Category Archives: Preview

advanced search in Preview


Unlike Adobe Acrobat, you won’t find any complicated advanced search boxes in Preview, but that doesn’t mean you have any less power to find exactly what you want. Feel free to open up a pdf that you can play around with as we go along.

Finding stuff
Preview does all its searching in the spotlight-like filter field in the top right, and you access it either by clicking in it or hitting ‘command-F’.

Simply typing in a few letters will return every page that contains that string, either as a word or a partial word. If you want to restrict the results to complete words – say you type in ’cause’ but you don’t want it to return ‘because’, then add double quote marks around what you type.


If you add another word (or words), also in double quotes, this is effectively telling Preview to return only those pages that contain all those complete words on the same page. Thus

"cause" "pattern" "function"

will only return pages in your pdf document that contain all three of those terms. This is the same effect you get when you put the ampersand ‘&’ between words (the logical AND), but the & is automatically implied by default, so there’s no need to actually type it.

What if you want to return all pages that have either “cause” or “function” in them? In this case, you use the ‘|’ sheffer stroke (hold down shift and hit the backward slash key, up their above the return key!).

Note for the techies: Preview doesn’t distinguish between NOR and NAND. Though both are valid input, one sheffer stroke will return the same as two.

As with the logical ‘AND’ function, you can have as many terms as you want. For example, if you wanted to return every page that had a numeral in it, you could use

"1" | "2" | "3" | "4" | "5" | "6" | "7" | "8" | "9" | "0"

That would return every instance of any one of those digits on their own, but it wouldn’t return a page that had, say, ‘2014’ in it. Remember that the quote marks indicate whole expressions, not parts. To get any number, do the same without the quotes:

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 0

You could even combine this with word searches:

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 0 | one | two | three | four | five | six | seven | eight | nine | "ten" | eleven | twelve | thirteen | fourteen | fifteen | sixteen | seventeen | eighteen | nineteen | twenty | thirty | forty | fifty | sixty | seventy | eighty | ninety | hundred | thousand | million | billion | trillion | zero | nought | nil

That would return every mention of any number in numerals or words. Note that “ten” is delimited as a complete word due to the number of false positives that would arise from words with those three letters (heighten, often, tendency, etc). Also notice the various synonyms for ‘zero’ at the end of the search term. Even so, it isn’t quite complete – the assiduous search-hound would probably want to add ordinals, ‘1st’, ‘first’, ‘2nd’, ‘second’ and so on, but I’ll leave that as an exercise for the reader.

Organising results
OK, so you’ve got your results, what can you do with them? First of all, note that you’ve got some options above the search sidebar. You can list by page order from beginning to end of the document, or by number of hits per page with ‘Search Rank’. Highest number of matches on a page appears at the top of the results and the rest follow in descending order.

Screen Shot 2014-03-22 at 00.10.14

Secondly, you can cycle backwards and forward through the hits on each page by using ‘command-G’ and ‘command-shift-G’, respectively. That’s a whole lot less laborious than clicking the tiny forward and backward arrows under the filter field, but that way is available too.

filter bar

The filter field
Finally, don’t forget that you can move the cursor around in the filter field with a few shortcuts: both ‘control-E’ and command-right arrow will put the cursor to end of the search term, while ‘control-A’ and command-left arrow will put it at the beginning. You can also use ‘control-K’ to delete everything from the cursor to the end of the search term, which can be handy if you have a lengthy search term that you want to cut in half. Move the cursor to where you want the search term to end, and hit ‘control-K’ to delete all subsequent characters.

Hopefully, that should give you some pretty good ideas on how to power search in Preview. Who needs ‘advanced search’ dialog boxes? Not us! 🙂

featured picture: searching for light by HealingRock


how to merge PDF files in OS X


How to merge PDFs into one file is something I have frequently been asked ever since Preview 6 made combining and saving PDFs a little more torturous than it needs to be (see here for the gory details). There are also various little apps that you can buy that will do this for you, but this is the kind of functionality I was talking about here that you can easily do for yourself with a bit of AppleScript magic.

Open up the AppleScript Editor by clicking on the Spotlight icon and typing Apples. Click on the AppleScript code below and copy the code from the pastebin page that opens up:

Paste the copied code into the AppleScript Editor, hit ‘Compile’ in the toolbar (or press ‘Command-K’) and save as either a .scrpt file or .app as I described in getting to grips with AppleScript.

Click on the script or app and enjoy merging those files to your hearts content (and for free)! 🙂

Featured picture: sliver by *ether

how to take a screenshot

We all like to take happy snaps at Christmas 🙂 , but there’s no need to buy expensive software to snap the wonders you or your family produce on your Mac computer screen. Mac OS X has a number of built-in ways to take screenshots. The simplest is to use the universal hotkey combination:


This will immediately take a snapshot of your entire screen and dump it on your desktop as .png file. Try it now and have a look!

If you want to select only a specific region, try this


Move your cursor, and you’ll see it’s turned into a cross-hairs by which you can select any part of the screen you want. You can also press the spacebar after you invoke this command, and the cursor will turn into a camera icon. This lets you accurately select individual windows for the shot, instead of drawing round them.

If you are taking the screenshot to immediately paste it into a post, email or document and you don’t particularly want to keep a saved copy of it, then add the control key to either of the previous commands (e.g., command-control-shift-3). This will dump the screenshot into the clipboard rather than save it as a file. All you do next is go to the window you want to paste it in, and hit Command-V.

Finally, if all these hotkeys are too much to remember for the occasional screenshot, remember you can always access screenshots through the menu (see main image above).

Happy snapping folks! 🙂

Here’s the summary of the main commands:

avoiding autosave applications

If autosave is slowing you down, there may be nothing else for it than to switch from your favourite Apple app to an alternative that doesn’t use the feature. Here’s a rundown of some of the main autosave-enabled apps and some possible non-autosave replacements.

Preview –> Skim (for pdfs)
Skim is a great little free program that is based on Preview but adds some extra functionality, especially useful if you do a lot of annotations and note-taking. All the basic controls are familiar from Preview, including trackpad zooms and rotations. There’s two limitations: it’s pdf only, and it doesn’t have the ability to create hyperlinks.

Preview –> Graphic Converter (for images)
Old standard beloved by many Mac users. Note that the latest version does support autosave, but unlike native Apple apps, gives you the option to turn it off. Available on the app store. Main drawback: it’s not free (current price about $40).

TextEdit –> Tincta
Love this free program, and you can find it in the app store. Does everything TextEdit does and more. If you do any sort of coding, you’ll love Tincta. Everyone should have this!

Terminal –> iTerm2
You’re not really going to notice autosave in Terminal if you only use it for the odd command. If you’re doing anything more than that, well, you should be using iTerm2 anyway. Free, powerful, essential.

Pages & Numbers –> Office/Libreoffice
The only real answer to these outside of the MSOffice suite is the free Libreoffice.

Keynote –> Powerpoint/OpenSong

Well, sometimes it’s just the devil you know. Yes, you can’t really beat MSPowerpoint, but of course that’s a heavy investment. A free option that might be worth giving a try is OpenSong.

Tried any of these, or found your own alternative to autosave-apps? Let us know in the Comments below!

how to add hyperlinks in Lion’s Preview

Preview 5.5 has some great changes from the previous version. One of them is a much neater and simpler way of adding hyperlinks, both within the document (sometimes called ‘bookmarks’) and to external URLs.

This short video shows how easy it is to add links to your pdfs.

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how to merge PDF files in OS X

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