Quickly create an image contact sheet in Leopard

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Leopard’s Quick Look is—in my opinion—one of OS X 10.5’s more useful features. I use it extensively to peek into files I think I want to open, to display a single image or a number of images, and to watch video clips before dropping them into a video project, amongst other uses.

Mac OS X Hints reader Bill Bauldry points out another way to use Quick Look, and that’s to create a contact sheet—a page of image thumbnails, often used to proof the images before printing—in a very fast and efficient manner. Many graphics applications include the ability to create contact sheets, but thanks to Leopard, you can make one from the Finder with a few keystrokes (and one click of a button).

In the Finder, navigate to the folder containing the images you’d like to use for your contact sheet. If you want every image in the folder in the contact sheet, just press Command-A to select them all; if you only want selected images, use some combination of Command- and Shift-clicks and dragging to select the files you’d like to use. Once you have the images selected, press Command-Option-Y, which is the keyboard shortcut for File -> Slideshow nn Items, where nn is the number of files you selected.

This will open a full-screen slideshow of your selected images against a black background. Once in slideshow mode, grab the mouse and click the Index Sheet button (in the floating command bar, to the right of the Right Arrow button). Quick Look will exit slide show mode and display an index sheet, showing thumbnails of all the selected images.

The final step is to press Shift-Command-3, the keyboard shortcut that captures the full screen to a file. This will create a file named Picture 1 (and, if you have a second monitor, a file named Picture 1(2)) on your desktop. Because Quick Look’s slideshow mode takes over the full screen, the resulting file will show only your image thumbnails against a solid black background—no menu bar, no dock, nothing except your images. This entire process is harder to describe than it is to do—it literally takes only a couple seconds once you have your images selected.

Once you’ve created the contact sheet, rename it, move it to a permanent location on your hard drive, and then print and/or e-mail it as you wish. This method definitely has some limitations compared to app-based solutions (you can’t control the thumbnail size or background color), but it’s amazingly quick and easy when you just need a simple contact sheet.

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