I Didn't Know Preview Could Do That!

January 6, 2011 - 11:49am ||| 3 Comments | Add new

Do you use Preview? It’s the bundled app that OS X uses by default when you double-click on a PDF, JPG, PNG, or GIF file, and probably other formats. Now, most designer/publisher types (including myself) changed the file associations long ago so that PDFs automatically open in Reader or Acrobat, and the image files open in Photoshop or Fireworks or similar.

Preview was gathering dust on my Mac, really, until I learned a wonderful tip from one of my favorite blogs, DocumentGeek (http://documentgeek.blogspot.com): Preview has an Annotations (comments and markup) toolbar that works on images and PDFs! (When did that happen?)

Open an image in Preview, and choose Show Annotations Toolbar from the View menu, or press Command-Shift-A to show it. A little toolbar opens below the file being previewed. Use the annotation tools there to mark up the image, like adding text boxes with comments, drawing arrows, and creating simple hollow circles and squares with a line color and border thickness of your choosing.

I love it for quickly adding red circles and arrows to important areas of a screen shot that I’m using in a blog post. It sure is a lot faster than opening up the PNG file in Adobe “Elephant Gun” Photoshop and using the tools there. (GraphicConverter v7, at http://www.lemkesoft.com/ is another great alternative; plus GraphicConverter can do a lot more to graphics than Preview can, such as cropping. EDIT: Preview can crop, see comment below.)

One thing to keep in mind when using Preview to annotate images is that they’re only editable while the file is open in Preview and before you save your changes.  That is, while they’re still “live,” you can select them with the Select Tool (Command-3) and move them around, resize them, and delete them. But as soon as you save your changes,  the Annotations are flattened into the file, as though you had done them in Photoshop layers and exported as a flattened file. This is exactly what I want for my blog post screen shots, so to me it’s a feature, not a limitation.

Annotating a PDF in Preview

If you’re working with a PDF in Preview, though, annotations work just like Comments do in Acrobat — and they’re interchangeable! After you save the PDF in Preview, the comments are still editable. You even see author names and timestamps of each annotation in the sidebar, if you turn on Annotation from the View > Sidebar fly-out menu.

When you open the PDF in Acrobat Pro X (haven’t tried it with an earlier version) on a Mac, the comments you added in Preview appear in the Comments pane, with your user name. And comments you add in Acrobat Pro X appear in Preview’s sidebar too. Crazy!

I’m using Preview much more these days, and discovering new features that are delightful. Soft-proofing! Change image resolution! Make bookmarks!  Thank you Kelly, author of the wonderful DocumentGeek blog.

Comments (Subscribe to Comments RSS)

1 January 6, 2011 - 12:15pm by Anne Marie:

Correction: Preview CAN crop, as 2 people (so far) have emailed me about: “Use the Selection tool and then choose Command-K to crop.” Thank you, Scott and Chris!

2 January 18, 2011 - 1:59pm by brian (not verified):

Apple made the PDF so it only makes sense they make preview more of a PDF friendly program. Photoshop TIFFs used to open by default in preview, which was annoying. After finishing saving a photoshop tiff you go to the file, double click, and preview is staring you in the face like a little kid that wants some candy.

3 January 25, 2013 - 1:02am by Roberta (not verified):

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Free to try it right now !
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