Quick Look
Developer(s)Apple Inc.
Initial releaseOctober 26, 2007
(Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard)
Operating systemmacOS
WebsiteQuick Look

Quick Look is a quick preview feature developed by Apple Inc. which was introduced in its operating system Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard. The feature was announced at the Worldwide Developers Conference on Jun. 11, 2007.

While macOS's Finder has always had smaller previews in Get Info windows or column view, Quick Look allows users to look at the contents of a file at full or near-full size in the Finder, depending on the size of the document relative to the screen resolution. It can preview files such as PDFs, HTML, QuickTime readable media, plain text and RTF text documents, iWork (Keynote, Pages, and Numbers) documents, ODF documents, Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, and PowerPoint) files (including OOXML), and RAW camera images.[citation needed]

Quick Look can also be opened in full screen and launched from the command line. Additionally, multi-page documents like PowerPoint slide shows can be navigated using the slide previews at the side of the preview window.

Quick Look technology is implemented throughout the Apple suite of software starting with Mac OS X 10.5, including iChat Theater, Time Machine, and Finder's Cover Flow.

Quick Look APIs are available to developers via the Quick Look framework on iOS[1] and as part of the Quartz framework on the Mac.[2]

Supported file types by default

Since its debut, Quick Look has included a number of generators for common file types.

Format Version introduced Notes
AAC 10.5 Cover art in icon view and can play back audio in full preview.
Adobe Photoshop 10.5
AIFF 10.5
Apple Icon Image format 10.5
AVI 10.5
BMP 10.5
Cinema 4D's .c4d Displays the 2D Preview Image embedded in the file.
GIF 10.5 Did not animate animated GIFS[3] without additional plugins[4] until OS X 10.7.[5]
HTML 10.5 Does not load remote resources or execute scripts.
iChat transcripts 10.5
JPEG 10.5
JPEG 2000 10.5
Microsoft Excel 10.5
Microsoft PowerPoint 10.5
Microsoft Word 10.5
MIDI 10.5 MIDI files support has been dropped in OS X 10.8.
MP3 10.5 Cover art in icon view and can play back audio in full preview.
MPEG4 10.5
PDF 10.5
PictureClipping 10.6
PICT 10.5
PNG 10.5
QuickTime movies 10.5 Additional stream formats require the appropriate QuickTime extension to be installed.
RTF 10.5
SVG 10.6
TEXT 10.5
TextClipping 10.6
TIFF 10.5
WAV 10.5
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (April 2013)


Plug-ins can be added to Quick Look to allow previewing the content of other file formats. Plug-ins can also be used to add additional functionality to Quick Look such as syntax highlighting for source code files.[6]

To add a plug-in to Quick Look it needs to be placed in the folder /Library/QuickLook/. To activate that plug-in, either the computer needs to be restarted or Quick Look needs to be reset with the command

qlmanage -r


There are multiple ways to invoke Quick Look.

Keyboard shortcuts:

Command line:[7]

qlmanage -p file


Caching and Forensics

Quick Look can be exploited when conducting a forensic examination of a computer's contents. A thumbnail cache is created for each user in a random subfolder of /var/folders called com.apple.QuickLook.thumbnailcache. The cache contains two files;

files contains the name, path, file-identifier, and volume-identifier of each file in the database.
thumbnails contains metadata about each thumbnail, including the file linked-to in the files table and the offset of its data contained in thumbnails.data.

Quick Look thumbnails are stored for documents on internal disks and also for documents located on removable disks, including those that have been encrypted and can pose a significant security hole. A document may well have a number of thumbnails, each having different dimensions that can range from very large to very small.

The cache can be reset by invoking the qlmanage -r cache command via a Terminal window.

See also


  1. ^ "Using the Quick Look Framework".
  2. ^ "Introduction to Quick Look Programming Guide".
  3. ^ "Animated Gif plugin for Preview?". January 21, 2007.
  4. ^ "Animated GIF QuickLook plugin". December 17, 2014.
  5. ^ "Why can't Quick Look (Spacebar) nor Preview (App) view animated gif?". April 24, 2008.
  6. ^ Frakes, Dan (January 22, 2008). "More Quick Look plug-ins". Macworld. Retrieved September 15, 2014.
  7. ^ "qlmanage(1) Mac OS X Manual Page". developer.apple.com. Archived from the original on October 7, 2011.