Discover Preview’s hidden features for editing images and manipulating PDFs!

Take Control of

Josh Centers
Adam C. Engst

Apple’s Preview app is bundled with every Mac and yet many Mac users have only a shallow understanding of what it’s capable of. Mac experts Adam Engst and Josh Centers have plumbed Preview’s depths to create a cheerful, colorful book that explains dozens of techniques for importing, viewing, editing, and converting images in Preview. It also puts you in control of reading, annotating, manipulating, and encrypting PDFs.

All Take Control books are delivered in two ebook formats—PDF and EPUB—and can be read on nearly any device.


Packed with real-world examples and tips, the book teaches you how to bring files into Preview from a camera, iOS or iPadOS device, or scanner (or just from the Finder). Once you discover 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 with circles, arrows, and text, plus numerous other shapes.

In the second part of the book, Adam and Josh focus on PDFs in Preview, describing how to configure Preview to make reading PDFs as fluid as possible. Since so many paper forms now come in PDF, the book shows you how to fill out PDF-based forms, complete with quick insertion of your digital signature. Those who read digital textbooks or who collaborate on documents will learn to annotate PDFs with highlights, notes, and bookmarks. You’ll even learn how to create PDFs from a scanner, the clipboard, and the Print dialog. Finally, Adam and Josh cover various ways protect your PDFs, including encrypting them, restricting permissions, and redacting portions of them.

Preview is a veritable Swiss Army Knife. Don’t miss out on the many ways it can make your life easier, including these capabilities:

  • Import photos from your iPhone or iPad.
  • Scan paper-based documents and images.
  • Add a scanned page to an existing PDF.
  • Take a screenshot that includes the pointer.
  • Open hundreds of images in a single window.
  • Trash unwanted images with a keystroke.
  • Duplicate, rename, and move images without leaving Preview.
  • Play a manually arranged slideshow of images or PDF pages.
  • Resize and change the resolution of images.
  • Crop out undesirable content.
  • Identify people, landmarks, and objects in images.
  • Mark up screenshots with shapes and text labels.
  • Magnify a portion of an image with a loupe.
  • Add text captions and speech bubbles to photos.
  • Tweak the white point and black point in photos.
  • Make photos sepia or black-and-white.
  • Edit a photo while comparing it to its original version.
  • Export to any of numerous formats, including HEIC.
  • Put thumbnails, table of contents, notes, or bookmarks in your sidebar.
  • View search results by rank or page order.
  • Copy text and images from a PDF, and copy text from any image.
  • Highlight text just like you would in a college textbook.
  • Add notes to highlighted text and as freestanding objects.
  • Review notes in the sidebar or Annotations inspector.
  • Create bookmarks to pages you want to revisit quickly.
  • Annotate a PDF with customizable shapes and arrows.
  • Fill in PDF forms, whether or not they’re interactive.
  • Create and insert a digital version of your signature into PDF forms.
  • Add, remove, and rearrange pages in a PDF.
  • Rotate PDF pages that were scanned at the wrong orientation.
  • Encrypt PDFs so they can’t be opened without a password.
  • Set restrictions on who can perform various actions on a PDF document.
  • Redact sensitive information from a PDF.
Josh Centers

About Josh Centers

Josh Centers is is a Business Journalist at TextExpander, editor-in-chief of Unprepared, and founder of Apple Buying Advice. He has been featured in USA Today, Macworld, Scientific American, the Washington Post, Boing Boing, the Wirecutter, and other publications, as well as on Comedy Central, HuffPost Live, and Voice of America. Josh lives in Tennessee with his wife and children.

Adam Engst

About Adam C. Engst

Adam C. Engst is the publisher of TidBITS and the TidBITS Content Network. He has written numerous technical books, including Take Control of Preview and the best-selling Internet Starter Kit series, and many magazine articles—thanks to Contributing Editor positions at MacUser, MacWEEK, and Macworld. He has been turned into an action figure.

What’s New in Version 1.3

We’ve replaced nearly every screenshot in the book to bring it up to date with macOS 13.4 Ventura. Additionally, there are a few changes and new features:

  • Visual Lookup can identify plants, animals, landmarks, works of art, and other things. See “Identify Photos with Visual Lookup.’
  • macOS Ventura dropped support for opening and editing PostScript and Encapsulated PostScript (EPS) files. However, we never discussed these capabilities in the book. You can still export files in PostScript format; see “Exporting to Other File Formats.”
  • There is now a Form Filling toolbar specifically for filling out PDF forms. It’s merely a smaller subset of the tools available on the Markup toolbar. See “Tour and Customize the Main Toolbar.”
  • macOS Monterey added the Live Text feature, which lets you select text and copy text in images. See “Selecting Text in Pictures” for a brief explanation of how it works and instructions for how to turn it off.
  • New PDF export options were added.
  • Apple has added a Redact tool to permanently delete text from PDFs. See “Redacting Text.”
  • Preview now has many more options for restricting permissions for a PDF in addition to encryption. See “Restricting PDFs.”

