The best Quick Look plugins for Mac

On macOS on the Apple Mac, “Quick Look” is a quick and easy way to view or listen to a file without having to open a program. This means that images and videos, tables and PDFs and much more can be viewed without having to start the preview app, Pages, Word, Numbers, Excel, Photoshop or similar. There is also the option of editing and customizing some file formats. However, support for some – sometimes very specialized – file formats and editing options is missing. However, plugins can be used for this. Here you will find the best Quick Look plugins for your Mac!

Quick Look is the quick preview for files, photos, videos, apps and more on the Apple Mac. But not all formats are natively supported by macOS. Here you will find the best Quick Look plugins to expand the tool.
Quick Look is the quick preview for files, photos, videos, apps and more on the Apple Mac. But not all formats are natively supported by macOS. Here you will find the best Quick Look plugins to expand the tool.

What is Quick Look on the Apple Mac?

Quick Look was introduced in 2007 as a new feature Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard introduced. This real-time file preview without the need to start the program is triggered with the space bar and can save a lot of time. Over the years, Quick Look has been continually expanded and expanded - sometimes with native support for additional file formats, sometimes with new functions for file editing.

For some file formats, the file preview now offers a few simple editing options, such as rotating or marking images. Even more editing options are available for PDFs, even inserting digital signatures. To try this, select a file with the mouse or arrow keys and then press the space bar on the keyboard. Quick Look will now open.

In addition to the Mac, the quick preview of file contents is also available on other Apple devices and is an inherently integrated function of the respective operating system. According to Apple's developer website, Quick Look can be found not only from Mac OS apps on Mac).

Source: Apple.com
Source: Apple.com

What file formats can Quick Look open by default?

It's not easy to find a complete list of file formats that Quick Look can open natively. Below I have listed all the formats I found that can be accessed in the quick file preview of macOS. The list refers to the formats supported natively and without plugins. Below you will find a list of Quick Look plugins to support additional files, projects, formats, etc.

List of file formats that Quick Look can open without extensions (still incomplete):

  • Images and photos: JPEG, PNG, GIF, TIFF, DNG, RAW, HEIF, Live Photos from iPhone
  • Videos: MOV, MOVIE, QT, MP4, HEVC, ProRes
  • Audio: MP3, M4A
  • Text and documents: PDF, PAGES, DOC, DOCX, RTF, TXT, ODT
  • Tables: NUMBERS, XLS, XLSX, CSV, ODS
  • Presentations: KEY, PPT, PPTX, ODP
  • Project files: PSD (Photoshop or similar program must be installed), AFPHOTO (Affinity Photo must be installed)
  • Websites: HTML, XML, WEBARCHIVE
  • Character sets, font files/archives: TTF, OTF, TTC
  • 3D models for augmented reality: USDZ
  • File details such as size and modification date: ZIP, RAR, DMG, BZ2
  • App details such as version, size and modification date: APP
  • Contacts and calendar files
A 3D file for augmented reality (AR) in .usdz format - in Quick Look you can rotate it in all directions and view it from all sides.
A 3D file for augmented reality (AR) in .usdz format - in Quick Look you can rotate it in all directions and view it from all sides.

View multiple files at the same time with Quick Look

For some file formats, such as audio and video, it doesn't make much sense to open multiple files at the same time. For photos and other images as well as text files, tables, presentations and the like, it may be worth taking a quick look at several selected ones for further use.

To view multiple file previews with Quick Look, simply select the files to be displayed (hold down the Shift key and click on the desired files) and then press the space bar. In Quick Look only one of the files will be displayed for the time being, this is normal. If you click on the grid symbol (four squares) next to the file name, all selected files will be displayed.

If you mark several documents and then call up Quick Look, only the first file is initially displayed. You can switch to the individual view of the others or have them all displayed in a grid view.
If you mark several documents and then call up Quick Look, only the first file is initially displayed. You can switch to the individual view of the others or have them all displayed in a grid view.

