Finder: Quick Actions complete tasks quickly

If you want to rotate or put notes on a photo of your Mac, you do not need to open Preview or any other image editing application. Finder's quick action feature gives you an efficient way to manage such simple tasks in an instant.

Let's see what you can do with Finder's pre-set quick actions and how to create custom actions for yourself.

What are Finder's quick actions and how to use them?

Quick actions are one of the best new features of macOS Mojave. They are simple one-click buttons to deal with certain common tasks, when you select a file or a folder in Finder.

You will see the Quick Action buttons only if you have enabled the Preview sidebar in Finder. The sidebar automatically appears in Gallery view, but you may have to enable it manually in other views. That's easy to do: just click on View and then on Show Preview.

Now, select any of your files in Finder to see the quick actions in the sidebar. If you have chosen an image file, you will see the option Rotate and Mark below the preview of the file.

Click on the first Quick Action (Rotate) to rotate the selected image to the left, right there in Finder.

If you click on Marked, you will see a pop-up preview of the image, with the Marking Toolbar of the Preview application at the top. You can feel free to edit the image from this window and press the button on the «Ready» toolbar to save the changes.

When you advance, Finder's quick actions will show you more options

Then you will see a new button, Open with preview, which will be displayed in the same place. Click on it to open the image in the Preview application, if you wish to make further modifications to the image. Otherwise, press the Esc key to force the pop-up box back to the bottom. As a Quick View preview does.

The quick actions that appear in the sidebar vary depending on the type of file you have selected. For example, you will see a Crop option for certain video files. For images, you will also see the Create PDF option: if it is not visible, click the More (+) button next to Rotate and Mark.

By the way, Quick Actions are also available through the context menu for the Finder item you have selected.

How to create custom quick actions

By default, Finder has only a few quick actions, which is not so impressive. However, the best thing is that you can create many more. All you need is a little knowledge of Automator, the integrated automation application in macOS.

Learning the basics of Automator is easy. So, the basic quick action that we are going to create next will also help you.

Quick custom action: Convert to JPG

If you often convert images to the JPG format to keep the file size under, a quick action; "Convert to JPG" can save you some time. We believe that using Automator.

To get started, open the Automator application, select Quick Action as your document or workflow type. And click on the Choose button.

Since Quick Actions are not available on systems prior to macOS Mojave, this particular type of document will also not appear.

Now, you'll see the standard three column view of Automator. The third column is where you create a custom workflow to activate a series of actions with a few clicks.

Meanwhile, the second column gives you a library of actions to choose from, and the first divides these actions into logical categories. Look for the small panel below the first and second column to get a description of the selected action.

To be clear, in our example, we will create a quick action workflow with one click to convert a selected Finder image in any format into a JPG image.

Steps to create the workflow

Let's start with the third column: from the workflow in the current drop-down menu, select «Image files. Now, use the search box on the second column to find this action: Change the type of images. Drag this action to the third column.

Automator will then ask you if you also want to add a "Copy items" action from the search engine to preserve a copy of your original image. Click the Add button to accept this and continue.

Next, select the JPEG option from the drop-down menu for the action chosen in the third column. With this setting, you are specifying that you want the image type to change to JPG.

Now, it's time to save this workflow. Click File, then Save. Add a suitable name for the Quick Action and press the Save button. You should also see the quick action listed in the More (+) menu for quick actions in Finder.

To see if it works, select a PNG image in Finder and click on the quick action «Convert to JPG». The image file should instantly become the intended file and a copy of the original PNG file should appear on your desktop.

Why can you create quick actions?

Now that you know how to create custom quick actions, which ones will be useful? We have some ideas for you. You can create quick actions to:

  • Resize images to standard sizes.
  • Create files
  • Watermark documents.
  • Switch to custom folder views.
  • Split PDF files.
  • Add photos to specific albums.
  • Sort files differently.

Third-party applications also bring their own set of Quick Actions, so stay tuned for them. You can toggle the visibility of Quick Actions from System Preferences, then click on Extensions and finally on Finder.

There is much more to explore in Finder

From Quick Actions and Quick View, to smart tags and folders, Finder has many useful parts hidden in each corner. You will discover some of them as you learn more about the uses of this great tool.