MacOS Quick Preview not working for AI files

Hi! My first post on this site and hope someone here can help with this.

After 30 years as a graphic designer used to doing my own trouble shooting on generations of Macs and witnessing the evolution of graphics software, I’ve hit a wall on this issue.
For no apparent reason, around 3 months ago, Adobe Illustrator files have ceased to reveal preview images in the Quick Look function. When viewing an AI file in a window pane or hitting space bar, all that shows is the AI icon. As you’d all be very aware, being forced to open an Illustrator file just to see what it looks like is beyond inconvenient. If I right click and select ‘open in Preview’ I can see the file content but as I say, that’s far from ideal, it’s Quick Look I need for my workflow.

I’ve had extensive discussions with Adobe techs who are sure it’s a MacOS issue and yesterday spent 7hrs chewing the fat on this with 5 different Apple advisors. The most puzzling thing to me is, I can’t find on any Adobe or Apple forum another sole with the same issue. I do know I’m not alone though as 2 of my work colleagues have the same issue and are looking to me to resolve it but, as I say, there’s that bloody wall!

My iMac with this issue is 2013 running Catalina (updates not compatible) the 2 other designers are working on 2017 iMac (Big Sur) and 2020 iMac (Big Sur). I also have a 2011 iMac running High Sierra - AI files on that preview just fine.

To save anyone who feels they can contribute wasting their time, I’ll confirm trouble shooting already done (to no avail):
• All AI files are saved with PDF compatibility.
• AI preferences file deleted from library.
• Reinstalled Adobe Illustrator (3 times)
• Through Terminal - reset ‘qlmanage -r cache’
• Through Terminal - Cd ~/desktop - find . -name '.DS_Store -type f -delete
• Reinstalled MacOS Catalina

Advice for the next step is to reinstall older OS like High Sierra or Mojave, if AI preview returns it will confirm an issue with Catalina. I may try that but would be massively disruptive as I have 1TB data on this iMac and links to several cloud based resources. Also, downgrading doesn’t solve the issue of why it’s happening to me and 2 others using Big Sur with no sign of it being an issue to anyone else!

Any ideas gratefully received!


This will sound a bit stupid, but the feature you’re describing is one I never knew existed. Thanks!

Unfortunately (or fortunately for me), it works just fine on my Mac, and I’m still using Catalina. I can preview any file I click on, including Illustrator files saved with PDF compatibility.

Is it just with Illustrator you’re having this problem? Do other Adobe apps show a preview. How about non-Adobe products, like Word or a generic text file?

Have you seen this: qlmanage -o fails to save preview … | Apple Developer Forums. At least one other person is complaining about a similar thing starting with Catalina.

I cannot generate the preview through the Terminal using
qlmanage -p ‘/Users/Me/Desktop/’ That command just generates a blank preview.

You mentioned reinstalling Illustrator and deleting the preference file, but did you alos reset the Illustrator preferences when starting Illustrator — Option+Command+Shift ? It likely amounts to the same thing, but worth a try, maybe.

I’m just speculating, but if the preview is only absent in Illlustrator, it sounds like an Illustrator issue. If the preview is absent in all files, it sounds like an OS issue. Like I said, though, I can’t get it not to work, other than through the Terminal.

Thanks for your response. Yes Quick Look works for me on Catalina with every other file type, just AI which displays only the AI icon.

Thanks for the link to developer forum, none of what they describe helps me really but I’ve posted my query there too.

I’m sure not an AI issue as the problem exists no matter where the file was generated. I receive AI files from other sources all the time and can’t view in Quick Look.

One Apple advisor dis suggest that an OS upgrade may have missed a preview upgrade from Adobe and not factored it into their own upgrade. If that was the case though, the web would be awash with complaints of this.

I’m stumped!

When you save the .ai file - have you put the option for the .pdf preview.

It’s the PDF end of the of .ai file that is used for previewing.

Yes, most definitely, I’m well aware of that. Thanks.
Regardless of where the AI file has come from, still doesn’t preview.

Not really sure you got what I meant -

When saving the .ai file - have you got the Create PDF Compatible File switched on

Screenshot 2021-05-06 at 09.50.26
turned on?

Although I’m sure this is not the case - as you say you have this turned on.

How about

  1. Open to the Preferences folder of your home directory, or from Finder>Go>Go to Folder, copy & paste:
  2. Delete the
  3. From the Finder icon on the Dock, hold the control option key and click the Finder icon>select Relaunch.

Hmmm, interesting. What you suggest makes sense and it’s one thing I’ve not tried. Went to find the file and it doesn’t exist. Is there a way of generating that preference. Maybe that’s why it’s not working? That said, I’m sure it’d affect more than just AI files if it were a problem.

It might be hidden

I just tried it myself and it works fine - can find the file no problem.

You could try clearing the saved state

~/Library/Saved Application State/

Managed to find all files you suggested. Deleted and restarted finder, no good.

This website has some potentially useful tips.

One is to verify that your quick look plugins are all there, including the one that supports Postscript and Illustrator files.

The site says to check your System library. You can do that by going to the finder, selecting “go to folder” from the go menu and typing or copying and pasting /System/Library/QuickLook/

See if you have the “EPS.qlgenerator” listed.

If it still doesn’t work it recommends removing three plists associated with quick look to rebuild the quick look preferences.

As a last resort, while it is frustrating, you could see if there is a 3rd party quicklook plugin that will work for Adobe Illustrator files. Of course for most of those you have to pay for them.

Finally, have you loaded any other third party quick look plugins that may be conflicting with your built in quick look plugins?

This website indicates that a third party plugin caused AI files not to preview.

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