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Four Useful Quicklook Plugins

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Quicklook is a great feature of OS X, allowing you to press the spacebar when a file is selected in Finder and quickly look at the contents. If you’re unfamiliar with Quicklook, check out this great introductory article.

As great as this is, there are a few occasions where it would be useful to quicklook a file that is not supported by default. Luckily, Quicklook is extendable with plugins; here are my favorite four.


BetterZip QuickLookGenerator lets you peer at the contents of an archive file (ZIP, TAR, GZip, BZip2, ARJ, LZH, ISO, CHM, CAB, CPIO, RAR, 7-Zip, DEB, RPM, SIT, DiskDoubler, BinHex, and MacBinary) without extracting it first.



Folder will display the contents of a folder. One might ask, why not just use Finder to view the contents of a folder, since that is really its job? I often will navigate to a top directory with Finder, and then bring up QuickLook. I then use the arrow keys to navigate that top directory, with Quicklook still open. This lets me peer at all files, including any subdirectories, without breaking my navigation method.


Suspicious Package

Suspicious Package lets you peer into the contents of a .pkg file, often used as application installers. This is also useful to browse the package receipts in your machine’s Receipt directory (in /Library/Receipts) which represents all packages previously installed. This is handy if you need to manually clean up packages.



Color Code gives you syntax highlighted source code. This supports a range of source files from the standards like C, Java, Pascal, XML and Plists (which are usually just XML, anyway). This is great for quickly glancing at any source code files you need to.


Other File Formats

To see if a Quicklook plugin exists for a specific file format you use, such as Adobe Illustrator (ai), Flash Video (flv) and more (even Commodore 64 disk images), check out for an up-to-date list of available plugins.

Installing plugins

Quicklook plugins are generally distributed without an installer. To install Quicklook plugins where an installer is not provided, copy the .qlgenerator file to either
/Library/QuickLook/ (to be available for all users) or /Users/username/Library/QuickLook/ (to be available for just that username).

To uninstall these, simply delete the .qlgenerator file from where you installed it.

19 Responses to “Four Useful Quicklook Plugins”

  1. Thank you very much for sharing this list. I never thought of using quick look for tar files. I deal with these backups all the time and this will definitely make my life a little easier. Do you know if there is any size limitation that these plugins have? I will try it out on some large files and leave my responses.

  2. Martin A. Totusek

    There are quite a few OS X 10.3.9 users and plenty of OS X 10.4.x users.

    Therefore, the author would have been more accurate if he stated “Quicklook is a feature of OS X 10.5.x”, and indicated that he is writing about only about OS X 10.5.x features.

    – Martin A. Totusek (Seattle dBug MUG member)

  3. I use QuickLook a lot. IMO, it’s one of the best user-level features in Leopard. It’s a great productivity boost, but would be even better if you could interact with what’s being viewed (consider the way you can drag a file out of the grid view of a stack — that’s what I’d like to see in QuickLook). I have all of the plugins you’ve reviewed installed.

    I find ColorCode to have a couple of small but annoying problems: First, it doesn’t word wrap. The QuickLook interface just isn’t designed well for horizontal scrolling. That’s not such a big deal, because you’re just “quicklooking” in most cases, and in most kinds of source code keeping lines discrete is important (but the ColorCode folks could fix that by combining word wrap with the use of visible line numbers).

    However, it’s compounded by the second problem (which admittedly, I’ve only seen on my machine): ColorCode appears to take over the use of plain text from whatever built-in QL plugin handles them normally (i.e. files with a txt extension, in addition to those that correspond to code formats). It’s not helpful at all to only see the 40 or so characters of a long paragraph, and I usually wind up opening txt files in an editor even after viewing them with QuickLook.

    Some qlgenerators I’d like to see:

    – I’d love to find one that functions like Suspicious Package, but works on bundles in general (.app folders, iPhoto library, etc.)

    – The Folder qlgenerator would be a lot more useful if it could drill down into subfolders with disclosure triangles or something. Does a competitor exist?