Set the Default PDF Viewer in Mac OS X Back to Preview

Oct 31, 2011 - 17 Comments

Set the default PDF viewer in Mac OS X

If you’ve downloaded Adobe Acrobat on the Mac you’ve probably discovered that it takes over Preview as the default PDF viewer in OS X, which is annoying because Acrobat is slow to load and a fairly bloated application. There’s little need to use Acrobat Reader as the way to view PDF files, so here’s how to change it back to Preview.

Change the Default PDF Viewer in Mac OS X

  • From the Mac OS X desktop, find a PDF file and hit Command+i to “Get Info” on the file
  • Click on the arrow next to “Open with:” to expand and access the default application list
  • Click the pull-down menu and choose “Preview” from the list, or if it’s not visible, navigate to it by choosing “Other”
  • With selected, click on the “Change All” button

This will restore the leaner and very capable Preview app as the default PDF viewer in OS X and prevent the lengthy launch of Acrobat anytime a PDF is opened. This tip will be of less use if you need the full functioned Acrobat version, but for the average person just looking to quickly open pdf docs this can be a significant time saver.

If you want a quick PDF file to use for this tip, you can grab the Apple history book “The Macintosh Way” for free (direct PDF link).

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Posted by: William Pearson in Mac OS X, Tips & Tricks


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  1. adam says:

    What a Hint :p

  2. Mark says:

    You can also use the RCDefaultApp Prefpane for this:

  3. Charles says:

    Beware: If you annotate PDF’s, you don’t WANT Preview to be the default PDF handler.

    The version of Preview in Snow Leopard subtly corrupts annotated files, although they still look good on the screen. Something is changed in the encoding, and after you save the annotated version, you won’t be able to search within the PDF or copy text from it.

    I don’t know about Lion: I haven’t upgraded yet because it has the Auto Save feature. I don’t want to risk opening a PDF on a removable device and accidentally doing anything that might change it. Lion would save a corrupt version and lose the original.

    • Tony says:

      Thanks for this tip! I knew it must be easy to change default program in mac osx but never found it.
      @Charles OSX Lion does autosave but you can always go back to older version and Lock the file.

  4. Bamik says:

    Thank you!!! That was driving me crazy…

  5. eric says:

    big thankz!

    it help me that much!

  6. Philip says:

    Thanks! Just what I was looking for!

  7. says:

    Thanks, I used this to change the setting in the other direction. After Apple updates, the setting is set back to preview. Preview has a hard time with my PDF files. They look fine on the screen, but get scaled different when sent to the printer, resulting in getting only the center of the document. Adobe is crap, but preview is worse.

  8. Christy says:

    Amazing! HUGE help!! Thank you!!

  9. Mark says:

    Thank You!

  10. THANK YOU!!! says:

    now i can let go of my all-consuming hatred of adobe for taking over my computer. and go back to using it when I *want* to

  11. Suraj says:

    just what i needed. Thanks

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