Work with Preview icons in Get Info windows

Apple added a small feature to OS X 10.4 that not many people know about: you can now do things with the Preview section of the Get Info window. In earlier OS X releases, the image shown in Preview wasn’t really usable for anything other than, well, a preview. But in 10.4, that Preview image now behaves (with one minor exception) exactly as icons in window title bars do—you can use the Preview section to move, copy, or create an alias of a file, just as you can with the small icons in a Finder window’s title bar.

With any file (except a movie file; that’s the exception I’ll discuss shortly) or folder selected in the Finder, choose File -> Get Info, and then click the triangle next to the Preview section to make the icon visible (see image below). With the Preview icon visible, you can now move, copy, or make an alias to the associated file or folder. Specifically, here’s what happens when you do any of the following:

  • Drag the icon to a new location: If you drag to a location on the same volume, you’ll move the file or folder. If you drag to another volume, you’ll create a copy. If you want to copy to a new location on the same volume, hold down Option before you drag.
  • Command-Option drag the icon to a new location: Regardless of whether the destination is on the same volume or not, this action will create an alias to the original file or folder.
  • Command-drag the icon to a new location on another volume: Move the original file or folder to the new volume, erasing the original in the process.

In a movie’s Preview area, you’ll can actually watch the video using QuickTime’s playback controller, which is shown just below the movie. But any attempt to drag the movie will result in a “Movie Clipping 1” file, which is essentially an alias pointing to the original movie. (It might look like the full movie, but if you check the clipping file’s size, you’ll see that it’s tiny. If you delete the original movie, the clipping file will be useless.)

But for everything other than movie files, it’s nice to have the ability to work with the files as you can in the title bar of a “real” Finder window.

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