Learn the many uses of Preview on a Mac

Preview is an application available from Apple that runs on all Macintosh computers. Preview allows viewing of many document types, but it also allows editing and marking up. Read on to learn more about the many uses of Preview on a Mac.

a pdf document in Preview

File types

Preview can be used to view documents in the PDF format, as well as image files such as JPG, TIFF, PNG and HEIC. The default program on a Mac for these file types is Preview.

You can also translate images of these types from their original file type into any of the other file types. This is a useful and quick way to change a PNG into a JPG for example.

You can export image files as PDF documents. PDF documents can even have individual pages exported as image files. This facility is very flexible.

The Many Uses of Preview on a Mac

Use Preview to Manipulate Pages in a PDF

The preview toolbar

In Preview you can manipulate PDF documents by adding, deleting, and reordering pages. Make the thumbnail view of the document visible, because it is in this panel that you will manipulate the pages. Click on the icon on the left edge of this tool bar, which will show or hide the thumbnail panel.

Individual pages can also be rotated. Select the page in the thumbnails by clicking on it. Then click on the box with the left-facing arrow in the toolbar. Each click will rotate the page 90 degrees to the left.

Use Preview to Mark up pages

In Preview, any document or image can be marked up. There is a highlighter tool on the toolbar, which is available in several colors.

Clicking on the pencil tip on the toolbar will open additional editing tools. The toolbar will vary slightly based on the version of the operating system you are using.

The Preview toolbar using the Big Sur operating system opened to editing tools
Big Sur Toolbar
The Preview toolbar using the Mojave operating system opened to editing tools
Mojave Toolbar

These new tools offer a way to add text boxes, and to draw shapes on the page. Signatures can be added too.

The PDF document with manuscript markings on it. Learn to use Preview to mark up documents.

The drawing tool allows both freehand and also specific shapes to be drawn. The text boxes can be set to any font, size and color desired.

Use Preview to Crop Photos

The cropping tool on the toolbar looks like a dotted square. Once it is set, the crop menu item will delete all of the document outside of that box. Cropping allows you to focus/zoom in on specific areas of an image.

Use Preview to Change Image Size

One of the most useful tools is being able to change the size or resolution of an image. The tool that looks like a square with arrows allows this.

This option can be especially useful for people who need to prepare images for use in websites, social media accounts, or for submissions that require particular sizes.

In addition to cropping and resizing, you can use Preview to extract elements from a picture, for example a face for use elsewhere, or to remove the background from an image.

For more details on any of these tools, take a look at the official user guide for Preview from Apple.

As you learn how to use Preview on a Mac, we believe you will find most of these tools easy to use. If you have any questions, please let us know, we would be happy to help you!

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