What is Preview on Mac?

There are still a part of our Mac users just taking Mac Preview as a simple PDF Reader, or PDF annotator at most. Yet, Preview is indeed a free solid PDF tool to do a lot of PDF work, nearly all your needs to control a PDF, except the part you want to editing the text as freely as in a word processor. Here we will check its format support and features to know what is exactly Preview on Mac.

What File Formats Can Preview Read?

Though Preview is well known to deal with image-based files (PDF and images), it supports more:

  • PDF
  • iWork Pages
  • iWork Keynote
  • iWork Numbers
  • JPEG/PNG/TIFF/BMP/HEIC/WEBP/RAW/PSD/EPS and many image formats

However, Preview can only “edit” PDF and Image files. That’s to say, the toolbars are only enabled (grey means disabled) when you are working with PDF or images. While, opening other files with Preview, no Edit functions is activated for further editing or markup.

grey buttonWhat Can We Do with Preview on Mac?

Ultimate Tool to Solve ALL PDF Tasks

Create, Edit, Convert, Organize PDFs Efficiently with Adobe Acrobat at A Flexible Pricing 

  • Edit texts, images, hyperlinks in PDF
  • Split, merge files, add, delete, rotate, rearrange, extract and crop pages
  • Create PDF from blank page, or from Word, Exel, PowerPoint, Image, HTML, etc.
  • Convert PDF to Word, Excel, Powerpoint, HTML, Image, etc.
  • Recognize scanned PDFs and make them searchable automatically
  • Share, protect, unlock and compare files
  • Fill forms
  • Sign
  • Compress, optimize PDFs

(For MacOS and Windows)

Where to Find Preview on Mac?

2 ways to find Preview app on your Mac.

It may just live on the dock of your Mac as follows:

find dockOr go to Finder > Applications and find Preview.

find preview

How to Use Preview on Mac?

1. Read PDF and make Preview as default viewer

You may have installed different file viewers on your mac, if you want to open PDF and image files only with Preview, you can make it default.

  1. Right click on file, choose Get info.
  2. In the opened panel, go to Open with and choose Preview in the menu.
  3. Then go to Change all and click Continue, done.set preview viewer

2. Crop PDF/Image

To cut off unwanted part of an image in Preview, you should open its markup toolbars.

  1. Open PDF in Preview.

  2. Show Markup Toolbar > Rectangular Selection tool to select the cropping area, the Crop icon will appear, click on it to crop PDF.crop pdf

3. Combine PDF/Images

Combine multiple PDFs

  1. Select all PDFs and right click Open with > Preview.combine pdf 1
  2. The PDF files will be opened in different Preview window, show the thumbnails in each PDF.combine pdf 2
  3. Then drag and drop the thumbnails of the pages in one PDF to another.combine pdf 3
  4. Head to File > Save.combine pdf 4

Combine multiple images into one PDF

You need to save each image as PDF first by going to File > Export as PDF, then combine with above listed steps.

Also, you can use the Quick Actions on Mac to combine images to one PDF:

combine image

4. Redact PDF

If you want to black out some sensitive information on your PDF, you can follow these steps to redact it.

  1. Open PDF in Preview.
  2. Show Markup Toolbar, choose Redact and continue with OK.redact 1
  3. Select the texts to redact and save the file.

redact 2

5. Highlight PDF

  1. Open PDF in Preview.
  2. Click the down arrow icon of Highlights and Notes, choose a color.highlight pdf
  3. Select the texts to highlight.

6. Mirror image

  1. Open the image with Preview.
  2. Head to Tools > Flip Horizontal.mirror image 1
  3. Head to File > Save.

7. Edit PDF text

The method of using Preview to edit text in PDF will depend on 2 situations, either adding new texts in blank area or editing an existing part.

Add new text to PDF

  1. Open Preview.
  2. Show Markup toolbar, choose Text.
  3. Add Text, move around the text box to add text as needed.add text 1
  4. Click on Text style to make the text in wanted look.add text 2
  5. Head to File > Save.

