How to enable text selection in OS X Quick Look

Find a document in the Finder you want to open, press the space bar, and while the document doesn't open, you are given a peek inside. That's OS X's Quick Look feature. It's been around for years — ever since Apple released OS X Leopard in 2007. Normally, Quick Look lets you look but not touch: You can see the contents of a file, but you can't select its text. To do anything more, you've typically had to open the document in an app. But that's something you can change with a quick visit to our good friend the Terminal application.

For many of us, opening an application to get inside a document isn't that big of a deal. But it can slow you down, especially if you just need to copy a sentence or a paragraph of text. That's where this Terminal pro tip comes in. Obviously, it's only applicable to files with text content, as opposed to image files, MP3s and other non-text file types that work with Quick Look.

How to enable Quick Look text selection

  1. Open Terminal.
  2. Type defaults write QLEnableTextSelection -bool TRUE and press return.
  3. Type killall Finder and press return. (You can copy and paste each of these lines of text into Terminal if you'd prefer.)

  4. Close Terminal

Et voilà, when you peek inside of a document with Quick Look, you'll now be able to select and copy the text without having to open the document in another application first.