9 Tricks for the Full Screen Slideshow Feature in Mac OS X

Sep 6, 2012 - 32 Comments

OS X Full Screen Slideshow in Finder

Did you know the Finder in Mac OS X has a built-in instant image slide-show feature? It’s part of Quick Look, and though it’s been around a while, it’s a little known feature that is really great when you want to quickly show off a group of pictures, or even if you just want to take a single picture into full-screen mode without having to launch an app like Preview.

Image Slideshow Tricks for Mac Finder

First: Select a picture or group of images from the desktop, then use the following:

  • Option+Spacebar to launch image(s) into the full-screen slideshow mode
  • Spacebar to pause/play the image slideshow
  • Left Arrow to go back, Right Arrow to go forward
  • Gesture with two-fingers left to go forward, two-finger gesture right to go back
  • Option to view smaller images at actual size
  • Click “Index Sheet” to view thumbnails of all images in the slideshow
  • Click “Add to iPhoto” to import the image into iPhoto
  • Hold Control key and use a two-fingered back or forward swipe in to zoom into the photo
  • Escape to exit

Full screen slide show with contact sheet in Mac OS X

The zoom features are somewhat independent of the slideshow and must be enabled in order to work, this is very easy in OS X Mountain Lion & Mavericks since it can be activated with a keyboard shortcut.

Previous versions of OS X could enter a more limited slideshow through Quick Look by hitting Command+Option+Y, so if you’re still on Snow Leopard try that instead. It doesn’t have all the features that were added to Lion and Mountain Lion, but it’s still pretty good.


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


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  1. Pawel says:

    I had the same problem – how to run a full-screen photo slideshow on macos with random/shuffle order. That’s why I’ve developed Slideshower app (https://slideshower.com) – any feedback is more than appreciated!

  2. Cleiton Alves says:

    Thanks! Help me a lot!

  3. Richard Marks says:

    This function of Option-spacebar doesn’t seem to work the same after I upgraded to Sierra. Is there a workaround?

    • Jared Rifkin says:

      “opt-comm-y” works in 10.13 (the Highest Sierra around today). the advantage of this is that as long as the images (including .mov’s) are sequentially numbered in the order you want them (use Script Editor, e.g.), all will cycle and automatically open and play. I agree that the display time per image is a limitation. As for display size- if it’s worth showing, it’s worth taking the time to go thru each image (I find preview the easiest) and crop, set image size, and don’t forget to set the resolution (I usually set to 400 pixels/inch). Set it, start it, and sit back with your audience and enjoy!
      As for Grandma’s or anybody else, Show Respect!!! Nobody except the insultor has a lowest denominator.
      As for other-than-Mac afficionados, some of this is what you get used to and some of this is what do you need from a computer without fear of viruses (etc). I’ve used both extensively and I have my personal preference.

  4. Lance E Sloan says:

    This is a good tip. However, it’s actually just one trick with nine features.

    FYI: The “command-option-Y” key combination still works in OS X 10.11.

  5. Rajesh Pabari says:

    Nice, Thanks

  6. Walker 2 says:

    I hope, if you have an 83 yoa loved one, he or she is as indifferent and insensitive as you seem to be, so that when you refer to him or her as the “lowest common denominator” they will not be hurt. Then, maybe they will be able to learn new things through multiple steps, in stead of simply opening e-mail.

  7. David says:

    how do I set it to rotate throgu the photos say every 8 to 10 seconds? i.e. a background slideshow without manula intervention?

  8. Marcus says:

    Any way to just highlight one image, and go to full screen slideshow of all images in a folder? I have Phoenix Slides, which does this, but would like to find a Finder-native shortcut.

  9. Friso says:

    Great tip! I moved from Photos to Carousel in Dropbox. The full screen slide show in Carousel has a white background. That makes that feature useless: imagine that on a 42″ screen…
    This builtin slide show was the missing piece in my current setup of organizing and showing my photos!

  10. Jon says:

    Superconvenient and fast. Thank you. :-)

  11. Paru says:

    Thanx. It was really helpful. Really appreciated it.

