In the release of Apple’s latest operating system, Snow Leopard, Apple made some significant changes to its Services Menu feature, so that it’s a little easier to manage and more practical to use. The upgrades are far from perfect, but if you want to be a Mac power user, you should know about how to use the Snow Leopard Services Menu.
First, Macautomaton.com, not hosted by Apple, includes specific information about Services and Snow Leopard’s other automation features. As the site says, the advantages with using Snow Leopard Services is that it’s built into the operating system, and you don’t have know a single bit of computer code to use it. You just need to understand what it’s for and how you can build on it.
First off, if you don’t know, you can find the Services menu by going to Apple>Preferences in the menu bar, and then clicking on Keyboard. Clicking Keyboard Shortcuts will reveal Services, among other similar features. In the Services window, you will see a list of categories of service items that are configurable. In the Snow Leopard update, you can turn these items on and off, based on your needs. Many third-party applications build service features into their application that show up in Services.
For example, an application I use called SOHO Notes includes many service items that are useful, but I don’t personally need them. A few application’s service items, such as for SOHO Notes, are labeled in the Services Menu, but unfortunately most items are not. In fact, it’s hard to tell which items belongs to which application. But don’t let this put you off. As you begin using services, you can figure out which items to enable and disable for your needs.
How Snow Leopard’s Services Menu Works
Text and Internet
Let’s go through how the Services menu works. First off, let’s start with where you are now, with text selections. Select the word “Services Menu” above in the header of this paragraph. Now control or right-click on it with your mouse. Voila, you just pulled up Services and other contextual menu items.
Now, if you’re new to the Mac and you really haven’t added much to your computer, you might not see much when you right-click on the selected words. Also, if you’re using another web browser besides Safari, your Service items and contextual menu items might be far different.
By default, however, your contextual menu should consist of at least a few items for looking up the selected word in Apple”˜s Dictionary, copying it, or having the computer say the word using the Speech feature. If you don’t see much, go back to the Services Menu in Preferences and click on some items listed under the categories, Internet, Searching, and Text. Enabling those items will put them in your Services menu when you right or control-click on selected words. Further down in the contextual menu, you should also see Services, which contains items or actions available to you.
While the word is still selected, point your mouse up the name of the web browser you’re using, select it in the menu bar and scroll down to Services. From there you will also see other items or actions that might be, well, of service to you. In my example below, many of the listed items are ones that I created (which I will show you how to do in part 2 of this article). You can also head over to Macautomaton.com and download pre-built service items.
For example, there’s a download package of Safari Services that includes an item for adding selected text in Safari browser to a log file in your Documents folder. Another Service item opens a “new browser window displaying an RSS feed of YouTube videos whose tags match the text selected in Safari.” It doesn’t work super great, but it’s useful to have.
Images, Files and Folders
Now, let’s switch over to files and folders and see what Services has to offer. This time, right-click on a image or document file in your Finder and see what contextual and Service items are available to you. By default, items should include Show Info, which provides you information about that file; the ability to duplicate the file, make an alias of it, or review in it in Apple”˜s Quicklook.
If no items exist in the Service menu below the contextual menu items, part 2 of this article will show you how to easily create Services actions that will enable you to, among other things, re-size an image file or quickly attach a file to an email message.
While you have that file selected in your Finder, click on the Action button in the toolbar and you will see many of the same, if not additional, items available to you. Likewise, click on Finder>Services in the menu bar and again you may find Services depending what items are enabled.
Macautomaton.com also has a whole slew of items (for Mail, iPhoto, Images, Audio, UNIX, and Navigation services) ready for you to download and immediately use.
Creating Keyword Shortcuts for Services Items
The last important feature of Services Menu is that you can now add keyword shortcuts to any service menu, which means that you don’t have to right-click or use the menu bar to pull up an item. Go back to Services in Preferences, double-click on an item and add a keyword shortcut. Be careful that you’re not using the same keyword that is being used for another service item.
MakeUseOf published an article about How To Master The Power of Mac Shortcut Keys, which I invite you to read. Though the article covers Shortcuts for Leopard””not Snow Leopard””it still applies to what will be covered here about Services and other applications.
So are you using Snow Leopard Services in your computer workflow? Are there any third party applications that provide useful service items? Let us know about them. And be sure to check back for part 2 of this article, where you will learn how to create your own Services items.