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Of all the software that ships with Mac OS X, Preview is one of the best pieces of software. It’s easy to use and very powerful, with a veritable wealth of features and possibilities 10 Tips You Need to Know About Mac Preview 10 Tips You Need to Know About Mac Preview Read More .

However, there are a couple of areas where it appears lacking: lightweight previews and quickly browsing through a large amount of images. Luckily, some of the other third-party image viewers are more than up for the job.

Xee³ ($3.99)

Xee³ is a simple, but versatile image viewer. The interface is lightweight, with the larger portion of screen real estate going to the image and a only small toolbar dedicated to general-purpose image information. An additional information panel can be opened with Cmd+I to show a wealth of advanced information for advanced users, ranging from the full file path to JPEG quantisation tables.

xee-view

What is missing in Preview – an easy way to browse other images in the same folder – is easily accomplished using Xee³. Swiping left or right with two fingers switches to the neighbouring images, similar to how it might work on your smartphone. The transition is seamless (reminiscent switching between full screen Mac OS X Do More, Better: Enhancing Multitasking In Mac OS X Do More, Better: Enhancing Multitasking In Mac OS X Multitasking is not always a choice. When you have to write up a report, you need access to your text processor, but also to your reference material. While working, I often end up working with... Read More applications) and smoothly resizes the application window to fit.

xee-dark

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Three different styles (Regular, Dark and Black) let you customise the look of Xee³. The Dark style, in particular, fits in seamlessly with the look used by modern Adobe software.

LilyView ($4.99)

A twist on the same concept is offered by LilyView, a gorgeous lightweight image viewer. With its edgeless interface, everything is hidden from view except the image itself. Even a title bar doesn’t mar the application view. In this way, it looks and feels similar to recent versions of QuickTime.

lilyview-basic

Navigation is similar to Xee³ and uses two-finger swiping to browse through neighbouring images in the same folder. Images fly and fade in view while browsing, making for some very slick visuals. Two-finger touch with pinching, spreading and twisting zooms and rotate images like in Xee³ and Preview.

lilyview-more

All in all, LilyView is similar to Xee³, but with a bit less visual clutter. However, this uncluttered interface also provides no easy way to access image information. In fact, if you need access to any image metadata, you’ll need to look elsewhere. But if all you need is a way to browse through your images, LilyView does a marvellous job.

Quick View ($3.99)

Quick View uses yet another approach. It’s a little less intuitive and seamless to use than the preceding two applications, but it makes up for it with a few very interesting features.

quick-view-basic

Using the left and right arrow keys, you can browse neighbouring images in the same folder. Scrolling works too, but is more useful if you’re using a mouse instead of a trackpad, and you can also use the up and down arrows to jump between neighbouring folders. This way, Quick Look adds an additional dimension to the navigation process; a dimension that’s invaluable if you regularly have to work with a large amount of subclassed files.

quick-view-expose

Pressing the Thumbnail Exposé icon in the title bar opens an overview of all the images in the current folder. Using Thumbnail Exposé is a particularly quick way to browse images, especially in larger folders. The thumbnail size, alas, is static but can be changed in the application preferences.

Conclusion

These three options above are all great lightweight image viewers, each placing emphasis on different features. LilyView is a stunning way to browse through and preview files; simple and without any visual clutter. Xee³ takes a similar approach, but also gives you access to a wealth of image metadata. Finally, Quick View is less seamless, but provides a great way to not only move between files in the same folder, but between neighbouring folders as well.

Do you use Preview for image browsing or a lightweight alternative? We’d love to hear your thoughts, so let us know in the comment section below.

  1. Josh
    August 27, 2016 at 10:26 pm

    Common Apple, make Preview able to skip to the next image. Also the cover flow view in the finder takes FOREVER to load previews of images and forgets what it just loaded shortly after going past them randomly.

  2. megadroid
    October 4, 2014 at 6:27 pm

    Opening an image from Finder, in Preview and not being able to browse the previous/next images is just unbelievabale in 2014. On the other hand, Preview has lots of extra features in the menu bar commands, including PDF authoring.

