I've seen this earlier but never got time to bother looking closely into the problem. So when I open a pdf file I created (long time ago, though in 2014). I see this error message from Preview:

The file couldn't be opened because you don't have permission to view it.

But it's a lie, because of two things:

First, it's Get Info dialog:

enter image description here

Where one can clearly see the Permissions section, where it says Read & Write for peetonn (Me).

And who am I?

$ whoami

Second, it's ls -Al@ output:

$ ls -l@ .
total 19936
-rw-r--r--@ 1 peetonn  staff   5.0M Dec 22 15:21 window.pdf
   com.apple.metadata:_kMDItemUserTags    42B 
   com.apple.quarantine   22B

Could it be that these Apple's extended file attributes did something nasty? How do I fix that? Btw, if I hit Space for previewing the file, I can read it...

macOS 10.12.6

  • 1
    can the PDF be read with a command line tool such as file window.pdf ? – thrig May 2 '18 at 14:10
  • 1
    @thrig yes, it can – peetonn May 2 '18 at 14:43
  • 2
    i just discovered - It appears to be the Preview's problem. I re-opened Preview and now it opens the file with no problem :sigh: – peetonn May 2 '18 at 14:43

This is apparently a common problem, and one that Apple's support article below often does not fix. It also occurs trying to save a new file.

The work-around both for an existing file that Preview wouldn't itself open, as well as for a new it says it can't save [which it actually already has saved], is this: navigate to the file in Finder and open via Cmd-O. Then, back in Preview, click 'Cancel' and it will then proceed as if nothing strange occurred.

It's Apple's version of SNL's Rosanna Rosannadanna's 'Nevermind...'

This thread. suggests it's a permissions problem, and the referenced Apple Support page gives directions to apply permissions to the user folder via Get Info, then reset permissions in Terminal.

Immediately after I did this, Preview would save a screenshot, but shortly thereafter the same problem recurred. It doesn't always do it.

My feedback to Apple when the 'fix' did not work was to point out that they just deflected the question. I asked they address what to do when it didn't work.

It might be one of hundreds of OS issues Apple doesn't know how to fix. Move on - install Mojave and hope it goes away?

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .