How to Show a Preview Panel in Every Finder Window of Mac OS X

Nov 11, 2014 - 9 Comments

Finder Want to see a Preview panel in Mac Finder windows so that you can get a glance at what images and files look like before opening them? Modern versions of MacOS allow for this handy Preview feature in the Finder.

Longtime Mac users may be aware that the Column view of the Mac OS X Finder has long been popular with users who like to see a preview of what image or document they are selecting in the Finder. Up until recently, this handy preview panel was limited to the Column view however, and if you wanted to see documents or files in a list or icon view of the Finder, it wasn’t there. That changed with modern MacOS releases, and now you can have a Mac file system preview panel available with every single Finder window if you’d like to, including in icon view.


This is a really great feature particularly for those who view a lot of images or who just want to see a preview of the documents, files, and folders they’re looking at. The preview panel shows a decent amount of information, including file name, file size, date created, date modified, last opened, and what tags are used, as well as the ability to add new tags.

How to Show Preview Panel in Mac Finder Windows

To show the Finder window preview panels, here’s what to do:

  • From any Mac Finder window, pull down the “View” menu and choose “Show Preview”
  • Select any file to see the preview panel populate with data about the selected file

Show Preview in Finder window

Any newly opened Finder windows will also show the preview panel. That means once you have chosen to “Show Preview” it will be enabled for all new Finder windows until you turn the feature off.

Here’s what the Finder window looks like after the panel is enabled and a file is chosen:

Finder Preview panel

And here’s what the same Finder window looks like without the panel enabled, this is the default view:

Finder Preview panel

Photographers and those who handle very large image files may want to take note that this feature can lead to a performance hit when using this feature with a folder that has a lot of high resolution images, similar to how showing Finder icon thumbnails can make older Macs suffer performance degradation. The impact of that depends on the Mac model itself and your experience may vary. Nonetheless if you turn the Finder preview panel on and notice a slowdown in Finder performance with folders containing many files with large images, hiding it again is likely to boost speed again. You can also follow some general tips to speed up OS X Yosemite, which for some users may feel slower than prior OS versions on their Mac. Most of these performance issues have been resolved in later MacOS releases however, but the tips can still be beneficial to some particularly on older hardware or if you want to optimize performance in general.

Do you use Finder Preview panel? Do you have any handy tips or tricks for this great feature? Share with us in the comments!

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in Mac OS X, Tips & Tricks

9 Comments

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  1. David says:

    For those of us who are multi-platform users (Windows and Mac), the document preview pane, in a list view of files is something that has been around in Windows for well over a decade. The Mac OS implementation is not as functional/usable as the Windows implementation. This is primarily because the previews are all too often too small to be of any real use (I have two 1080p 24″ displays) and they’re still not of any use (XL previews for example). In the Windows preview pane, the preview is displayed at a more usable size and is scrollable, if it is too large for the preview pane.

  2. Jenny says:

    Very frustrating. I cannot turn it off. I turned it off per the instructions here, but the column remains. Frustrating. If you have tips, I’m all ears.
    Thanks!

  3. Tim Haag says:

    Awesome advice. Helped me super fast.

  4. BobH says:

    I just wish it would do it dynamically. I’d like seeing a full width list window, and then if I select a file have it pop the side window. Or better pop the cover flow window down to show the selection.

    • paul says:

      I like that idea too. For now the best way to get a preview dynamically is with QuickLook, selecting a file and hitting the Spacebar. Not the same, but at least it pops up with the preview.

  5. Panduan OS X says:

    I am use this method on my Finder in OS X Yosemite. This is awesome

  6. cghera says:

    the third icon shows only in column view. This is a way to show preview on a non column view. Quick look pops a new window over the list so sometimes you cannot hop between files just use arrows

  7. john says:

    or press the 3rd icon at the top [][][]

  8. Wharf Xanadu says:

    Why do this instead of quick look

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