How to Open a Mac PDF File in Preview

PDF files are one of the most popular formats to save a document. They are often laid out like a book with pages you can scroll through. They can contain graphics, images and even clickable URLs (website addresses).

You have no doubt come across a PDF files many times, probably without realising it. For example, if you are anything like me and never have a clue where on earth you stashed your all important instruction manuals, then during a time of crisis or confusion you have probably turned to the trusty world wide web to download a fresh copy for the problem appliance. The online PDF instruction manual will look identical to original paper format, with multiple pages, images and graphics.

You can easily read PDF files on any brand of computer. Even if the PDF file was originally created and saved on a Windows machine, an Apple Mac could still download and read it with no problems. As PDF are so mainstream your computer should come with a pre-installed program that can read them.


Read PDF on Mac with ‘Preview’

Apple Mac computes come with a nifty pre-installed app called ‘Preview’. Alongside many handy functions such as taking a quick look at images, Macs Preview can open and read PDF files.

How to Open a Mac PDF File in Preview


How to Open a Mac PDF File in Preview

Bellow is a list of simple pimple instructions on how to use Apple’s default PDF Reader Preview.

1.) Choose the PDF you would like to open up and read.

2.) Double click the PDF files icon, wait a few seconds and the document should automatically open up in your Macs Preview app.

Crazy simple I know!


My Mac Can’t Read PDF files?!

Apples Preview app is pre-installed and should always be on hand to help you read a PDF, if however there is an error in the app or you have accidentally deleted it, then follow any of these tips…

1.) Download the ‘Preview’ app again from the Apple App Store.

2.) Install another PDF reader from online. There are loads of PDF readers swarming around the web, some good basic free ones (like Preview) and other high tech professional ones that enable youth easily edit the PDF files, such as Adobe Acrobat Reader and Acrobat Pro. Just make sure it is compatible to work on a Mac. Click here for more information on Macs Preview and the poshest PDF reader Adobe Acrobat Reader and Acrobat Pro.

3.)  Perhaps there isn’t a problem with your Preview app but one with the PDF file itself. Before you gallivant off and give yourself a headache over which new Mac PDF reader to download, check to see if Preview is still working by opening a trusted PDF file.

For loads more articles on the wonders of PDF files, what they are exactly, what are the best Mac PDF readers on the web, how to edit them and more… please check out are Mac Nerdy Mac PDF tutorial category.

Best Programs to Read and Edit PDF Files on Mac

Why are PDF Files so Great…

PDF documents (also known as ‘Portable Document Format’ if you want to be really fancy) are one of the most popular ways to save files on both Microsoft Window and Apple Mac computers. One of the main reasons PDF files are the preferred choice is because they can save documents in a like for like way. For example if your document contains images, trendy graphics, swish typography and even hyperlinks (clickable web addresses), a PDF file will save it and keep the same format.


How to Read a PDF

Originally created by Adobe back in 1991, PDF files are now widely used on all types and brands of computers. So no matter if you created a PDF file on a Mac machine, a Windows user will still have no problem downloading and reading. You do however need a special program or application to read a PDF file on your machine. Your computer should come with an application already pre-installed, but if for some reasons it doesn’t, the app is not working or you have accidently deleted it during a vigorous hard drive clean, then you can download a new one from the web…

The web is inundated with so many different types of PDF readers and editors. But which one comes out on top and most importantly which good programs are free? Depending on your needs, such as editing (editing a PDF can sometimes be tricky), you might decide on a paid application.


Firstly lets look at the ‘FREE’ options and their pros and cons:


I’m an avid fan of Mac’s default application ‘Preview’. It is a fantastic free and easy way to read PDF’s, although the option for in-depth editing is unfortunately currently not available with this free App.

how to read a pdf on mac


  • Great for viewing/reading PDF’s for free!
  • Automatically installed on your Mac so no download needed. (If you have accidently deleted it then you can get a copy from Apples App store).
  • Also View images – edit size, rotate annotate etc
  • It’s Free!


  • Limited editing features like the paid programs
  • Mostly used as read and view
  • Lets have a little more in-depth look into Mac’s default PDF viewer Preview.

Preview opens PDF’s, Images and many other types of documents. It will allow for minimal editing which can be quite effective depending on your needs.

Were you aware that you can easily transfer (or drop) a PDF file into Microsoft word or a pages document? You basically drag the PDF into your open word document or even PowerPoint and it will then be imbedded. There are countless applications and programs where you can do this, if you are uncertain just give the drag and drop method a go and you might be surprised it worked 🙂


Adobe Acrobat Reader and Acrobat Pro

The cream of the crop at creating and editing PDF’s is ‘Adobe Acrobat Read and Acrobat Pro’. Despite is rather long mouthful of a title anyone who is a creator will want this application on their computer! The best part is that it doesn’t cost a penny for the basic version, if however you like the advanced options on apps you’ll have to splash the cash to have the Pro version however many users will agree it is worth it for the advanced editing features it offers.

read a pdf file

Pro’s for the Pro

  • Advanced Editing for your PDF’s
  • Create professional PDF’s


  • The Pro version is a paid App.

What is a PDF Document?

