Preview quits too often

I’m a relatively recent convert to Big Sur on my iMac. Since then (I think not seen in prior OS) I have two consistent problems with it. I’ll describe one that is easier to describe. Is this a problem for. you? Did you find a solution?

I use Preview heavily to view and edit screen shots, or to view documents in .pdf format. I also use it with my scanner to capture information.

I used to be able to have Preview be an active application in my Dock even if it wasn’t displaying a document.

Now it only is active IF there is an open document and another application is the front application. Let me give some examples:

  • Start Preview application but don’t open a document. Use Application Switcher to move to a different application. Preview immediately quits running
  • Open a document in Preview. Minimize the document to your Dock. Preview will continue to be active even if other applications are the front application.
    Hide Preview. It will continue to be an active application in the Dock
    This is how it should behave
  • Open a document in Preview. Close the document. Preview will continue to be active as long as it is the front application.
    Hide Preview OR Switch to another application and Preview immediately quits running

I can’t find anything in Preview’s Preference settings that might manage this behavior. What did I miss?

Or is this action a casualty of Apple’s obsession with Battery Life? My iMac doesn’t run on a battery unless the power company has a bad day. I notice that applications like Notes also quit instead of Hide.

Is there a solution OR is Preview going to be a power shut down app?


Sounds like it is a victim of the gradual merge of macOS and iOS. Saving power and memory on an iPhone and ignoring the mighty Mac!
The new motto for Apple seems to be “Just live with it!” - Grrr

I just tried it here, and that’s not the behavior I see on Big Sur.

This is new. In the past, I’ve left Preview open even if no documents were open. Now, However, it quits if no Preview windows are open and it is not the active app. I actually have no problems with that as I don’t see any delays when I click on a PDF and it opens in Preview.

I should note that I do have it permanently installed in the Dock, so that I can quickly start it up if it would be more convenient to use an open window to search for the document I wish to open or to enable scanning a paper document.

These descriptions of behaviour remind me of this, from 10 years ago (!): Lion Is a Quitter - TidBITS. If that really is the case, then perhaps this StackExchange answer is a solution?

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Yes. I think that is the culprit


Was an open document window open? If so try close the window


Matches my experience

It is bothersome to me because I use Screen Capture an lot, set to create PDFs, which starts Preview and sometimes the screen shot image is lost. This is the more complex feature/bug

Thanks for confirming it isn’t just my machine


I tried opening a PDF, closing that window, and then switching away. Preview still remained running. I’m not sure why you’re seeing the behavior you do, and I don’t.

Very strange, because Preview has been working as Jerry described it on MacOS for a long time for me. Going back to at least Yosemite iirc.

My oldest MacOS right now is Mojave and that definitely has the same behavior. Close the last preview window and switch away to another app and preview will close.

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So I’m having a very long-buried memory now. Somewhere in a John Siracusa Mac OS X review, I remember reading that the Preview app had been split into two components, a rendering/display component and a windowed application. As part of this change, the windowed application would quit when it had no documents opened and was backgrounded, but the rendering component would stay active unless/until there was an actual shortage of system resources. The implication was, if I recall correctly, that there would be situations where no longer appeared to be running, but anything that needed the app interface would start almost instantly because the component that did the heavy lifting was still running.

The fact that I’m citing a Siracusa review indicates that this was a long time ago, but that sounds like what’s being described here.


When I tested Preview on another user account, it behaved the way Jerry described, so I suspected it was one of the login items on my account. The behavior I’m seeing appears to be due to Default Folder X. After I launched Default Folder X on the other account, Preview started acting the way it did on my account.

I have the same behavior with Numbers and Pages. I believe I had the same behavior when I was running Mojave and maybe even El Capitan.

That’s the new version of “It’s not a bug, it’s a feature.”

Preview and other Apple apps utilize a facility named “App Nap” ( visible in Activity Monitor ). They nap when they are inactive ( not foreground and no open document window ). When you say Preview “Quit”, is that based on the app not showing up in the app list ( via CMD+ tab key ) ? When an app naps it isn’t visible in the app list but has not quit ( which can be verified in either Activity Monitor or just bring up the force quit window in the Finder with CMD+OPT+ESC keys ). App Nap is set by the developer and typically a user preference isn’t offered to manipulate it. Don’t know if this is what you’re seeing but it’s a possibility based on your description.

Thank you Brian. You described exactly what is happening. I was assuming that Preview had quit because the Application Switcher was. not showing it.
I don’t see the benefit of Power Nap for my iMac but it is what it is

I’ll live with it for a while to see if my other problem with Preview goes away

Select and double click Preview in the Finder’s Force Quit window ( see my earlier comment to find this window ) and it becomes the foreground app and shows on the menu bar. Not the greatest workaround but thought you might want to know.

This is very odd—I keep Preview running all the time with no documents open and I’ve never seen it quit. Nor does it disappear from the app switcher or the Dock, as far as I can remember. I’m not running Default Folder X, but I do run lots of other stuff.

My situation exactly matches Brian’s response. Preview disappears as a running program in the Dock, it no longer is in the Application Switcher BUT is in Activity Monitor as 1 of MANY process in App Nap

Don’t understand or like but can live with it now