The main editing options in Quick Look

The quick editing options that Quick Look offers on the Mac for some file formats are particularly effective for videos and PDF files. Video files can be trimmed using the file preview without an app, i.e. shortened at the beginning and end. So you don't have to first Open QuickTime Player to shorten videos. And you save yourself having to open larger apps like iMovie, Premiere Pro or similar.

You also hardly need a professional PDF program on the Mac to adapt PDF files. Markings, text fields, filling out forms, inserting signatures, adding notes and more are already possible in Quick Look. To do this, click on the pencil symbol (if available). This brings up numerous options for cropping, inserting text, drawing, highlighting, etc. The pen icon may be missing if the PDF is protected.

PDFs can be edited in a variety of ways. Note: not suitable for redacting documents as the underlying font can still be extracted.
PDFs can be edited in a variety of ways. Note: not suitable for redacting documents as the underlying font can still be extracted.

The best Quick Look plugins for Mac

There are plugins for a wide variety of content, from archives (ZIP, RAR, etc.) to project files from special apps. These ensure that you can view the contents of the respective files on the Apple Mac using Quick Look. However, with some macOS updates there are limitations to these plugins. This means that old Quick Look extensions may not work in newer systems such as Big Sur, Monterey, Ventura and/or Sonoma.  

So I tried to only find current additional modules for this article that can also be used with the newer macOS versions. If you find that one of the plugins is no longer supported, or if you have a recommendation yourself, please leave a comment on the topic. Together we can expand this article and complete the lists of natively supported file formats that can be accessed with plugins!

Here is the list of the best Quick Look plugins for the Apple Mac:

  • QLvideo is an open source plugin with QuickLook extensions for displaying some image formats and playing certain video formats. These include .asf, .avi, .flv, .mkv, .rm, .webm, .wmf and others. In order for the plugin to work, an app that can handle these formats must be installed - for example the VLC player (absolute recommendation!). Not only can the additional formats be displayed and played back in Quick Look, but thumbnails and other information are also added to the files in the Finder. You get QLVideo free on GitHub.
  • simple comic is a free app for displaying comic books in their special .cbr or .cbz formats from macOS 10.14.6. The offer also includes a free QuickLook plugin for viewing comic book files using the Mac space bar. You can find further information, screenshots and the option to download in the official app store.
  • BetterZip is not just an app for viewing, packing and unpacking archive files. After installation, it also ensures that you can view the contents of archives via Quick Look. I tried this on macOS 14 Sonoma and it worked without any problems. Thanks to BetterZip, you can check the contents of archives such as .zip, .rar., 7-zip, .tar, .tgz,.tbz, .txz, .gzip, .arj, .iso and a few more in Quick Look. The whole thing is free. Information and download can be found on the website.
  • Apparency is also a free app that I was able to test successfully in Sonoma. After installation, it ensures that when viewing apps (.app format) you will not only find general information, but also information about the macOS security checks. This way you can find out whether the sandbox is activated for the app, whether a notarization took place, whether the gatekeeper was able to assign a developer ID and who signed the app. Information and download is available on the website.
  • Suspicious package comes from the same code factory as Apparency. Instead of using it to examine apps that have already been installed, you can use this software and its Quick Look plugin to check package files in the .pkg format for important details. This way you can find out before unpacking/installing and before the macOS security checks whether you have loaded a clean app, a program contaminated with malware or an exclusive malware package. Further information and the free download is available on this website.
  • QLAddict displays subtitle files in the .srt format so that you can see which text is displayed for which timestamps of the corresponding video file. The open source project was last updated almost four years ago, back then for macOS 10.15 Catalina. I cannot guarantee whether it will work on the latest operating systems. All information, the source code and the free download is available on GitHub.
  • ProvisionQL brings developer content preview to Quick Look. The plugin helps create .ipa (iOS Packaged Application), . xcarchive (Xcode Archive), .appex (Application Extension), .mobileprovision and .provisionprofile. The whole thing can be used free of charge. The open source extension and information for its use can be found at GitHub.
  • Peek As of macOS 10.15 Catalina, Quick Look 530 supports additional file formats. In addition to file formats of certain apps, this also includes JavaScript and similar special content. Here is a small excerpt of the supported formats: .adoc, .applescript, .bib, .c++, .cfg, .cs, .css, .dat, .fscript, .geometry, .gtd, .j, .j2, .javascript, .log, .markdown, .mediawiki, .php, .php5, .php7, .ruby, .storyboard, .swift, .wikipedia, .worksheet, .xcbuild, .zsh, and many more. Information: Website . Download for 8,99 euros: Mac App Store.

