3 Handy Tips to Make Preview More Productive

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My love for Preview runs deep. It’s a great tool for interacting with PDFs, and for most people, I think it’s better and easier to use than Adobe Reader or Acrobat. So here are my favorite tricks for using the program!

1. Add Bookmarks 

If you’re working with a long PDF, Preview’s Bookmarks feature makes it easy to go back to pages that have the information you’re looking for. To bookmark a page, either select it from the sidebar (if you’ve got View> Thumbnails turned on) or make sure the correct page is showing in Preview’s main window. Then press Command-D or choose Tools> Add Bookmark.

When you’re finished bookmarking all of the pages you want to remember, use the toolbar’s View Menu icon (or pick View> Bookmarksto see them.

And they’ll be all organized and neat and stuff, ready for your perusal. Cool!

2. Add a Loupe to the Toolbar

Through the magic of customizing Preview’s toolbar, you can add buttons to access the functions you use most frequently. Here’s how: Right- or Control-click on the grey toolbar area at the top of Preview’s window and pick “Customize Toolbar” from the menu that’ll appear.

For the purposes of this tip, we’re gonna add the Magnify button, but you can do whatever you like. It’s your toolbar, and you can fill it up if you want to. 

So drag and drop the Magnify button into Preview’s toolbar to add it… 

…and afterward, use that tool to view the tiniest details of your files. 

For what it’s worth, there’s also a menu option for this—Tools> Show Magnifier—if you don’t like that button clogging up your toolbar.

3. Mark Up Text

If you’re sending PDFs back and forth with colleagues and you need to call out sections of text, Preview’s the program for you. To get started with this, it’s easiest to select some text in your PDF first.

Then under the Tools> Annotate menu option (or from the Markup button on the toolbar, pictured below), you can choose to highlight, strike through, or underline your selected text.

Are you a rebel? If so, pick the underline/strikethrough/highlight tool first, and then any text you select will have that formatting applied. And you can even reselect something you’ve already formatted to remove the annotation. 

Additionally, if you choose Tools> Annotate> Note, you can click to add…well, a note. Shocking, I know.

That’s it! So what about you, dear readers? What’s your favorite feature of Preview? I’ll be giving out 1,000 super-special Internet points* to anyone who shows me a trick I don’t already know!



* These mean pretty much nothing, but you will have my undying respect, such as it is.

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My favorite feature is also my most frustrating one: Combining PDFs.

I don’t do it often, but when I do, I always have to try a few times to get it right. I forget that once you combine 2 pages, it’s in the file now, no save as… Also, the page order is never right and I have to monkey around with it. It just doesn’t do what I think it should do. BUT, you can combine PDFs this way so it’s a killer feature.

Lee Dronick

Good tips! I think that Preview is a much under appreciated, and under used,  application.

Scott B in DC

The problem with bookmarks is that they are global and open across multiple documents. You cannot make a bookmark specific for one document and stay within that document. This could make the bookmarks very messy!!


You can add text to existing text in a PDF with Preview.

On the toolbar, look for the icon that’s an italic “Aa” in a box. Click that and the cursor changes to a plus sign. Move the plus sign to a place in a text area where you want to put your text. Press and hold your left mouse button to draw a box. Click inside the box and type your text.

Before or after you type your text (while the text box is visible), you can go back to the toolbar and click the italic “A” which opens a window where you can select a font, style, size, etc.

You can drag the text box around the text area. When you find a location that works for you, click outside of the box and the text remains.

Save the PDF and your text will be there when you reopen it. If you change your mind, open the PDF, click on the text and the box will appear. Hit “delete” and it’s gone.

Melissa Holt

Thanks for the comments, guys! Kenoodle, I especially appreciate you taking the time to write that up. I’m sure our readers will find it very useful!

Ctopher, I wrote a tip a while back about using Automator to combine PDFs instead of Preview. Maybe you’ll find it to be helpful: http://tinyurl.com/p4lto4v

And Scott B, I’m not sure what you mean. When I add a bookmark into a PDF, that bookmark remains within the specific file I chose, and I don’t see anything on separate PDFs. Can you explain what you’re experiencing?


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