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“Take Control of Preview” Reveals Even More Features

Earlier this year, Josh Centers and I wrote “The Power of Preview,” a series of TidBITS articles about Preview that proved extremely popular, so much so that readers asked us for a book version. “No problem,” we thought. However, while exploring features that had merited only brief mention in the articles and responding to queries from Tonya and ex-Macworld editor Scholle McFarland, we discovered that Preview was even more capable than we’d realized.

In the end, that handful of articles turned into the just-released 166-page “Take Control of Preview,” featuring largely rewritten text, expanded instructions, and much better illustrations. 14,000 words turned into 36,000 words; we bumped the number of screenshots from 62 to 107; and we added over 100 inline button graphics. It may not be obvious from the outside, but a professionally written, edited, and laid-out book requires vastly more effort than articles.

I think the original pieces were popular because Preview is an old-school Mac app, with clear menus, an extensive collection of consistent keyboard shortcuts, and a certain ineffable elegance. Unlike so many other bundled apps, there’s no iOS version to twist its interface toward touch-based interaction. Preview’s developers must somehow fly under the radar at Apple, since Preview looks and feels as though it has evolved slowly and carefully over more than a decade. It’s almost too understated, concealing its power so well that most people never realize that it’s more than a viewer for images and PDFs. I’d love to meet the Preview team someday.

If you’ve read our original series, you have a sense of how much Preview can do. If not, did you know that you can import photos directly from a camera into Preview? Or that Preview can create PDFs from your scanner? “Take Control of Preview” has step-by-step instructions, complete with expanded explanations of the scanning options and recommendations for the best results. Josh and I also teach you all about Preview’s surprisingly capable collection of image-editing tools. You’ll soon be editing imported photos by tweaking the exposure, color saturation, sharpness, and more. You can even mark up your images and PDFs with circles, arrows, and text captions, plus numerous other shapes — try that in Photos! Your holiday cards, Facebook feed, and Web site will never be the same. I whipped up this silly author photo to showcase a few of the things Preview can do.

You know you can read PDFs in Preview — PDF remains the most popular format for Take Control books — but are you using the best view? For instance, have you tried a two-page, full-screen mode with the table of contents showing in the sidebar? We explain how to get that view, along with other ways to make reading PDFs as fluid as possible.

Since so many paper forms now come in PDF, “Take Control of Preview” also shows you how to fill out PDF-based forms, complete with quick insertion of your signature. Those who read digital textbooks or collaborate on documents will learn to annotate PDFs with highlights, notes, and bookmarks, and to navigate through PDFs using those annotations. You’ll even discover how to create PDFs from a scanner, the clipboard, and the Print dialog (which is ideal for creating PDF-based image catalogs!). Finally, if you want to protect your PDFs from prying eyes or keep people from copying your text, we explain the two types of PDF passwords and what each is good for.

Josh and I packed “Take Control of Preview” with real-world examples from our lives and punched it up with oodles of new tips. For instance, did you know you can edit an image in Preview while simultaneously viewing any previous version of that image?

Like all Take Control books, we’ll be keeping it up to date as necessary. I even learned a few things while working on our author photo — although you can’t control the layer order of added shapes, you can duplicate an object (and delete the original) in order to be able to place it on top of other objects. That tip and others will be working their way into future versions of the book.

Finally, I’d just like to say that if you want to see more in-depth explorations of the Mac and its bundled apps, please buy a copy. We sincerely appreciate all the kind comments we’ve gotten on the original articles, but if we’re going to devote the months of effort necessary to produce a comprehensive book that goes way beyond Apple’s online help, it has to make business sense. Thanks for the support!


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Comments about “Take Control of Preview” Reveals Even More Features
(Comments are closed.)

David Matchett  2016-07-21 12:50
I don't know if you're the ones to do it, but at this point I think a comparison of the newly-discovered Preview and the old standby PDF Pen would be in order, to help those of us who migrated away from Preview in the past because it was so underpowered. :)
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2016-07-21 14:51
It all comes down to what you want to do. If you want to annotate PDFs, add, delete, and rearrange pages, fill in and sign forms, and set encryption passwords, Preview is sufficient.

However, and we have a list of the things Preview can't do in the book, if you want to edit text or graphics in a PDF, add editing marks, redact text securely, automatically number pages, get an OCR'd text layer when scanning, create a table of contents, make interactive forms, convert PDFs to Microsoft Office formats, and work with less common PDF standards, you'll need PDFpen, PDFpenPro, or Acrobat Pro.
Curtis Wilcox  An apple icon for a Friend of TidBITS 2016-07-22 07:00
The kind of annotation some people at work use PDFpen for is freehand writing. It's the closest you can come to slide annotation in PowerPoint for Windows because PowerPoint for Mac (even 2016) will let you annotate but won't let you save them.
David Redfearn  An apple icon for a TidBITS Supporter 2016-07-21 17:53
I use Preview to view my photos and it is nice that Preview can handle RAW images too. I have an iMac 27 Retina system that I use most of the time for reviewing images - from a Sony A7R2 camera (42 mpix). Some photo software (such as Lightroom) supports the Retina display so I see the images at 3200 x 1800 without "binning" to the 2560 x 1400 resolution which is the display default. My understanding is that Preview always uses the 2560 x 1440 resolution even if I have the display set to a higher resolution. Is that correct? Preview is so handy that it would be nice if it really used the highest Retina display resolution. (I know, it's crazy to pixel peep at such high resolution, but the camera produces that high resolution and I want to see it.)

I read the articles and I bought the ebook though I haven't had a chance to go through it yet. Preview is amazing - I also use it to scan images and it is easier to use than full scanning software such as Viewscan.

Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2016-07-21 18:49
Hmm! Honestly, I don't know, since I've never worked with raw images, or anything that large. Give it a try and let us know what you find out!
David Redfearn  An apple icon for a TidBITS Supporter 2016-07-22 15:23
It appears to me that if I set the display to the "more space" (ie., 3200 x 1800) Preview uses these settings. I'll try leaving the display at that setting for a while and see if I am comfortable.