Install Quick Look plugins on your Mac

Plugins that come with their own app, such as Simple Comic, Apparency and Suspicious Package, are automatically installed with the app. This means you don't have to take any further steps if the main program is available. For GitHub offers, you should pay attention to the installation instructions and tips for use that can be found on the pages linked above. And with the individual downloads for QuickLook plugins, you simply install them.

If after the individual options for installing the plugin the desired file format is not yet displayed when you press the space bar, then there are a few tips for troubleshooting. For example, you can Port Open it, enter the command “qlmanage -r” (without quotation marks) and then press the Enter key. This will re-read the installed plugin files. Below you will find the link to a post for the Quick Look troubleshooting.

Install or delete QL plugins manually

If you want to move QL plugins with the file extension .qlgenerator yourself into the directory provided by macOS or remove them from there, then that is also possible. To do this, open the Finder, click on “Go” in the menu bar at the top of the screen and click on “Go to folder…” in the corresponding menu.

Then give there /Library/QuickLook/ and press the Enter key. This will take you to the overview of the QL plugins. If a plugin is attached to an app (Simple Comic, Apparency, Suspicious Package, etc.), then it doesn't necessarily have to be stored there. The folder can definitely be empty even though you are using QL plugins.

Note: /Library/QuickLook/ takes you to the system's library, i.e. Macintosh HD -> Library. In older macOS versions, such as macOS 10.14 Mojave, the QL plugins are stored in the user folder. So if the “Go to” command described above doesn’t work in an older Mac operating system, then try it ~ / Library / QuickLook / (including the tilde). This path takes you to Macintosh HD -> Users -> [Name] -> Library.

More blog posts on the topic of Quick Look, plugins and QL reset

Here are a few older posts on the topics mentioned. Please note that they are based on the operating systems of the time, which still ran under versions 10.x and primarily with Intel CPUs. It may therefore be that individual tips and instructions from these articles no longer work as shown:

The spelling: Together or apart?

The “Quick Look” tool, which users use on macOS via the space bar or context menu to call up a quick file preview, is written apart. Together, i.e. as “QuickLook”, the underlying framework is written, which is used by developers to either write plugins or to incorporate Quick Look functions in their own apps. The abbreviation “QL” also occurs here among developers and in the corresponding code. Last but not least, the plugins have the ending .qlgenerator.

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1 comment on “The best Quick Look plugins for the Mac”

  1. I can only recommend iPreview from the App Store:

    Supported multiple Source Code files (js, jsx, tsx, vue, css, less, sCSs, wxml, Wxss, uX, objc, swift, java, kotlin, dart, py, rb, rs, •go, .R, f90, pl, jl, json, yml, list, properties, gradle, iml and many more).

    Supported Markdown, Jupyter.

    Supported Math typeset.

    Supported multiple 3d Model files (3ds, ac, ase, b3d, blend, cob, dae, csm, dxf, fbx, lwo, md2, md5, mesh, mdl, ms3d, nff, obj, off, ply, q30, smd, stl and many more).

    Supported Webp, Avif, eps.

    Supported zip, 7z, gz, rar, tar.

    Supported .ass, .srt.

    Supported README, LICENSE, Gemfile, Podfile, Makefile, Dockerfile and many more.

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