Preview – Let me count the ways

So after my previous positive encounter with preview, I thought I was done with discoveries there but no, this really is a killer little app.

See the thing I discovered about it is that despite loading in < 1 second and only taking up a few megs of memory, there is more functionality here than simply previewing:

  • Simple image editing – Cropping, Rotating, Image Correction (Brightness, Contrast, Exposure, etc…)
  • Camera RAW support – Although this is better done in iPhoto
  • Screen Capture – Including the very useful screen capture on a timer
  • Extra PDF functionality – Annotation, Re-Encode PDF (for size reduction, etc…)

Windows is sorely missing an application that fills this gap, more than a “pure” preview but less than PhotoShop :) The preview that comes with Windows XP is a great little image viewer but has no support for editing after a simple rotation. Paint Shop Pro and a hundred other clones all go through the stage of having that perfect balance for a simple image editor but the vendors always decide to add more and more features and end up taking on and failing to topple PhotoShop. The closest to this on Windows that I can think of is IrfanView which is nearly as fast as this and has the basic image editing and preview features (but of course no support for PDF or other file types) but fails in that it looks like it was designed around 1986. Preview gets the balance of features perfect and I would say that it is probably all the image editor that your basic user would ever want/need.

My only wish? Make the zoom button (+) zoom documents (especially PDF’s) to full screen, or if that violates the sacred green button’s UI rules then give me a different button to press that makes the window fill as much screen area, and then zooms the document to that size.

However Apple are treading a very fine line with this application though between functionality and bloat, now I am very pleased to say that in my opinion they are definitely on the right side of that line at the moment but let me take this opportunity to make a plea to Apple to please, please, please keep the scope of this application limited to what it currently does. Don’t fall into the trap of so many software vendors before you and think that more features equals more value. Fight the bloat! Preview is great just the way it is!

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17 responses to “Preview – Let me count the ways

  1. Pingback: My Journey to Macintosh » Weird Application in Memory

  2. Yeah, I agree with you about Preview. A perfect app designed for what it is intended, and thats all. I figure you probably know this but there is the “Automatically Resize” option in the menus, it will only resize it to fit the whole document top to bottom though. Also try out the Slideshow option, and then once its in fullscreen mode just hit the f key to zoom all the way in and use all your vertical screen space.

  3. I am sure you know you can also do a slideshow of multiple images with Preview. Just select multiple images in Finder and open all of them with Preview (I usually do it with command-down arrow)

    While at the slideshow, move the mouse and click on the index sheet button. It’s amazing :)

    Oh, and preview also works as a scanner application as well. If you have a scanner, you can use preview to start scanning.

  4. Preview is built on the technologies like Core Image that are built into Mac OS X so hopefully this will help keep the application bloat down. I believe that Preview got RAW support mainly because RAW support was added to Core Image for iPhoto sake. I have (unfortunately) come across a few PDF’s that don’t work right in Preview though so I wouldn’t suggest ditching Acrobat Reader quite yet. Use Preview by default but keep Acrobat around just in case.

  5. I haven’t found a PDF that it won’t read yet (but I don’t use a lot of PDF documents so thats probably just for that reason).

    I will hold off on getting Acrobat Reader for as long as possible though!

  6. @Khaos:

    I have “Automatically Resize” switched on but it still loads PDF documents using only about 1/4 of my screen and when I zoom, it resizes the window to fit that size of document (which I appreciate is ‘correct’ zoom behaviour, it just isn’t what I want to do :)

  7. I’ve mentioned it in the Essential Software post, but ViewIt has a bit better capacity for working with a lot of photos and performing batch operations on them.
    I was asked by a friend to sort through, and resize a buch of pics for a website. I struggled with a couple different programs, tried to use automator to do the resizing, and I don’t know if I was using it wrong, but it was terribly slow.
    ViewIt gives you the fullscreen option, similar to Preview’s slideshow, and although I didn’t know this before, I just opened a PDF in it (but the PDF handling doesn’t seem to be as good as Preview’s).

