OS X: Working with icons and previews

You can change the icon or preview used for an item in the Finder and other apps.
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Change a file's icon

Icons are the visual representations of apps, documents and other items you see in the Finder and other apps. Clicking an icon in the Dock, or double-clicking an icon in the Finder opens an item.

You can replace a file's icon using the Get Info feature of the Finder. 

the Get Info window of the Documents folder

  1. Copy an image or another icon to the clipboard. You can select part of a picture using an app like Preview, or a frame of a movie using QuickTime Player.
  2. In the Finder, select the item you want to change.
  3. Choose File > Get Info.
  4. Click the current icon in the upper-left corner of the Get Info window.
  5. Choose Edit > Paste.

The icon for your item is replaced with the image from the clipboard. 

Dynamic icons and previews

For some items, OS X displays an icon created from the file's contents. If you update the content of the item, the item's icon updates as well. For example, if you view a movie file in the Finder, OS X uses a frame from that movie as that file's icon. Music files with embedded cover art use this art for their icon.

Viewing a file in column view shows you a preview of the file's contents in the rightmost column. If the file doesn't have a dynamic icon, the preview may be different from the file's icon. These previews can help you to tell the difference between multiple files that look similar. 

a dynamic preview of a Pages file

If you paste an icon into the file's Get Info window, the Finder uses the image you pasted as the file's icon in some views, instead of dynamically using a preview of the file's contents.

Icons and previews created by apps

Some apps generate their own custom icons and previews for items. When embedded icons or previews are present in a file, OS X uses these instead of generating them automatically. 

For example, some image editing apps embed a static preview of the file within images you've opened or edited with the app. iTunes allows you to add artwork to music and video files. If you're not seeing the icon or preview you expect on a file, check the help or documentation that came with any apps you used to edit the file.

Use Quick Look to see a larger preview

If you're still not sure if a file is the one you're looking for, you can use Quick Look to see a larger preview of the file's contents.

  1. Select the file in the Finder.
  2. Press the Space bar or choose File > Quick Look.

The Finder shows you a larger preview of the document's contents in a Quick Look window. You can open or share the file directly from the Quick Look window, or close the Quick Look window when you're done previewing.

 a Quick Look window showing the contents of a Pages file

Remove a custom icon

To remove a custom icon from a file, use the Get Info window in the Finder.

  1. Select the file you want to change in the Finder.
  2. Choose File > Get Info.
  3. Select the current icon in the upper left of the Get Info window.
  4. Choose Edit > Cut to remove the current icon.
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