Teach Quick Look to Preview Unsupported Videos and Other Files on Your Mac

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Quick look is one of the best unsung features in macOS. Select a file in Finder, hit “Space”, and you get a quick preview. This works great for images, videos, and documents, but doesn’t support every file type under the sun.

What even fewer people know, though, is that Quick Look supports plugins. That means you can add support for lots of files just by installing a quick plugin. Some add support for video formats Apple doesn’t offer, others let you do things like see inside an archive file or installer without opening it first. You can also look at text files and scripts with just a quick glance.

There are plenty of sites that outline these, from QuickLookPlugins.com to this little roundup on Github. Here are the best plugins we’ve found on those sites. You should probably add them to your Mac immediately.

How to Install Quick Look Plugins

Plugins usually come in two forms. Some plugins are offered as .PKG installers; for those, just run the installer.

Others may download as .qlgenerator files. For these, you need to access your Mac’s Library folder, then drag the .qlgenerator file to the “QuickLook” folder inside ~/Library.

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Got it? Awesome. Let’s take a look at some must-have plugins.

See Thumbnails for Unsupported Videos

Quick Look only shows previews of video formats supported by QuickTime. Once upon a time, Mac users could add codecs to Apple’s video player, but that changed a few years ago. This means that many video formats won’t preview in Quick Look, or even show a thumbnail.

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QLVideo can’t play unsupported videos in Quick Look, but it does provide thumbnails, so you can get a small preview. It’s not perfect, but it gives you a way to confirm what’s inside a given video file.

See Image Resolution and Size While Previewing

Quick Look is very useful for quickly checking photos, but what if you just want to know the resolution, or how many megabytes it’s taking up?

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QLimageSize offers this information at the top of every picture you preview in Quick Look, saving you from having to open the image and pull up that information like some kind of neanderthal.

See What’s Inside ZIP Files and Other Archives

On a Mac, archive files are uncompressed immediately when you double-click on them. Most of the time, this is exactly what you want. Sometimes, however, you just need to remember what’s inside the archive.

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Better Zip 3 adds a Quick Look plugin for quickly seeing what’s inside any and all compressed files. It offers support for 30 filetypes, including ZIP, RAR, DMG, and 7Z. You can get the plugin by installing the software; installing the free trial gives you the Quick Look plugin forever. Alternatively, you can download the plugin directly.

See What’s Inside A PKG File Before You Install

Occasionally, you’ll download an application that comes as an installable PKG file. Have you ever wondered what’s inside those?

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The program Suspicious Package offers a Quick Look plugin for answering exactly that question. With this you can see what files a PKG installer wants to put on your Mac, and where it intends to put them. This is a great tool for working out whether a given installer can be trusted.

See Rendered Markdown Files

I wrote this article in Markdown, which is a quick way to format text files for the web. But if you try to preview a Markdown file with Quick Look, it usually looks like a text document with a whole bunch of weird formatting.

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Unless you install this nifty Markdown plugin for Quick Look, that is. It renders Markdown files, so you see the article and not the formatting.

Browse Your Code, With Color Coding

If you’re a coder, or even just someone who occasionally WordPress themes, syntax highlighting can be essential. It gives you a quick way to comprehend what’s happening in the code.

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QLColorCode adds this kind of syntax highlighting to Quick Look, so you can parse files without opening them.

Preview Any Plain Text File

There are all sorts of files on your computer with no file extension whatsoever, and most of them are probably plain text. QLStephen is a simple Quick Look plugin that shows you the text, so you can quickly scan README and other files.

I can understand why Apple doesn’t include this functionality by default: it shows a garbled mess of numbers for all sorts of things, which isn’t exactly elegant. But I still like it, and I think you might too.

Justin Pot is the News Editor for How-To Geek. He lives in Hillsboro, Oregon. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, if you want. You don't have to.