Apple’s Preview app – extras

Although the Preview App can handle PDFs with ease, Preview can also do a lot of things beyond opening images, and playing with PDFs.

From converting images, commenting on documents, and even adding your own signature, Preview is a very under used tool in Apple’s default applications.  In fact it can easily replace Adobe Pro for most of your day-to-day applications.

Here are some of the more interesting ones:

File Conversion

One of the simplest things you might need to do on a file is to covert a picture to a PDF, or one image to another type.  Preview lets you do this fairly simply.

  1. From the File menu choose “export”
  2. Give it a name and where you wish to save it
  3. Under format choose what you would like the document to be.  Your options are: JPEG, JPEG 200, OpenEXR, PDF, PNG, & TIFF
  4. Some of the options also gives you other things you can do.  For instance, PDFs has a Quartz option to do things like graphic styles or file reduction, and JPEG gives you quality control
  5. Save the file


You can mark up PDFs, images or any file that Preview can open with comments, drawings highlighting and much more.  This is all do to the Annotation button.  Click it will bring up the Annotation tool bar.  Mark a file with your comments, highlight or cross out text you may want to change, even draw arrows to the different objects you a referring to.

By default your full user name will be added to the annotation (for reference if multiple people are commenting on the same document).  To change your name listed, or just to remove that feature all together, go in the menu Safari –> Preferences and choose the PDF option.  At the bottom there is the Annotation preferences, with both your name and the check box to turn that off.


This is a very neat trick if you have to print a file out, sign it, rescan it, and then send or store the document.  Preview allows you to store your signature for future use.

Although a note – does require your computer to have a camera for this one

To create a signature:

  1. First open up in preview the preference pane which is located in the menu item Safari –> Preferences
  2. Select Signatures from the options
  3. Click Create signature
  4. On a piece of paper write your signature
  5. Hold it up to your camera so your signature appears on the blue line as if you had written your name on it.  Use the signature preview pane to see what it will look like when recorded.
  6. When positioned correctly, click the “Accept” button.  If you want to keep this signature permanently in Preview, make sure the “Save this signature” is checked.
  7. You will now a see a list of your saved signatures.

To use the signature

  1. Select the annotate button.
  2. Choose the signature option (the S on a line)
  3. Choose your signature
  4. Resize and place the signature where you need it.
  5. Save the file.

You can also add things other than your signature in a similar manner.  Dating things, stamps, basically anything you can capture with your camera you can add to a document.


Have an image that’s just a bit too big?  The annotation tool bar has something for that too.  Instead of having the “A” selected choose the dashed box next to it.  Then you can drag and select the parts you want to either delete (press the delete key) or crop (press the crop button next to selection tool).


You can’t create forms in Preview, but you can use them.  Simply click in the boxes you need to enter info, and once done, click save.  You’ll have the file filled out for your future use (our interactive Time Off form is an example of one of these documents)

Continuous & Book Layouts

Preview doesn’t have to be viewed one page at a time.  You have two other options of viewing the content: Continuous pages, and 2 pages.

Continuous shows you one long stream of pages all next to each other for quick scrolling.  Two pages arranges the document in a “book” like layout.  The first page is by itself, but then from then on you’ll see 2 pages side by side.


Instead of find the original and copying it, or doing save as (which requires you to find the original if you want to reference it) why not try Preview’s Duplicate tool?  Under File you can choose Duplicate which will create a new identical document while leaving the original open.  WHen your done modifying the new copy you will be asked to save it as a new document, including all the options of where, what type of file, and quality.  Or if you didn’t want it, the ability to delete it, without having to go hunting for the file on your computer.

Categories: Tips & TricksTags: , , , , , , , ,

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