How to Open All Images Into One Window in Preview for Mac

Oct 11, 2017 - 30 Comments

Preview in Mac

If you open multiple images into Preview on a Mac with some regularity, you may notice that sometimes pictures are grouped into single windows, and sometimes images are opened independently each into separate unique windows. If you’d rather all images be opened into a single window of Preview app on the Mac (or into unique windows for that matter), you can make a settings adjustment to achieve this.

This is a simple usability adjustment that can make the Preview image viewer on the Mac a bit less cluttered.

Open All Images Into a Single Preview Window on Mac OS

  1. Open the Preview app in Mac OS and go to the “Preview” menu, then choose “Preferences”
  2. Under the ‘General’ preferences tab, look for “When opening files” and choose “Open all files in one window”
  3. Open all Preview windows into a single window on Mac

  4. Close Preferences and open a group of images into Preview, all images will now open into a single preview window

Opening all files and images in Preview into a single window will look like this:

Preview windows open into single window on Mac

Compared to this, where some files will open in separate windows within Preview, but some will be grouped as well, depending on when and how they were opened in the app:

Preview windows separate

This capability is best used with thumbnails in the sidebar of Preview, so if for some reason you are hiding those be sure to enable the thumbnail viewer as part of the Preview app by clicking the sidebar option in the Preview tool bar.

Of course if you like the default behavior of opening groups of files into the same window, meaning some files will open into into separate windows and some will be grouped, you can return to the Preview preferences and set that with “Open groups of files in the same window”, or you can cause every single file and image to open into a unique separate window with “Open each file in its own window”.

For some quick background, Preview is the default image viewer in Mac OS, which can not only open and view pictures and photos but also make edits, add text captions, convert pictures, resize pictures, rotate, crop images, fill out pdf forms, sign documents, batch convert image formats, import photos from cameras, and so much more, it’s really one of the better under appreciated apps on the Mac.


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


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  1. James Douglas says:

    I print mailing labels generated as pds’s from endicia. In High Sierra, it is not possible to set the preferences for Preview to open them all in one window, as you know if you are here. I found a workaround that is a little easier. Open one of the pdf documents that you want, key command-option-2 to show the thumbnails on the left, then go to the finder and select and drag the remaining documents to the thumbnail section of the open document. They will open in that same window. Let me know if this works for you and your o/s as well.

  2. Karen says:

    Does anyone know where we can demand this functionality back in High Sierra?

    I use Preview to open multiple bank statements – then I can use search to find all instances of something. This doesn’t work with Tabs. I used to be able to open a whole year’s worth of statements and find all the instance of a certain expense. Now I will have to go through each document individually. What a pain in the a**

    They got rid of Save As too. Just stupid.

  3. Thomas says:

    I’m currently running on Sierra, to open all pics into single window, I had to select all pictures and double click on a single image and it automatically opened all pics in one preview window.

  4. Steven says:

    Another feature Apple has removed for some stupid reason. If you drag the pdf to a thumbnail to get both pdf’s in one file it turns the original into both and you can’t undo it. I, for years, opened two files together so I could print them two sided. The tabs won’t print both. Now I have to take the paper out of the printer and put it back in to print on the other side. I used to love Apple, but now they seem to be dedicated to removing everything that works well for some reason. I started using Macs in 1985 and there was nothing close but now Apples focus is on something other than the user. I’m waiting for someone to come up with a replacement for Apple. When that happens, you will see millions of us jump ship.

  5. Valdo says:

    I need HELP!

    I use this feature for long time as recently when selecting multiple images those are opened in Finder….
    The screen view is offering to open the image in Preview (a box in top right corner). When opening in Preview just the actual image is displayed, not all selected.

    How to restore the original function please?

  6. Eldar says:

    Very irritating! Will not upgrade my Macbook.

  7. Jody says:

    Every week for 5 years I’ve depended upon Preview set to “Open all files in one window”. Now in High Sierra this no longer works. Every MacOS upgrade brings some loss of functionality… and with OS 10.13 I’m sorry it had to be this feature. I know Apple will never fix it.

    • Collins says:

      Open all the files that you want to be in one window then
      click “Window” , and then click “Merge All Windows”. Then you have one window with tabs too all of your desired documents.

      • Stu Doc says:

        yeah… but that’s not what we’re looking for..

        I get that some people regret upgrading, but my hand was forced by software that became incompatible (following their own upgrades..) and once again I am dropped into these workflow dilemmas.

        The like of which don’t make any sense to those of us on the ground… Remember the deletion of the Hand tool..? and removing the “save as” option…?

        The frustration seems to stem from the commitment to an operating platform and paradigm that you just want to continue to facilitate your workflow once you have carved your path. Then it looks very much like the developer is taunting you by sticking pins in your voodoo doll, knowing that it’s a big deal to jump ship into another operating system…

        I hope somebody out there is working on something new, something intuitive, something that doesn’t sabotage your workflow with each “upgrade”…

        • Tom Green says:

          Preview merge function works in os high sierra! Open pdf documents with preview (start with first page of document), click ‘view’ tab, and then click ‘thumbnails’. You’ll actually be dragging your files into the thumbnail sidebar from the ‘open’ file window. Try it out.

  8. Al says:

    this option does not work in high sierra update

  9. Jan says:

    this does not work on high sierra! i shouldn’t have upgraded the os :(

  10. DFox says:

    Exactly! Not working in High Sierra. Very irritating.

  11. A.A. says:

    Lost this functionality on the upgrade to high sierra. No longer able to open multiple files in one preview window. Apple, please fix ASAP!

  12. Alex says:

    Does not work with PDF under High Sierra. But it did so with Sierra.

  13. Steve says:

    I have Preview Version 10.0 (944.1) running in OSX High Sierra Version 10.13, and this doesn’t work. The option to open all files in one window is currently only under the images tab, not the general tab.

    I used to be able to open all files — images and pdf’s — in one window, but no longer. There is the option to “Merge all Windows,” but it puts each PDF in a separate tab in that window.

  14. Dina says:

    I have stored all my photographs to the iCloudDrive, did exactly what this tutorial said and still, I cannot view all my photographs as explained above.

  15. michael p says:

    This has never worked in all the years Preview has been on my computer, through all the updates, through all the clean installs.

    The fact that it would open into multiple windows when I select multiple documents then strike cmd-O to me seems like a bug in the first place, inasmuch as there’s no rhyme or reason for which picture opens into which window.

  16. Ken says:

    In High Sierra (macOS 10.13) it seems that this option is under “Images” rather than “General.”

  17. Jeff says:

    Another way is leave the preference alone and if you find you have a dozen preview documents open, from the marque… Window/Merge All Windows.

    Now they are all in one using tabs!

  18. sherpa14k says:

    Wow, I didn’t know about that trick. Thanks for this one ;)

  19. Robin says:

    Thanks for this! It will definitely make my life easier!

  20. Nede says:

    Very good, a basic tip that I did not know.

  21. WTS says:

    agree with you

  22. vdiv says:

    Preview is the most awesome and capable app in MacOS. That means Apple will sooner or later find a way to destroy it as they have done with iTunes, QuckTime, Disk Utility, etc. :(

    • Steve Smith says:

      Don’t forget about TextEdit… Which used to be a really useful editing tool until they forced that auto save on us!


  23. Nevin says:

    Terrific! I often wondered why Preview would sometimes open some pics in one window, and other pics in another.

    Though, I found, if I quit out and re-opened once or twice, they would eventually all open in a single window. My setting had been “…Group..”, however, there was often no rhyme or reason, except, perhaps, the first few shots of a time lapse set.

    I expect it ought to work more consistently now.


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