capsule review

Instant image preview

Last week I covered NuFile, which fulfills a feature request from many former Windows users: the ability to right-click to create a new file in Mac OS X’s Finder. Another request I see frequently from Windows-to-Mac switchers is for a way to quickly preview images files in the Finder. A couple years back, I wrote about QuickImage CM (   ), a contextual menu plug-in that lets you view—and even edit—image files in the Finder, but some people feel that even QuickImage CM is too inconvenient.

These people will likely prefer Launey Software’s free MilkyWay 1.5.6 (   ). When MilkyWay is running—it works well when set to launch automatically at login, as it runs invisibly in the background—clicking on an image in the Finder (JPEG, GIF, TIFF, PNG, PDF—any image format supported by QuickTime/Preview, it seems) brings up a small, floating window displaying that image.

MilkyWay window

If your mouse has a scroll wheel, you can change the size of the window by clicking on it and then scrolling. Clicking another image in the Finder immediately changes the display to that image; clicking anywhere else in the Finder (to unselect the image) or switching to another application closes the window. (If you prefer, you can set MilkyWay’s preferences to display images continually.) MilkyWay is a great way to quickly view all those “IMG_xxxx.jpg" files you’ve been send via email, copied off Web sites, or downloaded from your digital camera.

If you move your mouse over MilkyWay’s image window, a small toolbar appears offering several options: You can close the window; zoom to fullscreen mode (double-clicking the window also accomplishes this); rotate the image; create a thumbnail for its Finder icon; or move the image file to the Trash. (Unfortunately, these buttons don’t use tooltips to explain what they do; some are obvious, but others you simply have to learn by reading MilkyWay’s documentation.) More options are hidden in the window’s contextual menu: Right/control-click on the image preview and you can set the image as your Desktop picture or open it in its default application.

MilkyWay Buttons

MilkyWay’s preferences dialog—accessible via the pop-up toolbar or the utility’s icon in the menu bar—provides many ways to customize its behavior. Some of the most notable are transparency and size settings for the viewing window; a “3D” view that mimics iChat’s AV conference appearance; and many ways to customize image display.

MilkyWay 3D

Apart from the unlabeled buttons, one other caveat I should mention is that once it’s running, MilkyWay pops up its viewing window whenever you click on an image or PDF file in the Finder, even if you don’t necessarily want to preview that image at that particular moment. For this reason, I’ve moved MilkyWay’s viewing window off to the corner of my screen so it’s less intrusive. But even with this inconvenience—which is admittedly unavoidable given the utility’s functionality—I suspect many people will love the ability to quickly view an image while browsing files in the Finder.

MilkyWay is compatible with Mac OS X 10.3 and later.

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