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Thursday, April 18, 2024

How to Give macOS Quick Look New Powers

Apple claims that a lot of its software is magic. Quick Look really is.

You can, while browsing files on your Mac, hit the spacebar to see a preview. This works for images, documents, and media files, and there are even some basic editing capabilities.

It’s great, but there are all kinds of files the format doesn’t support. Fortunately, you can change that. There are plenty of free applications that add new powers to Quick Look—here are a few of the best ones.

Please note that changes made to macOS a few years ago broke a lot of the Quick Look plugins available online. Everything listed here works as of macOS 12 Monterey.

See What’s Inside Archive Files

On a Mac, opening a ZIP or RAR file, or any archive file, means extracting everything. I prefer this most of the time, but occasionally I want to quickly see what’s inside an archive before opening it. BetterZip. is perfect for this.

This is a paid app that allows you to open archive files, similar to opening archives in Windows. You need to pay for most features, but the Quick Look plugin is free, giving you an easy way to see what’s in any archive without having to open it. Twenty-two file formats are supported, including most of the ones you’ve heard of (and several you haven’t).

Learn About Applications Before You Run Them

Quick Look doesn’t have a lot to say about applications—just the file size and some copyright information.

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The free application Apparency adds more information, allowing you to quickly see whether an application is secure and whether it will run on your system.

The copyright information and file size are still there, of course, but so are the processor the application was built for, the developer's name, and what security features are enabled. This is great for security-conscious users and anyone who is curious about such things.

Preview Unsupported Video Files

Quick Look can only preview files that QuickTime can open. This is fine for the vast majority of videos you’re likely to come across, but if you’ve got a collection of older videos it might not be enough. QLVideo fills in the gaps, allowing you to browse a collection of still frames from AVI, FLV, MKV, and other filetypes your Mac can’t open natively.

Preview Markdown Files

I wrote this article (and almost every article I write) in Markdown, which is a simplified way to format text that’s also kind of ugly. This is why I like QLMarkdown, which makes the files look pretty in Quick Look. Instead of asterisks and brackets, I see nicely formatted text.

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There’s even support for customizing everything about how the rendered text looks, meaning you can use any color code or fonts you want. This is useful even if you don’t write in Markdown—a lot of ReadMe files on sites like GitHub use the format.

Preview Code, or Any Text Document, With Highlighting

I’m not a programmer, but I know enough to occasionally modify things. Whether you’re at that level or more advanced, check out SourceCodeSynatxHighlight. The application supports a staggering number of file formats and can preview text files without any file extension. And it’s quite customizable—you can choose a color scheme for light and dark modes and even build custom support for any file format that’s not supported.

Anyone who writes code, or just messes with it, should install this one. If you want a more powerful alternative, check out Peek, which supports a staggering number of file formats, adds the ability to search inside Quick Look windows, and comes with 70 built-in color schemes.

Preview Comic Book Files

SimpleComic is an app for opening CBZ and CBR comic books that also comes with a QuickLook plugin. If you’ve got any of those files kicking around, this is a quick way to remember which file is which.

QuickLook plugins aren’t as plentiful as they used to be, but it’s still possible to add all kinds of file formats, and the tools above are the best I’ve found.


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