How MacOS Finder Quick Actions can help you work more efficiently

Jack Wallen introduces you to a lesser-known MacOS Finder feature that can save you time.
Written by Jack Wallen, Contributing Writer

The MacOS file manager, Finder, has a lot of handy tricks up its sleeve, many of which are there to help you work more efficiently. One such feature has been around since MacOS Mojave and makes it easy to act on files within Finder. That feature is called Quick Actions and presents a right-click (or two-finger tap) context menu for files and folders within Finder.

This context menu changes based on the file or folder you're working with. For example, if you right-click an image, you can quickly convert it to a different image format (say, from png to jpg) without having to first open an image editor or create a PDF from the file. With a PDF file, you can automatically open it with Markup enabled (so you can annotate the file). On a video file, you can rotate it or trim it. 

Also: How to edit a PDF

Of course, not every file type has an associated Quick Action but you can add new quick actions (which we'll deal with in a later tutorial) with the help of a built-in tool. Before we get to that, you should understand how Quick Actions can work to make your daily grind a bit less grind-y.

First, know that out-of-the-box Quick Actions are pretty limited. The real power comes from when you create your own Quick Actions, but you have to learn to walk before you can run (and the tool to create Quick Actions can be rather overwhelming at first). Ergo, let's take a walk with MacOS Finder Quick Actions.

What files offer Quick Actions?

By default, the following file types offer Quick Actions from within the Finder context menu:

  • Images (such as JPEG, PNG, and GIF files)
  • Videos (such as MOV and MP4)
  • Documents (limited to PDFs by default)

So, clearly, Quick Actions is limited without a bit of extra work. However, if you deal with a lot of images, videos, and PDFs, Quick Actions are there to help you. Also, you'll find the image conversion Quick Action is also limited to converting images only to JPG, PNG, and HEIF files. 

How to use Quick Actions

1. Open Finder and locate a file

The first thing we're going to do is open Finder and locate a file to be acted upon. Let's use a JPG file as an example. With Finder open, navigate to a directory housing the JPG image you want to transform.

2. Right-click the file to access the Quick Actions menu

Right-click (or two-finger tap) the file in question and you should see the Quick Actions menu entry in the popup menu (Figure 1).

Figure 1

The Quick Actions entry in the Finder context menu.

The Quick Actions menu entry is there to serve.

Image: Jack Wallen

Click the Quick Actions sub-menu to reveal the available actions (Figure 2).

Figure 2

The Quick Actions sub-menu in Finder.

The actions that are available for a JPG image.

Image: Jack Wallen

Let's say you want to convert that JPG to a PNG image. From the sub-menu, click Convert Image. In the resulting pop-up window (Figure 3), select PNG from the Format drop-down and then select the desired size (from Small, Medium, Large, and Actual Size), and click the Convert button.

Figure 3

The Quick Actions image conversion pop-up window.

Configuring your converted image in the Finder pop-up.

Image: Jack Wallen

3. Convert images to a PDF

One very cool trick with Quick Actions is the ability to quickly create a PDF document from a collection of images. It's simple:

  1. Open Finder.
  2. Navigate to the folder containing the images to be added to the new PDF.
  3. Select all images to be added.
  4. Right-click the selected images and click Quick Actions > Create PDF (Figure 4).
  5. When prompted, name the PDF.

Figure 4

The Create PDF entry in Quick Actions.

Converting a collection of images into a PDF is simple in macOS.

Image: Jack Wallen

That's it. You'll now find a new PDF document in the working directory that consists of nothing more than the images you added. Although fairly rudimentary, this is a great way to gather a collection of image files into a PDF file to then share with those who need to see them in a single document.

And that's all there is to MacOS Finder's Quick Actions feature. As I mentioned earlier, I'll soon walk you through the process of expanding on the default Quick Actions so you can gain even more efficiency within Finder.

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