It is one of the mostly widely used documents on our Mac, but a lot of us don’t actually have a clue what on earth as ‘PDF’ file is and why is it so special…

A PDF stands for ‘Portable Document Format’, which means you can create a PDF file in any program on your Mac. it saves the document exactly how it is including all graphics, Logo’s and images and everyone from a Mac user to a PC user will be able to open it. You don’t even need software on your computer to be able to view a PDF, basically anyone  and everyone can easily view it. Say for example you design and create a PDF using Mac Preview or something a little more complicated and professional like Adobe Photoshopthere should always be an option to save that file as a PDF, and someone without a snazzy expensive software such as Photoshop will still be able to open the PDF document with no problems. This is why it a PDF is one of the most useful documents to have.

what is a pdf


Pros and Cons to PDF Files

What are the pro’s and cons of using and sending files via PDF’s because lets be honest there are always nay and yay’s to a situation.

PDF Pro’s

1) As discussed absolutely anyone can open up and view a PDF for reading even if they do not have the specific software it was originally designed with.

2) Compact file size, always a bonus when concerned about document space. PDFs are a great way to send long documents via email.

3) A super quick and fool proof way of sharing a document.

4) PDF’s are easy on the eye and look professional if designed right.

5) Easy to print off and keep organised.

6) You can insert links, images, logo’s and most graphics

PDF Cons

Bear in mind when creating a PDF it may not always resemble the original document exactly (although it is supposed to), this may be caused by the positioning of the images and a change in font styles etc.

As some of us may be aware, PDF’s are not exactly worlds the easiest documents to edit at the best of times. This can be a right pain when you are in a rush and you need to add a signature or text to the document. There are however special softwares available that allow you to edit your documents without too many problems. Nevertheless editing a PDF is still miles easier and far less hassle then printing off a text document, signing it and then scanning it back into the computer… urgh!

PDF’s are usually formatted to an A4 size, so yes perfect for printing, but not so great for viewing online… it is not designed to fit your screen and so may require lots of scrolling if reading the document online.

We’re all used to a speedy internet service (if you’re lucky!). Reading a PDF Online is can take some time. Usually when clicking on a PDF straight from the search engine or from a website the browser first has to download the file before you can view and read it, if it happens to be a large document you may find yourself making a cup of tea before it’s finished the downloaded process!

I kid you not, these issues are pretty minor in comparison to the pro’s of a PDF, it’s a fantastic file format and continues to be a favourite with computer users all around the world.

Please keep an eye out for our next article on the Best Mac Programs to Read a PDF.

How to Create a PDF Document on Mac

PDF or if you prefer to get fancy with the technical name ‘Portable Document Format’ is a nifty file format that allows you to save a document true to form. When you save a file as a PDF you preserve the original document as much as possible, such as the text type, fonts and images. Originally created by Adobe Systems co-founder John Warnock back in 1990s, it is now free and easy to save your document as a PDF.


Example of a PDF document…

You have no doubt come across a lot of PDF documents without realising it. For example, you may have been in spot of bother facing a flashing boiler. Instead of turning the house upside down looking for the original manual, you may have saved time and download one off the internet. Once you opened up the downloaded PDF file you would have been able to see the exact same manual you misplaced. The download is a true doppelganger of the original manual and displays the same layout down to the fonts and graphics. The only difference is that you will be able to flick through virtual pages instead of paper ones.


How to View a PDF on Mac

PDF documents are world-wide and can be viewed on a variety of computer platforms, such as Apple Macs (of course), Window machines and UNIX.

As PDF is such a popular format to use they are very easy to view on your machine. All you have to do is click open the PDF file and your Mac will instantly unwrap it using the inbuilt Preview App, allowing you to casually browse the contents.


How to Create a PDF Document on Mac

The handy PDF format is particularly great if you are creating documents with multiple pages and graphics, such as instruction booklets, magazines, manuals, advertising leaflets, contracts etc.

Like most virtual activities and tasks Apple like to make things as simple as possible. While PDF formatting may sound a little complicated your Mac makes it as simple as pressing ‘Save’!

1.) Open up a file in any application.

2.) Click on the ‘File’ tab from the apps toolbar.

3.) From the drop down dialog menu select ‘Print’ (Sounds a little odd but seriously trust me…) Don’t worry you will not waste your ink by accidentally printing out your document at this stage.

4.) At the bottom of the print preview page in the left corner you will see a button titled ‘PDF’. Click on it.

5.) The PDF button will reveal a drop down displaying multiple options directly related to PDF formatting. For this purpose we wish to select ‘Save as PDF…’)

6.) A window will popup asking you to give the document a ‘Title’ and where you would like the PDF to be saved i.e. Desktop.

7.) Once you have filled in all the necessary blanks, tap the big blue ‘Save’ button.

8.) There you have it, your document will be automatically saved in a PDF file format.

pdf on mac


How to Export a File as PDF on Mac

Exporting is anther much easier way to save a document as a PDF. “Why on earth did you teach me the long winded method above then?” I can hear you say. Well… the method above shows you have to ‘save’ a file as a PDF, exporting is a form of saving but it is not bullet proof, it is possible to lose information along the way. So while exporting your document as a PDF is quick and handy, if you have an important file to translate into a PDF then please use the ‘Saving’ method outlined above.

how to export file as pdf on mac


If you are in a mega rush and don’t mind if a little data could potentially get lost, then follow the simple steps below to export a document as a PDF file…

1.) If you are in a text app such as Macs ‘TextEdit’ and are ready to save your document as a PDF, select the ‘File’ tab from the textedit toolbar.

2.) Scroll through the drop down menu and pick the option ‘Export as PDF’.

3.) You will be asked to give the document a title and select where you want the file to be saved to.

4.) To finish off, press the blue ‘Save’ button.
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