What Was New in Version 1.2

This update featured fixes and updates for small changes. The one notable new feature in Preview was being able to create a signature with an iPhone or iPad, which we cover in “Signing PDFs.”

  • Read Me First
    • Updates and More
    • Settings vs. Preferences
    • What’s New in Version 1.3
    • What Was New in Version 1.2
  • Introduction
  • Preview Quick Start
  • (Re)Acquaint Yourself with Preview
    • Make Sure Preview Opens Everything
    • Configure Preview Settings
    • Tour and Customize the Main Toolbar
    • Tour the Markup Toolbar
    • Sharing from Within Preview
    • What Preview Can’t Do with PDFs
  • Open and Import
    • Opening Images and Documents
    • Importing from the Clipboard
    • Importing from a Screenshot
    • Importing from an iPhone or iPad
    • Importing from a Camera
    • Importing from a Scanner
    • Taking Screenshots
  • View and Manage Images
    • Navigating Images via the Sidebar
    • Viewing a Contact Sheet
    • Zooming Images
    • Viewing in Full-Screen Mode
    • Playing an Image Slideshow
    • Examining Image Metadata
    • Identify Photos with Visual Lookup
    • Managing Images
  • Edit Images
    • Selecting Content in Images
    • Copying, Pasting, and Deleting Image Content
    • Cropping Images
    • Resizing Images
    • Rotating Images
    • Inserting and Manipulating Basic Shapes
    • Using the Mask and Loupe Shapes
    • Adding Text to Images
    • Adjusting Colors
    • Remember Undo!
    • Use Preview Editing Tools Outside Preview
  • Convert and Export
    • Exporting to Other File Formats
    • Choosing a File Format
    • Restricting PDFs
  • Read PDFs
    • Tweaking the PDF View
    • Navigating Your PDFs
    • Searching Within a PDF
    • Examining PDF Metadata
    • Copying Text and Images
  • Annotate PDFs
    • Highlighting Text
    • Adding Notes to a PDF
    • Quickly Viewing Highlights and Notes
    • Bookmarking a PDF
    • Adding Shapes and Text to a PDF
    • Working with Forms
    • Signing PDFs
  • Manipulate PDFs
    • Rearranging, Deleting, and Adding Pages
    • Rotating Pages
    • Cropping Pages
    • Changing PDF Color
  • Create PDFs
    • Printing to PDF
    • Other Ways to Make PDFs
  • About This Book
    • Ebook Extras
    • About Josh Centers
    • About Adam Engst
    • About the Publisher
  • Copyright and Fine Print

Sierra Users: Don’t Edit PDFs in Preview

Posted by Josh Centers on January 4, 2017

macOS 10.12 Sierra has been plagued with PDF problems. First, there were problems with PDFs created using ScanSnap scanners, but those issues turned out to be relatively mild and Apple addressed them in the 10.12.1 update.

Unfortunately, 10.12.2 Sierra ushered in even more troubling issues with PDFs. Developers have reported a number of PDFKit problems, most notably the OCR text layer being deleted when manipulated by apps using PDFKit, including Preview. The main takeaway is that you shouldn’t use Preview to edit PDFs until these issues are resolved, hopefully in 10.12.3. In the meantime, if you have to edit a PDF, either work only on a copy, just in case, or consider investing in Smile’s PDFpen, which annotates and edits PDFs independent of Apple’s PDFKit.

For more about this problem, read the TidBITS article Sierra PDF Problems Get Worse in 10.12.2.

[Fixed? In the release notes for the 10.12.3 Sierra update, which were made available on January 23rd, Apple says that the update “fixes an issue that prevented the searching of scanned PDF documents in Preview.” Other PDF-related problems appear to remain in Preview, so continue to work with caution even after you install this update. See Apple Releases macOS Sierra 10.12.3, iOS 10.2.1, tvOS 10.1.1, and watchOS 3.1.1, in TidBITS, for more information. —Tonya, 1/24/2017]

MyMac’s Review of “Take Control of Preview”

Posted by Josh Centers on August 30, 2016

Elisa Pacelli of reviewed Take Control of Preview, saying “Once again, TidBITS hits it out of the park with their latest book.” Pacelli offers a summary of Take Control of Preview and shares a few of her favorite parts. “Some tips can literally be life changing,” she said.

Tip: Control Object Layering in Preview

Posted by Adam Engst on July 22, 2016

When you add text boxes and shapes to an image, they’re added in layers corresponding to the order in which you created them. For example, a rectangle created after a text box will obscure the text if you position it over the text, which may not be desirable. Other graphics apps tend to have Bring Forward and Send Backward commands to rearrange objects, but Preview lacks any such controls. Here’s the workaround: Option-drag the bottom shape to create a duplicate, which is newer and thus will appear on top of any other object. After making and positioning the duplicate, you can delete the original object.


There are no reviews yet.

Be the first to review “Take Control of Preview”

You may also like…