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Here's how to preview files before opening them.
If you're familiar with Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard, you probably know about Quick Look, one of my favorite features in the operating system. With a file selected in the Finder, press the spacebar to bring up a preview of the file's contents. Quick Look is an excellent way to tell digital photos and videos apart (since typically they have filenames like "IMG_0432.JPG"), but the feature also applies to PDFs, text files, Microsoft Office files, and more.
Snow Leopard builds on the earlier Quick Look by providing previews within the files' icons. Open a new Finder window and switch to the Icon view (choose View > as Icons, or press Command-1). When you move your mouse pointer over an icon, such as a PDF document, you'll see a set of arrows for moving between pages. For movie files, a triangular play button in the center lets you play and pause the video.
If you don't see those controls, you may need to enlarge the icon sizes. Drag the icon size slider in the lower-right corner of the window to make the icons bigger.
Bonus tip: Icons in Snow Leopard can be up to 512 by 512 pixels in size -- that's more resolution than the original Macintosh's entire screen! -- so you may be able to read a document without opening it at all. It also lets you read the text on the TextEdit application icon clearly.