Sample Code

Add Functionality to Finder with Action Extensions

Implement Action Extensions to provide quick access to commonly used features of your app.



Action Extensions can let users access features of your app directly from macOS. For example, if your app contains the functionality to perform image processing, an Action Extension could allow users to process their images directly from Finder. This sample code project creates three Action Extensions, two for processing images and one for processing text. One extension also presents a user interface and all three are available from both the Touch Bar and Finder Preview pane.

The project consists of four targets:

  • A macOS app target that has no functionality, but would normally contain your main application.

  • ThumbnailAction, an Action Extension target that takes images of any type as inputs and outputs thumbnail versions of them. This extension preserves the original input files and creates thumbnails as new files.

  • RemoveOpacityAction, an Action Extension target that takes PNG images as inputs and replaces them with opaque versions of the same images. During processing, this extension prompts the user for a color to draw as the background behind the transparent image.

  • UppercaseAction, an Action Extension target that takes text as input and converts it to be uppercase.

The extensions in this sample all accept file data from Finder, process it, and output the data back to Finder.

By default, new Action Extensions are not enabled in macOS. After running this sample code project, enable the extensions by selecting the “Create Thumbnail”, “Make PNG Opaque”, and “Convert Text to Upper Case” checkboxes in the Actions, Finder, and Touch Bar categories of the Extensions System Preferences.

Accept File Data

The system makes Action Extensions available depending on the type of data that the user has selected in Finder. For example, if the user selects a PNG file, Action Extensions that support images are shown. Each of the extensions in this sample operate on different kinds of input content:

  • ThumbnailAction operates on any kind of image.

  • RemoveOpacityAction operates specifically on PNG images.

  • UppercaseAction operates on text.

The NSExtensionActivationRule key in the Info.plist of the associated target determines the conditions under which extensions are available. The value for this key can either be a dictionary, or a string.

ThumbnailAction and UppercaseAction are both configured with dictionary values. ThumbnailAction specifies that it accepts image data with the NSExtensionActivationSupportsImageWithMaxCount key and UppercaseAction specifies that it accepts text data with the NSExtensionActivationSupportsText key.

For more information on valid dictionary keys for NSExtensionActivationRule, see the App Extension Keys reference.

RemoveOpacityAction uses a NSPredicate query as a string value for the NSExtensionActivationRule. The query in this sample project filters images to only be valid if they are in PNG format.

        ANY $attachment.registeredTypeIdentifiers UTI-CONFORMS-TO "public.png"
    ).@count == $extensionItem.attachments.@count
).@count == 1

For more information on defining extension activation rules, see the App Extension Programming Guide.

Process Input Attachments

When a user invokes an Action Extension, the system instantiates the NSExtensionPrincipalClass specified in the Info.plist and asks it to handle the request through the NSExtensionRequestHandling protocol.

The system calls the beginRequest(with:) method and passes in an NSExtensionContext. To access the input files, use the attachments property of the NSExtensionItem contained in the inputItems array.

Once processing completes, pass output files back to the system by creating new NSItemProvider objects and registering them with registerFileRepresentation(forTypeIdentifier:fileOptions:visibility:loadHandler:).

let itemProvider = NSItemProvider()
    forTypeIdentifier: kUTTypePNG as String, fileOptions: [.openInPlace],
    visibility: .all, loadHandler: { completionHandler in
        guard let sourceImage = NSImage(contentsOf: sourceUrl) else { return nil }
        let thumbnailImage = sourceImage.thumbnailImage
        let thumbnailUrl = self.thumbnailUrl(for: sourceUrl)
        thumbnailImage.savePNGToDisk(at: thumbnailUrl)
        completionHandler(thumbnailUrl, false, nil)
        return nil

To obtain the correct directory path for writing output files, use url(for:in:appropriateFor:create:), passing the FileManager.SearchPathDirectory.itemReplacementDirectory constant.

let itemReplacementDirectory = try FileManager.default.url(
    for: .itemReplacementDirectory, in: .userDomainMask,
    appropriateFor: URL(fileURLWithPath: NSHomeDirectory()), create: true)
let thumbnailFilename = sourceUrl.deletingPathExtension().lastPathComponent + " Thumbnail.png"

Finally, signal that the action is complete by calling completeRequest(returningItems:completionHandler:).

Process Text Data

The UppercaseAction extension accepts any text, either supplied as attachments in the same way as ThumbnailAction and RemoveOpacityAction, or from other sources such as a standard NSTextField control. Check the attributedContentText property for input from text fields.

If attributedContentText is empty, check for input in the attachments property of NSExtensionItem.

let outputItem = NSExtensionItem()
outputItem.attributedContentText = NSAttributedString(string: inputContent.string.uppercased())
context.completeRequest(returningItems: [outputItem], completionHandler: nil)

Present a User Interface

If the action requires user interaction then the extension may present a user interface. Set the NSExtensionPointIdentifier key in the Info.plist to and ensure that the principal class is a subclass of NSViewController. If the extension does not require user interaction, specify and have the principal class conform to NSExtensionRequestHandling.

Extensions that present a user interface show their view controller’s view immediately after the extension calls beginRequest(with:) and should input files with the extensionContext property of NSViewController.

Once the extension’s user interface has completed any required user interaction for the task, process the files in the normal way by calling completeRequest(returningItems:completionHandler:).

To cancel the task, use the cancelRequest(withError:). Pass a NSUserCancelledError if the user canceled the task, or an error caused the failure.

let cancelError = NSError(domain: NSCocoaErrorDomain, code: NSUserCancelledError, userInfo: nil)
context.cancelRequest(withError: cancelError)

Support the Touch Bar and Finder Preview Pane

Users may also access Action Extensions from the Touch Bar and from the Quick Actions menu in Finder’s Preview pane. Set both NSExtensionServiceAllowsFinderPreviewItem and NSExtensionServiceAllowsTouchBarItem to YES in the Info.plist to support the Touch Bar and Preview Pane.

Each extension must also have a template icon for use in the Quick Actions menu and the Finder Preview pane. Specify the icon with the NSExtensionServiceTouchBarIconName key of the Info.plist for each target. For more information, see the Human Interface Guidelines. The color of the Touch Bar button can also be customized using the NSExtensionServiceTouchBarBezelColorName key. By default, this is a TouchBarBezel color but can be any color in the asset catalog for the target.

For information on how to add Quick Actions to the Touch Bar see the Automator User Guide.

See Also


class NSItemProvider

An item provider for conveying data or a file between processes during drag and drop or copy/paste activities, or from a host app to an app extension.

class NSExtensionItem

An immutable collection of values representing different aspects of an item for an extension to act upon.