  8. Personally, I hate with a passion. I find it unbearable, kludgy and out dated.

    1. It won’t play GIFS, only show the frames. Whilst viewing individual frames is cute, it’s not what I use GIFs for.

    2. The Actual Size button sometimes utilizes the DPI, and thus on regular occassions doesn’t zoom to actual pixel size / 100%.

    3. The zoom in and zoom out buttons don’t snap to 100% so you forcefully have to type it in. The zoom quality is terrible also

    4. You can’t just double click on a single file and page back and forth through the files in that directory like you can on XP. You have to do a select All, and then Open – which then goes crazy if you had non images in that directory. Trying to explain how to do this to my mum is just impossible – but in XP it’s just a double click and that’s it.

    5. The maximize button is useless, the performance is terrible on images around 4’000px wide/tall and above, whereas XP blazes through large images

    6. In Tiger, the rotation is done in the EXIF data. That’s cute, but eBay, the Internet and every other app, including Photoshop CS2 doesn’t obey EXIF rotation. Making it near enough totally impossible to rotate an image in Preview to upload it to the web in the rotated state. This has been no end of pain for me – if not the no.1 irritance on the Mac platform.

    7. stays open cluttering up the dock.

    8. The drawer is an outdated piece of UI and also unbearable to use.

    Regardless of the extra functionality has, I would much prefer Windows Picture & Fax Viewer any day of the week.

  9. For images I use Xee:

    It’s fast, opens loads of image types, lets you maximise windows as well as having a really good fullscreen mode, and allows you to cycle through all the images in one folder. I find it much better than Preview for viewing images. However, I still use Preview for PDFs.

  10. Wow, Kroc. I can understand your reasons for not liking Preview (although I’d complain about programs that don’t use the DPI when zooming, or programs that don’t rotate JPEGs losslessly, or programs that close just because I close the last document).

    But to prefer Windows Picture & Fax Viewer? That’s a joke, right? If it’s not, you should consider IrfanView on Windows; it has an ugly toolbar but a beautiful feature set.

    I also think it’s a bit hyperbolic to say that the way Preview rotates images is the #1 irritance on the Mac platform. You can always, you know, use a different program.

  11. Well, for me, WP&FV ‘just works’. Without hassle I open images, view them, zoom them, rotate them and that’s all. Anything more complex than that, I’ve grown to use other apps for. is not a case of just working as much as WP&FV, especially for my mum. I’m unable to explain selecting multiple files easily, and she can’t rotate images and then upload them to eBay either, and that’s difficult to get around. I don’t care about lossy compression, eBay’s only going to make a crappy 400px image out of it anyway. needs a stronger sense of reality.

  12. Preview is alright, but it has one major flaw IMO. See, I’m a digital photographer and the ability of Preview to support my canon RAW images is a big plus over XP’s Image and Fax viewer, but ya know what kills Preview for me? The lack of the ability to move to the next image in the folder by pressing the arrow key. Sure you can queue up the images in the Drawer, but it’s a PITA when you have 100+, 3MB images (or 100+ 8MB RAW images) to queue up and it takes forever. It’d be so nice if you could just press the arrow key (or a key combo) and move to the next image. That’s actually the only reason why I use iPhoto.

  13. I agree, it would be nice for it to pick up other pictures in the same folder but I use iPhoto for most collections of pics.

    Preview is great for opening up that screenshot, cropping, saving, etc…

  14. Phyllis Goble

    When I do a “Save As” using Preview, the resulting image is cropped to a new size. Is there a way to avoid this if I don’t want to lose any part of my image?

  15. Can anyone tell me why, when I open an image with Preview, it at first appears very crisp, but then gets blurry? and/or how I can prevent that from happening (the image blur)?

    I find that somewhat annoying, otherwise its a great little app.

  16. @jude: New glasses? :)

    Seriously though, I haven’t noticed it doing that at all!

  17. is it possible to use Tiger to fax multiple documents at one time? is there a way to link the documents so that the fax reads it as one? sorry to be lame.