Need a quick summary of an article? Your Mac can do that, without the need for extra software – and you’ll find all sorts of OS X features you’ve been overlooking in the process.
Summary Service isn’t new to OS X. It’s been around since the early days of OS X, but it’s buried in a menu you probably never look at – the services menu, one of many contextual menus on your Mac.
Don’t know about the services menu? You see it every time you click the name of your open app in the menubar or right-click an icon:
Yeah, that thing. If you’re like most Mac users you almost always mouse past this, which is a shame. You’re missing out on the ability to summarize any text – and a lot more.
Summarize Any Text
If Summary Service is enabled, using it is simple. Just highlight text in almost any program – your web browser of choice, for example, or a word processor. Then click the application’s name in the menubar (the bold word to the right of the Apple logo), and mouse down to Services. You should see Summarize Text, as shown above. Click it and you’ll see the following window:
You can calibrate, on percentage scale, how much of the text you want to see. The service tries to use context to figure out which sentences – or paragraphs, depending on what you set – are most essential to read in a given text. What works best will vary from person to person, but I find this to be most useful around 20 per cent.
The service isn’t perfect at figuring out what information is most important in any given piece of text, but it can be a great place to start if you’re pressed for time.
You can read the summarized text right here, if you want, or you can save it for later.
So, what could you actually use this for? The first answer – condensing long documents that you need to read – is possible. This could be useful for research, but you may not want to rely on it entirely.
But perhaps even more useful is using this tool on your own writing. Run your text through this tool and read what comes out. If you disagree that the essence of your point is coming across in the summary, perhaps you’ve not emphasized that point enough. Read your writing again, and try to make the point clearer.
Enabling Your Mac’s Summary Service
Can’t find Summary Service in the Services menu? Don’t panic: it’s easy enough to add. Click the application menu, then scroll down to Services:
Click Services Preferences, as shown above, and you will see a checklist of all services. Scroll down until you find Summary Service.
You can add a keyboard shortcut. This will make using Summary Service a lot easier – just highlight some text and press your keyboard shortcut to launch the service.
Or, if you prefer, you could pin the Summary Service to your Mac’s dock. Just open it as outlined above, then right-click the dock icon:
Now you can open the service whenever you want, from your dock.
What Other Useful Services Are There?
While enabling Summary Service, you’ll probably notice there’s a lot more yet-to-be-installed services to explore. Wondering what else you can accomplish? Well, we’ve shown you how to create your own Mac Services, but you don’t need to dig that deep to find useful things. Here are a few more things you can enable in the menu, while you’re turning on Summary Service:
- Open a Terminal instance at the currently open folder in Finder
- Add highlighted text to a spoken MP3 in iTunes
- Show the location of a particular address in the Maps app
- Reveal a specific file in Finder
You’ll also find a variety of application-specific services. If you’re an Evernote user, for example, you’ll find the ability to add any text you’ve copied to a new note. If you’ve installed Twitter for Mac, you can tweet any excerpt you copy (though, considering the 140 character limit, you might want to summarize the content first).
Are you a regular user of the Services menu? Are you just finding out about Services? Let’s learn together: let me know if you find anything else that’s useful.
Wondering what else might be hidden in OS X? You should check out the secret features of OS X Mavericks, because you probably missed something.