12/10/08
10:20 am

MacMost Now 170: Using the Services Menu

What is the Services Menu and how do you use it? It connect different applications and the OS by allowing you to perform functions on selected items. For instance, you can select text in Mail and turn it into a TextEdit document.

Video Transcript (Click to Expand)
Hi, this is Gary with MacMost Now. Today, let's take a look at the Services Menu in Mac OS X.
Now, it's something you may have never noticed before: is that if you go to the Applications Menu and you look in there, there's something called Services. Now, it's in every application and everything you do in Mac OS X and there's a whole bunch of different things in there. A lot of times they're grayed out. A lot of times they mention that these are other applications.
The services menu allows us to link applications together in different ways. Let's look at some examples.
OK, so for instance, here we are inside of Mail. Now, we've selected a message and we can go up here to the Mail menu, click on it and see Services. Now, there's a bunch of things here, but they're all grayed out. For instance, we look at Text Edit. You can see there's a couple of grayed out options; Speech, couple grayed out options.
The key is to try to select something inside the document, like select this text.
Now, if we go to the Services menu you'll see that some of these items are actually active. For instance, under Text Edit, you can open a new window containing a selection. Let's do that and there we go. It automatically pastes the selection we had in mail inside a new document, and you can do that with text in just about any document that supports the Services menu.
Here's another example. Go to Services and you have that same text selected and we can go and go and go to Speech and say Start Speaking Text, and there we go.
So here's some other examples. We have that same text selected. We go to Services
and then we can go and Make A New Sticky Note. And we'll take that and paste that into a new sticky note for us.
We'll go ahead and go to Services and go to Font Book and create a collection that uses all the fonts in the selected text. So a lot of different things you can do.
You can also do things in the Finder. For instance, you can go to the Finder Services menu and you can do things like open it using the Finder services. Or you can go ahead and use Mail and you see there's an option to send that file.
You can also use something like FileMerge to go in and compare two files.
Let's go ahead and do that. We've got these two files from our previous podcast. We would go Services, FileMerge, Compare Files and we will get this handy comparison between the two of them that tells you how they're different.
Now, what you get in the Services menu depends on what application you're running, what you have selected and what other applications you have installed. For instance, I have the little local wiki editor, Voodoo Pad installed and you'll notice that Voodoo Pad appeared every time I had a piece of text selected. That's because when I installed Voodoo Pad it added itself to the Services menu with some commands it can perform.
So, as you add more applications you'll have more stuff you can do in the Services menu.
So, the Services menu isn't anything earth-shattering; it's just a simple way to connect applications together in OS X, but I've been getting lots of questions about it recently for some reason, so I thought I'd do a show on it. I invite you to explore the Services Menu and some of the applications that you use regularly. Remember to select things, either text or images or something else before selecting the Services menu, otherwise you may not see all the options available.
Until new time, this is Gary Rosenzweig with MacMost Now.