RAW Computing

Select text in Quick Look windows on the Apple Mac


Why are there so many hidden features in software and operating systems? There are often useful features that we could all be using, but we don't, simply because we don't know that they are there.

There is a very useful Quick Look facility in OS X on the Apple Mac and this enables you to view the contents of a file without opening it. For example, if you had a document, text file or PDF and you wanted to find out what it is or look up some information it contains, you load the original application used to create it, then find and load the file.

That's too long winded though and it is easier to select the file in a Finder window and press the spacebar. This displays a Quick Look window on the desktop that shows its contents.

Wouldn't it be really useful if you could copy information out of the Quick Look window? Normally, you would have to go through the process of loading the app and loading the file to copy text out of the file. This is because you can't copy text out of a document displayed in a Quick Look window.

However, there is a tweak that will enable you to copy text from Quick Look, saving you time and effort. Go to the Applications/Utilities folder and open Terminal. In ther Terminal window, enter the following command:

defaults write com.apple.finder QLEnableTextSelection -bool TRUE

This changes a setting in the com.apple.finder.plist file that contains Finder configuration settings. It's one of many plist files in the hidden Library/Preferences folder. QLEnableTextSelection is the name of the setting that is being changed and -bool means it is a boolean value (on/off, yes/no, true/false). The command sets it to TRUE.

In order for the new setting to be activated, click the Apple menu, select Force Quit, select Finder and click Relaunch. That restarts Finder and when it does, it re-reads its configuration settings in the plist file.

OK, so now select a document, PDF or text file in a Finder window. Press the spacebar to view it in Quick Look and notice that you can now click and drag over text in the window to select it. Press Command+C to copy it and then switch to another app, such as TextEdit, and press Command+V to paste it. That's a neat trick and it can be a useful time saver.

If you want to put the system back the way it was, just enter that command again, but this time put FALSE at the end.

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