Is there a command line utility to which I can pass a filename, that will return applicable UTIs for that file?

For example:

hypothetical-uti-fetcher /Library/Desktop\ Pictures/Aqua\ Blue.jpg

might give me:


You can use the mdls command to find the UTI for a file:

mdls /Library/Desktop\ Pictures/Aqua\ Blue.jpg

and it will give you a bunch of info, toward the top it will say something like

kMDItemContentType             = "public.plain-text"

Hope this helps!

  • 3
    Excellent. Thanks. mdls -name kMDItemContentTypeTree /Library/Desktop\ Pictures/Aqua\ Blue.jpg is exactly what I wanted. – smokris Nov 10 '10 at 0:41
  • You're welcome, I'm glad this helped. – Wuffers Nov 10 '10 at 1:06
  • 1
    Suppose I turned off my Spotlight index and I seem to have no metadata stored. (mdls whatever-file just says that the file was not found). How do the md* services generate the content types in the first place? – Aurel Bílý Feb 17 '15 at 17:53

The mdls command only seems to work on Spotlight indexed files. If you run it on a mounted disk image, cd or thumb drive it may return no information at all.

When you're developing a Quicklook Plugin it's also useful to use the following command to see what UTIs Quicklook thinks a file has and which plugins it uses for the preview:

qlmanage -d 4 -p /path/to/file
  • The cited site is no longer available. – Randall Jan 15 at 10:36

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