    For plain browsing, I also suggest Xee [1] (v2, not v3) for all kinds of pixelart (.iff, .bmp, .png) and Sequential [2] for images, PDFs and comicbook archives (.jpg, .pdf, .cbz, .cbr). Sequential not only loads neighboring images but also subfolders so it's the best lightweight image browser for my needs. It also features slideshow, zooming and useful shortcuts for browsing (switch to previous/next image or previous/next folder).

    Both Xee v2 and Sequential are free.

    [1] http://wakaba.c3.cx/releases/mac/old/
    [2] http://sequentialx.com/

  3. megadroid
    October 4, 2014 at 6:25 pm

    Opening an image from Finder, in Preview and not being able to browse the previous/next images is just unbelievabale in 2014. On the other hand, Preview has lots of extra features in the menu bar commands, including PDF authoring.

    For plain browsing, I also suggest Xee [1] (v2, not v3) for all kinds of pixelart (.iff, .bmp, .png) and Sequential [2] for images, PDFs and comicbook archives (.jpg, .pdf, .cbz, .cbr). Sequential not only loads neighboring images but also subfolders so it's the best lightweight image browser for my needs. It also features slideshow, zooming and useful shortcuts for browsing (switch to previous/next image or previous/next folder).

    Both Xee v2 and Sequential are free.

    [1] http://wakaba.c3.cx/releases/mac/old/
    [2] http://sequentialx.com/

  4. megadroid
    October 4, 2014 at 6:19 pm

    Opening an image from Finder, in Preview and not being able to browse the previous/next images is just unbelievabale in 2014. On the other hand, Preview has lots of extra features in the menu bar commands, including PDF authoring.

    For plain browsing, I also suggest Xee [1] (v2, not v3) for all kinds of pixelart (.iff, .bmp, .png) and Sequential [2] for images, PDFs and comicbook archives (.jpg, .pdf, .cbz, .cbr). Sequential not only loads neighboring images but also subfolders so it's the best lightweight image browser for my needs. It also features slideshow, zooming and useful shortcuts for browsing (switch to previous/next image or previous/next folder).

    Both Xee v2 and Sequential are free.

    [1] http://wakaba.c3.cx/releases/mac/old/
    [2] http://sequentialx.com/

  5. megadroid
    October 4, 2014 at 6:16 pm

    Opening an image from Finder, in Preview and not being able to browse the previous/next images is just unbelievabale in 2014. On the other hand, Preview has lots of extra features in the menu bar commands, including PDF authoring.

    For plain browsing, I also suggest Xee [1] (v2, not v3) for all kinds of pixelart (.iff, .bmp, .png) and Sequential [2] for images, PDFs and comicbook archives (.jpg, .pdf, .cbz, .cbr). Sequential not only loads neighboring images but also subfolders so it's the best lightweight image browser for my needs. It also features slideshow, zooming and useful shortcuts for browsing (switch to previous/next image or previous/next folder).

    Both Xee v2 and Sequential are free.

    [1] http://wakaba.c3.cx/releases/mac/old/
    [2] http://sequentialx.com/

  6. Thomas P
    July 15, 2014 at 5:55 am

    I love this one and its free ;)
    http://www.xnview.com

  7. Edmund Deane
    July 11, 2014 at 3:59 pm

    Take a look at Phoenix Slides (http://www.macupdate.com/app/mac/18735/phoenix-slides) which is small as a program, extremely fast, FREE,, give EXIF info, and plays on both old and new Macs, from OSX-3 on. It is my personal favorite for reviewing batches of photos.

  8. Vferg
    July 9, 2014 at 2:10 pm

    Got any free recommendations? I cant see spending money on an application to replace a broken application that came with the system... I have wanted one for some time due to the same reasons you mentioned above, mainly being able to quickly go through multiple pictures without having to close out and click the next one over and over.

    This would definitely be one area where I would say windows wins on the stock app. so easy, simple, lightweight, and fast. Not sure why apple wont bother updating to include the few things it needs to make it complete.

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