  12. kevin Perera says:

    I use this feature a lot – great way to cycle through folders of travel photos, show your portfolio etc. The problem I now have in this age of high-resolution monitors is that if your images have a lower pixel dimension than your monitor it will not show up full screen. With my retina iMac at 3800 pixels across, the first image scales to full screen and then the rest (1600pixel-wide photos) show up small in the center of the monitor. I guess OS programmers forget that many of us were using digital cameras when resolutions were much lower!

  13. Arjun says:

    Awesomo! Thanks!

  14. Awesome says:

    Thank you. Very Helpful :) (Y)

  15. Scully says:

    Thank you so much for this! I have been trying to figure out how to do this for eons but was to lazy to look up. You have made it so much easier, and enjoyable, for me to view pictures.

  16. spencer says:

    That’s a great tip! Thanks – it’s great for doing a quick preview of the most recent shots.

  17. grandma mac says:

    This feature is incredibly cumbersome to use. Terrible.

    Try explaining this feature to your 83 year old Grandmother.

    Try having her write down these steps and do all of the details.. The feature is poorly implemented.

    The first time she tried it, she selected all the icons on her desktop and then invoked all apps simultaneously when she pressed the space bar.

    That crashed her macbook.

    • DeusExMachona says:

      Nonsense. First, the idea that features should be hobbled to the lowest common denominator is absurd. If that were the test, we’d still be using typewriters.
      Second, you might want to consider that the problem was the ineptness of your explanation rather than the implementation of the feature.
      Lastly, by what possible interpretation would hitting the spacebar be considered “cumbersome”?!?
      All in all, I find your anecdote dubious at best.

      • spencer says:


      • Unzi says:

        I read a lot of comments every week but this one is the most disrespectful and arrogant I have read in years.

        What a very rude person you are.

        This guy’s experience doesnt fit your worldview so you attack him.

        I am an IT Directopr and find the need for “tricks” to do simple things on Apple just plain weird. The reputation this operating system has for usability is simply wrong.

        I remember the first time I bought an Appkle 8 years ago, I couldnt use the right mouse button so I phoned the genu=ius, who explained that “to make it easier” Apple demand you press command at the same time as right-mouse-click.

        If anybody thinks these additional clicks make the OS “easier” they are just guilty of the same thing as the courtiers in the Kings New Clothes.

        Stop fooling yourself and please stop behaving so aggressively just to defend somebody else’s product. Its not very humane and belittles you.

        • Zaaaaphod says:

          hurrah! Well said!

          I’m a 20 year veteran programmer. I use Windows, Linux and OSX every day. I’m sick of all the carry on at how ‘easy’ Macs are. Sure, they have some strengths, but plenty of weaknesses as well.

        • ManifoldSky says:

          Simple things? Please explain how you do this “simply” on ANY version, past or present, on Windows.
          Do you even know that this article is about?

  18. MacPaul says:

    OMG, these are real “tricks”, wow! :->

  19. Solo says:

    I know it and I love it. I just miss two features: changing the slideshow speed and randomizing the order. For the rest.. great.

  20. Ricardo says:


    i have OS X 10.8.1 installed and when i hit option+space on a folder with photos the slideshow opens but only options available are “Add to iPhoto” “Exit fullscreen” and “Close”.

    does it only work if images are on desktop?

    • MizuInOz says:

      Mate, just highlight the first photo in your folder and then use the arrow keys to move about. All the other keys work, too.

      To close it out, you can hit escape and it leaves you with your folder with a black background or hit spacebar and you are back to your regular desktop.


    • David John Bird says:


      I was having the same problem as you until I read the instructions in the article a few times.
      IMO the implication is that the process will work it’s way through all the images in a folder if you select just the first one.
      Not so.
      You have to select all the images you want for the slide show.
      So in a folder full of images do Cmd+A to select them all.
      And now you can use the keys/gestures as mentioned in the article.
      Hope this helps.
      In the end it was just a case of interpretation of the instructions given and you and I did that the same way.

  21. steve says:

    Brilliant, thanks for sharing this gem.

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