Edit Existing Texts in PDF

  1. Open PDF with Preview.
  2. In the Show Markup Toolbar, choose Shapes, you can choose the square.add text 3
  3. For the fill color, choose white color; for the border color, choose no color or white. Then drag to white-color square to cover the part you want to add a hyperlink/page number/text.add text 44.Then repeat the steps above to add new texts onto the erased area.

8. Add, delete or reorder pages in a PDF

Add pages to PDF:

  1. Open the PDF file you want to add pages to.
  2. Go to Edit > Insert > Page from File or Blank Page, then locate the page you want to insert.insert pages

Delete pages from PDF:

  1. Open PDF with Preview.
  2. Select the page, go to Edit > Delete. Done, if you deleted wrong page, hit Edit > Undo.delete pages

Reorder pages in PDF

  1. Open PDF with Preview, show thumbnails.reorder page
  2. Drag the thumbnail of a page and move before or after a page to reorder the pages.
  3. Head to File > Save.

9. Sign PDF

You can add signature from trackpad, camera or iPhone/iPad, by heading to Show Markup Toolbar > Sign.


10. Resize image

  1. Open the image in Preview.
  2. Head to Tools > Adjust Size.resize image 1
  3. Change the width and height of the image and click OK.resize image 2

11. Add hyperlink to PDF with Preview

  1. Open the PDF file in Preview.
  2. Show Markup Toolbar and click Text icon.add hyperlink 1
  3. Add the hyperlink into the text box and save the file.add hyperlink 2

12. Add page numbers to PDF

  1. Open the PDF file in Preview.
  2. Show Markup Toolbar and click Text icon.
  3. Move the text box to the place where you want to add a page number, enter the page number.add page number
  4. Save the file.

13. Markup PDF

Preview has a collection of markup tools, you can add notes, add shapes, white out, black out and so on.

  1. Open PDF in Preview.
  2. Click on Show Markup Toolbar and all the markup tools will be displayed as follows.markup
  3. Choose a tool to mark up your PDF as needed.

14. Fill form

You can import a fillable PDF form to fill out in Preview, by just inputting the texts, or adding new texts by heading to Show Markup Toolbar > Text.

15. Protect and Unprotect PDF with Preview

Protect PDF in Preview:

  1. Open PDF with Preview.
  2. Go to File > Edit Permissions.protect pdf 1
  3. Add an open or permission password. Hit Apply.protect pdf 2

Unprotect PDF in Preview:

When you try to open a protected PDF, a window will pop-up to require entering password, just input the password to unlock the PDF.

If to unlock a PDF with permission password:

  1. Open PDF in Preview.
  2. Head to File > Enter Password.unlock pdf 1
  3. Click the Lock icon to unlock PDF.unlock pdf 2
  4. Enter the password and hit Unlock.

unlock pdf 3

16. Rotate PDF

  1. Open PDF in Preview.
  2. Select the pages you want to rotate, head to Tools > Rotate left or right to rotate it.rotate pdf
  3. Head to File > Save.

17. Bookmark PDF

  1. Open PDF in Preview.
  2. Select the pages you want to bookmark, head to Tools > Add bookmark.
  3. Head to File > Save.

18. Share and print PDF

Head to Share button on the top to share your files:


Or head to File > Print for printing.

19. Convert PDF

  1. Open the PDF in Preview.
  2. Head to File > Export.convert pdf 1
  3. Select an output format and click Save.convert pdf 2

20. Restore Previous Version

If you have done many edits to your PDF and want to revert to a previous version, Preview helps.

  1. Open PDF in Preview.
  2. Head to File > Revert To > Browse All Versions.revert 1
  3. Check previous versions and select the one you want to revert, then click Restore.revert 2
  4. Save the file.

What if Your Preview is Not Working on Mac

Most of our mac users have surrendered to the fact that, Preview, at present and in the near future, won’t be a full-featured PDF editor tool, but we still have main quibbles about “Not Working for NO REASON”.

As we try to find answers in Apple Discussion, the most efficient way is to upgrade to the latest version. In fact, there are alternatives, you can have a try on some other good PDF tools.

They may be inferior to Preview on one way or another, but still are reliable choices when your Preview is not working.