It’s Frustrating That Preview in Mojave Isn’t Better

(Adam Engst) #1

Originally published at:

After taking a close look at Preview in Mojave while updating “Take Control of Preview,” Adam Engst comes away disappointed. The new features aren’t impressive, one notable change is actively bad, and there are new bugs. But he’d still like to see Apple enhance the still-powerful graphics and PDF editor.

(Beatrix Willius) #2

I got a PDF from a customer that makes Preview crash hard. No problem on High Sierra, but so much fun on Mojave. I now use the Terminal command sips instead. This, however, is much slower than my original code.

(Adam Engst) #3

Yeah, there are corrupt PDFs that make Preview spit up all over. They’re generally pretty few and far between, luckily, and you can almost always open them in something like Adobe Reader.

(Tommy Weir) #4

I’ve another one in Contact Sheet view. At the top of the window Preview provides a way to collapse the sheets by clicking on a disclosure triangle. But there’s two of them, and when the top one closes, a line of page (square…) icons remain. Clicking on the second disclosure triangle does nothing.


(Matthew) #5

Thank you for the detailed review. In case you haven’t already, I suggest you file radar bug reports for each of these issues with Apple.

Additionally, testing out and reporting on the Preview app in the macOS public or developer betas might be a good way to call out some of these bugs to Apple from the start.

(Adam Engst) #6

Interesting! I’m not seeing the second disclosure triangle that you are when I check a PDF in Contact Sheet view. But the disclosure triangle is indeed somewhat pointless.

One thing I didn’t mention in the article is that you used to be able to open multiple PDFs by dragging them into the right spot in the sidebar; drag them into a different spot and you’d merge one PDF into the other. That no longer works—all drags merge now. The disclosure triangle is left over from the previous functionality, since you might want to shrink one PDF in Contact Sheet vie to a single line, and then see and work with others that were also open.

So yeah, still a bug, but mostly just sloppy coding.

(Adam Engst) #7

I haven’t in this case, mostly for lack of time. Radar isn’t particularly quick to work with and it’s always unsatisfying when Apple ignores the bugs for months to years. This article confirms what I’ve seen from the outside with Apple’s lack of enthusiasm.

And the subsequent Hacker News discussion tends to confirm.

Howard Oakley wrote about this too:

If Apple isn’t even going to be responsive or grateful, as most developers are when I report bugs, and particularly given the insane amounts of money they have to spend on this stuff, it’s hard for me to justify donating my time to help them.

(Matthew) #8

Hi Adam,
As someone who has filed hundreds of radars both inside and outside Apple myself, I understand these pain points. I believe it’s still worth trying, despite the fact that someone else may or may not have had success. As Corbin put it in his post: “What can you do? Obviously, you have to log bug reports.” Sadly, doing nothing always yields zero results. Let me know if you’d like some help in getting these filed.

(Tommy Weir) #9

Huh. That capability, dragging to merge or dragging to simply co-view was a measure of the sophistication of the old Preview.

(crun) #10

one thing that’s been driving me spare in preview is i can no longer select and copy text out of pdfs. click the weird pencil icon and verify that the aA| icon is active but still can’t select text. this is the case on two different macs with entirely different setups so i’m fairly certain it’s not something i did.

don’t recall when this broke, but i think it was with 10.14.

another one is i did something on my home computer and preview no longer quits when its last file is closed. anyone know how to toggle that behaviour back on?

(Curtis Wilcox) #11

I’m still using High Sierra but I’ve never needed to have the Markup Toolbar showing to select embedded text in Preview, the cursor is a vertical bar when it’s near embedded text. When the cursor is not near embedded text, it’s the usual Mac arrow. In the Tools menu, Text Selection has a check mark next to it. When Tools > Rectangular Selection has the checkmark instead, the cursor is the crosshairs like it is in an image file.

Text selection always requires there to be embedded text to select in the file, if a PDF is only an image of text, Preview can’t select it as anything but an image (i.e. with the crosshairs).

(Doug Miller) #12

At least on my Mojave MBA, when I close all Preview windows the app remains open, but as soon as I move focus away from Preview to another app without a window open, Preview will close as soon as it loses focus (i.e., I switch to another app.)

(crun) #13

that’s also how it works on my work laptop. my home machine has been around a while longer and at some point, i assume i configured something to keep preview from quitting when all its windows close. perhaps a defaults write of some sort? or it inherited something from its predecessor?

however it was done, i’d be chuffed if someone could tell me how to undo it.

(David) #14

I can still select and copy text as before. No need even to invoke the markup toolbar.

Are you sure the text is OCRed in the document(s) you’re trying to copy text from?

(crun) #15

the files on my work computer were written and generated into pdf by me. i’ve never been able to copy text out of any pdf on that machine (acquired about 10 months ago) and i’ve not been able to copy text out of pdfs on my home machine since updating to 10.13. i can upload the same files into google drive and select text from there.

(Curtis Wilcox) #16

Google Drive can OCR text in image-only PDFs so being able to select the text there doesn’t indicate anything about whether they originally had embedded text or not.

(Donald C O'Shea) #17

I’d like to suggest an assisting app to Preview for Screenshots. It’s called Snappy and can be invoked with Cmd-Shift-2. The resulting selection floats above the everything on the screen, where it can be marked up, copied into Preview and used. It also maintains a library of your selection. It can be found at
I reconstructed a video of a 33 frame slide presentation using Snappy recently. So much easier than using Screenshots

(Adam Engst) #18

Snappy looks cool, but for TidBITS, I always need to end up with a properly named file on my Desktop for importing into Google Docs and then uploading to WordPress. It feels like Snappy would require more steps to create and name that file than the classic Command-Shift-4 screenshot approach. Am I missing something about how using Snappy would result in less effort than with the built-in tools?

(gib) #19

That’s absolutely not Human Interface Guidelines-compliant (is any Mac software any more?), and is a pet peeve of mine. Having some apps quit when you close a window, and others not do so, is inconsistent and confusing.

(gib) #20

One bug that’s been around since about 10.9: open a PDF in preview, and press PgDn or the down arrow. Oh come on, PRESS it! Harder! Didn’t do anything? Huh. Must still be a bug! Work-around: click on that first page (thumbnail or full size), and only THEN will the PgUp/PgDn and up/down arrow keys work. Unconscionable neglect!