quick Look Slide Show - You may know that you can invoke Quick Look not only by pressing the spacebar but also by control-clicking on an item and choosing Quick Look Name Of Item. But you may not know that you can immediately play an item (or a playlist) by control-clicking on it, pressing the option key, and choosing Slideshow Name Of Item. If you’d like to skip the contextual menus (and if you’ve got the Quick Look button in your Finder toolbar), just select items in a window, hold down the option key, and click on the Slideshow button (which, before you pressed the option key, was the Quick Look button). You can also open the File menu, hold down the option key, and choose Slideshow Name Of Item.—Chris Breen

Build a Better Quick Look - Quick Look is a handy way to view documents but not such a great way to sift through folders and archives. Fortunately, enterprising Mac users have designed some Quick Look plug-ins that allow you to quickly see the contents of folders and zip files. You can find a repository of such plug-ins at To install the plug-ins after downloading them, place them in your user folder/Library/Quick Look. (You may need to create this Quick Look folder.)—Chris Breen

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