Mac OS X’s Mail: How to Quick Look attachments while composing a message

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Mail
June 5th, 2009 • 10:05 am

The beauty about the Quick Look feature introduced in Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard) is that it feels so natural that you get the impression that it has always been there. Once you start using the Space bar to preview files in the Finder, it is quite easy to get into the habit of wanting to use it everywhere, and not just in the Finder.

Of course, Quick Look is first and foremost a Finder feature, so its use in other applications, even Apple’s own, is a bit of a hit-or-miss proposition. But it does work in other applications as well. For example, it works in Mail when you are viewing a message that someone sent you with an attachment. If you select the attachment’s icon in the message and press Space, Mail does display a preview of the attachment’s contents.

So it’s quite easy to get into the habit of using Space as a shortcut for previewing files in Mail as well.

Unfortunately, it does not work everywhere. For example, if you are in the process of composing a message in Mail and you insert a file attachment in your message, you cannot select the attachment’s icon and press Space to Quick Look it. If you try to do that, Mail actually interprets the Space keystroke as meaning that you want to insert a space character and writes the space over the selection, deleting the attachment!

Fortunately, there is still a way to use Quick Look to preview a file attachment even when composing messages. But you must refrain from using the keyboard shortcut for Quick Look. Instead, you can right-click on the attachment icon. “Quick Look Attachment” is one of the commands in that contextual menu, and it will let you peek inside the attachment.

I still find myself accidentally pressing the Space shortcut to Quick Look an attachment from time to time while composing a message, because it is simply impossible to remember that this only works when the attachment is in a non-editable message. But of course it’s easy to undo the accidental entry of a space character over the attachment, with command-Z, which restores the attachment. Then right-click to bring up the contextual menu works as an acceptable substitute.

Comments are closed.