How to Get Image Thumbnail Icons in the Mac Finder
Ever wondered how you can get image thumbnails to show up in the Finder of the Mac? You’re not alone, and a good question from one of our readers came in on this very topic. A recent switcher to the Mac, Carol Kavanaugh writes: “I got a Mac a few months ago and love it so far, but when I browse a folder full of pictures in Windows a thumbnail image of each picture shows up as its icon, on my Mac I get just a generic icon, is there any way to have Mac OS automatically make thumbnails of my images?” There sure is Carol, in Mac OS it’s called ‘icon preview’ and here is how you would enable this helpful feature:
Enabling Image Thumbnails in the Mac Finder
Note that new versions Mac OS will find this feature enabled by default, thus it can either be toggled on or off by using this method:
- From the Finder, hit command-J (or navigate from the View menu to Show View Options)
- Inside the View Options panel, check the ‘show icon preview’ box
- Close View Options and now you’ll have thumbnails for each image
As mentioned, this is now the default setting to be enabled on modern Macs and macOS versions. But with older Mac OS X versions, it has to be manually enabled.
By default in prior versions of Mac OS X, the Finder shows just a simple icon.
This is what you will see with ‘icon preview’ enabled, a thumbnail of the image:
Note: If the folder has a ton of images in it, opening that folder initially may take a second or two longer than usual as a thumbnail is generated for each image. Most people find the useful nature of thumbnails enough to have the slight lag not bother them. It’s also important to point out that because thumbnails must be rendered on the fly it can have unintended performance consequences on some older Mac models, particularly those with limited resources and less available memory. If your Mac experiences a speed slowdown like that, a good solution is to turn OFF the thumbnails by unchecking the box mentioned above, which would take the icon previews away and turn them back to their default icon appearance instead.
For some technical background, these image thumbnails are actually stored in the “.DS_Store” files that are seen when hidden files have been made visible on the Mac. You can think of that ds_store file as a thumbnail cache of sorts, but it also contains meta data that is unrelated to the feature.