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

Nov 11, 2014 - 9 Comments

Finder The Column view of the 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. Of course, the problem with that preview panel is that up until OS X Yosemite, it was limited to the Column view, 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 OS X Yosemite, and now you can have a Mac file system preview panel available with every single Finder window if you’d like.

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.

To show the Finder window preview panels:

  • From any OS X Finder window in Yosemite, 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

It’s also worth mentioning that this feature can lead to a fairly dramatic performance hit 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. That’s a little unfortunate given this MacBook Air is a 2012 model, but your experience may vary. Nonetheless if you turn the Finder preview panel on and notice a slowdown in Finder performance, 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.

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


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  1. Wharf Xanadu says:

    Why do this instead of quick look

  2. john says:

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

  3. 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

  4. Panduan OS X says:

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

  5. 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.

  6. Tim Haag says:

    Awesome advice. Helped me super fast.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

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