Saturday, October 05, 2013

Preview App on the Mac

I have only been a Mac user for about twelve years, so did not "grow up" with Apple computers as many of you did. I am still making discoveries about the operating system every day!

I have been spending some time with Preview (I am using OS 10.8.5) and have learned many of the cool things it can do!  The first thing to know is that the is located in your Applications folder. It is worth the effort to add it to your dock so it is always there when you need it!

PDF documents and Preview

Annotating PDFs

If you open a PDF document in Preview, you can annotate it in several ways and can use any color you wish! Go to Tools-Annotate to see the menu.
  • Text can be highlighted with a highlighter that always stays on the line!
  • You can easily underline and strike out full lines of text.
  • Rectangle, oval, line, or arrow shapes can be added, re-sized, and easily moved around. Their line-weight and line-type can be modified, too, as well as being able to fill the shapes with a color.
  • You can add speech (smooth) and thought (cloud-like) bubbles and type notes inside of them as well as adding plain text to the document.
  • A sticky note with text can be "posted" on the PDF document.


A suggestion from William Baker (@MrWilBaker) for a classroom use of one of the annotation features is to use the filled shapes to blank out student names from a PDF document you are sharing or posting.

Carole (@ReginaReadsPA) tweeted to me that she uses the text annotation tool to add citations to images and documents. This is a great idea for attribution for Creative Commons-licensed images!

One of the most useful annotation tools is the signature. How many times have you been asked to sign a PDF document and return it? If you have Adobe Acrobat, of course, you can use a special digital signature in lieu of a handwritten one. 

However, to use your own, handwritten signature, the process is easy with the Preview application!
  • First, you have to create your signature. (You have to do this once on each computer you use.) Open Preview and go to Preferences, click Signatures, and pick the + sign to make your signature. A Signature Capture window shows up. You are instructed to sign your name in black ink (the thicker, the better) on a piece of white paper and hold it up in front of the camera on the Mac.  You will see the signature on the screen, and, when you click Accept, Preview will save it.
  • When you want to use it to sign a PDF you are viewing in Preview, simply go to Annotate-Signature, and the handwritten signature will show up on the document for you to place and re-size. 

Other PDF tips

  • If you want to save the PDF document you are viewing in Preview to iCloud, simply pick File-Move To and pick iCloud. You will be able to view these PDF documents from your iCloud on other computers, but not via the iPad.
  • Another neat feature of Preview is, if you are using Safari 6 or better, when a PDF opens in the browser window, you can place your cursor towards the middle bottom of the document and a pop-up will appear that allows you to open the PDF document directly in Preview. (This only works if you do not have any other PDF reader set-up to open PDFs.)
  • When you have a PDF document open in Preview, you can open the View-Thumbnails menu item and rearrange the order of the pages in your document and then save the rearranged copy! 
  • John Larkin (@john_larkin) told me you can merge PDF documents in Preview, too. I figured out how to do that. Open both PDF documents in Preview and choose to View-Thumbnails. Once you can see the thumbnails, simply pick the pages you want to merge from one document and drag them on top of the thumbnail area of the other document. (Don't put them at the end of the other thumbnails, just drag them on top.) Move the thumbnails around in the merged document if you need to and save it!

 Images and Preview

The Preview application also has image editing capabilities, too. Here are some of them...

Screen Captures
  • Screen-captures are easily created with Preview. Open Preview and go to File-Take Screen Shot. There will be three options-- From Selection, From Window, From Entire Screen.  Many of us use the key commands (CMD+SHIFT+4, etc.) to take our screenshots but this is another way.

  • However, Preview has one neat feature that can help you out. When you pick the From Entire Screen option, Preview provides you with a 10-second countdown which gives you time to move things around on your screen before the screenshot is taken. This is helpful, at least for me, since I often wind up with things in the screenshot that I do not want there!

  • In addition, if you hold the CTRL key down while taking a screenshot from within Preview, the image will be put on your clipboard to easily paste somewhere else. 

Editing images
  • You can crop images when they are open in Preview by picking Tools-Rectangular Selection which gives you the crosshairs to highlight the area you want, and then you simply pick Tools-Crop and save the edited image!
  • There are also additional options available for editing images. If you open an image in Preview and View-Show Edit Toolbar the options appear right on the image, as you can see below. You can add text and shapes, change the color saturation, re-size the image, erase the background, and more. You can also rotate and/or flip the image if necessary.

Image editing toolbar in Preview

  • Preview also allows you to change the file format of an image. Simple open the image in Preview, go to File-Export, and you are presented with the choices of saving the image as a JPEG, JPEG-2000, OpenEXR, PDF, PNG, or TIFF. You can also change the quality of the image to a lesser quality if you need to decrease the file size but want to keep the same dimensions.

Viewing images 
  • To open multiple photos in Preview at one time, first select the images you want to view. (It is helpful if they are all in one folder!) Then right-click or CNTRL+click and pick Open In-Preview. The images will show up with a navigation bar on the side as you see below. Once items are in Preview, you can highlight multiple images and batch edit them with the image editing tools. (Thanks to @john_larkin for this tip!)
Viewing multiple image in Preview

  • Once you have the images in Preview, you can also choose to view a slideshow of the images by picking View-Slideshow.

  • If you load a large number of images into Preview, you can also view a contact sheet by going to View-Contact Sheet. This is handy for printing out or viewing many images at once. You can see a sample contact sheet below.

Contact sheet as viewed in Preview

Customizing Preview

Once you become familiar with some of these tools in Preview, you may want to add or subtract items from the default Preview toolbar. Once an image or PDF is open in Preview, just go to View-Customize Toolbar and you will be presented with the choices below.  You can remove or add items by dragging, rearrange icons on the toolbar, and decide if you want icons, text, or both to show up. (I like to keep text on until I become familiar with the icons.)

Customizing the Preview Toolbar

Do you have other Preview tips to share? Do you have special ways you use Preview in the classroom? Email me or find my on Twitter @kathyschrock