In all pre Lion versions of Mac OS X Preview.app could show an updated PDF when the PDF it was showing changed.

Example: I'm writing a latex document and recompile it. Without closing Preview it just reloaded the PDF.

In Lion it does not show this behaviour any more. It just seems to get stuck when the open PDF changes.

Do you know how to get the pre Lion behaviour? Or am I just missing something here? Is there a PDF viewer which can update the PDF when it changes?

The Problem actually was the way I build the PDF file. I have a Makefile to build my latex files which looks like this:

pdflatex -output-directory out main.tex
mv out/main.pdf .

So the file does not get updated. It get's replaced. On pre Lion Osx this worked fine. In Lion it does not. Now I just open out/main.pdf and update it with pdflatex and it works.

It also works with Preview.app

  • I had the same problem using markdown2pdf (johnmacfarlane.net/pandoc/README.html), which internally replaced the output file. I got it solved, thanks to your idea, by outputting to temp.pdf and then cat temp.pdf > main.pdf && rm temp.pdf. That way, Preview.app sees the file change and refreshes itself. Dec 28, 2011 at 15:01
  • In my Preview.app it seems I have to give the Preview window focus before it updates the pdf. This takes two annoying extra clicks every time I want to see my latex updated. Is it possible to overcome this issue as well? Apr 16, 2015 at 10:40

4 Answers 4


Try Skim. It has a preference option to check for file changes.

  • It also works with Preview.app -- see changes apove.
    – Kungi
    Aug 8, 2011 at 14:16
  • 1
    @Kungi btw Skim was made for working with LaTeX. Check out the pdfsync package.
    – vqv
    Aug 8, 2011 at 18:38

The issue occurs when you have an error in your latex file. At that point pdflatex will delete the pdf, and preview will stop following it. After you correct the error, pdflatex will create a new file, but this will not be tracked by preview, which is still looking at the now non-existant file. This is why skim will work for a while as well. I understand why preview tries to follow the file, sort of, but I think this behavior is very annoying.


The Skim app does not seem to automatically refresh the rendered PDF when I replace the PDF file with a new version, even with the "Check for file changes" preference option checked.

What does work with Skim is to select File -> Revert, then confirm the selection by clicking on "Revert" in the dialog box that pops up. This is way too manual for my taste.

Incidentally, the "Revert" menu option is grayed out when the PDF file has not been updated, but as soon as I update/replace the PDF file with a new version, the "Revert" menu option becomes available to be selected. So this indicates that Skim notices that the PDF file on disk is different than the version that was rendered, but it doesn't automatically refresh the display.

  • I am a pandoc user as well. Since a recent update, pandoc can now produce pdf output itself, and the markdown2pdf script is now deprecated. When I use pandoc to generate pdfs, Preview.app is automatically showing the new version, at least if I click on the Preview window or command-tab to it.
    – orluke
    Mar 14, 2012 at 2:49

You could also open the PDF with Safari and refresh the page manually to view the new version. markdown2pdf replaces the PDF instead of updating it, so Lion's Preview won't work for me.

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