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

Oct 31, 2011 - 19 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. Given that Preview comes bundled with Mac OS X, is extremely fast, and quite efficient at viewing not only PDF’s but tons of other file types, there’s little need to use Acrobat Reader as a way to view PDF files. Accordingly, we’re to demonstrate how to change the default PDF viewer back to Preview on the Mac.

Change the Default PDF Viewer in Mac OS X

This works the same in all versions of 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” and point to the Preview.app found in /Applications/
  • With Preview.app selected, click on the “Change All” button

Change the default PDF Viewing app in Mac OS X

Choosing “Change All” will switch all like documents to open with that newly chosen application alongside the “Open With” option, so in this case it 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.

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), or just launch any other PDF file sitting around on your Mac. The speedy Preview app will now be the default app to open the PDF document.

Preview in Mac

Of course, this tip will be of less use if you need the full functioned Adobe Acrobat version on your Mac and use that for it’s powerful PDF editing capabilities. With that said, for the average person just looking to quickly open pdf docs this can be a significant time saver as it reduces application launch time, and potentially allows for less software to be installed on the Mac. With how functional Preview is, for many users there isn’t much purpose to install Adobe Acrobat Reader on a Mac, so if you find that it takes over the PDF capabilities (amongst other things), you can change the viewer back to Preview, and then even go so far as to remove Acrobat Reader if desired.

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

19 Comments

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  1. adam says:

    What a Hint :p

  2. Mark says:

    You can also use the RCDefaultApp Prefpane for this:

    http://www.rubicode.com/Software/RCDefaultApp/

  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:

    uhhh..
    big thankz!

    it help me that much!

  6. Philip says:

    Thanks! Just what I was looking for!

  7. billhunter@yahoo.com 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

  12. serguti says:

    thanks! very useful the tip!.

  13. Ann says:

    OMG! TYSM! Adobe was so annoying!!!

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