MacMost Now 159: Using Data Detectors

Data Detectors allow you to turn addresses, phone numbers and dates in mail messages into Address Book contacts and iCal events. You can also turn selected text into to-do items or stickies.

Video Transcript
Hi! This is Gary with MacMost Now. Today let's talk about something called data detectors. Data detectors are some things that are in Apple mail in OS X Leopard. They make it very easy to add contacts to your address book or events to your iCal by simply clicking on bits of data in an email that you receive. Let me show you.
Here I am inside of mail. I've sent some test emails to myself just to demonstrate. In this first one, if I roll over the address here, I can see it's outlined in with a little down arrow. If I click on the down arrow, I get a bunch of options. I can create a new contact from the information, add to an existing contact, show it on a map which will launch the web browser and show you the address in Google maps, or enlarge the type.
If I create new contact, it will bring up this little window and allow me to modify all the fields in it before I add it. You can see it even pulled the phone number from below the address, even though that wasn't outlined. I can get all the rest of the information. I can add to the address book or cancel.
Same thing with the phone number here: I can click on that. Since it's not an address it doesn't have the Google map option, but I can create a new contact with that as well, and it pulls out the address from above.
Now in the second email, there's a little note about a meeting. There's a time below it: 6 p.m. October 2nd, 2008. That is highlighted as well. So I can basically click on that, and this time it will recognize it as a time and say create new iCal event or just show the date in iCal.
So I can check to see whether I've got something scheduled during that time, or create it as an event. It fills in the day and the time and let's me type what I want for the type of meeting. Now, there's something really cool that you can do here, too. If you highlight some text in here, you can then still do the data detector, and it will actually take the text that you selected and put that as a note.
So if there's information in the email that's important to this meeting, you can highlight that first, then use the data detector to create a quick iCal event, and you're done.
Another cool thing you can do with highlighted text inside of a mail is you can highlight it and then control click, or right click if you have a mighty mouse on it, and you can do a bunch of things with it: search in spotlight, search in Google, look it up in a dictionary, copy, or a new to-do item.
This is not exactly a data detector, but it's kind of similar. Click on that, and it will launch this little note up here that you can create to make a to-do item that will show up both in mail and in iCal.
Now, not everybody likes this function. Some people feel it gets in the way. I love it, but if you want to turn it off, all you need to do is open a terminal and type this command here: defaults write com.apple.mail DisableDataDetectors YES, just as you see it on the screen here. I'll include it in the show notes as well. Enter that, and you'll restart mail and you'll no longer have data detectors. Do the same command with 'no' instead of 'yes,' and you get them back.
If you like using sticky notes, another thing you can do is you can highlight text, and then go to the mail menu, select services, and you can use the text to create a new sticky note. So this will simply bring up a new sticky note and put the text you've selected in there. That's all for now. Until next time, this is Gary Rosenzweig with MacMost Now.

Show Notes:
To turn off Data Detectors, open the Terminal program from your Applications, Utilities folder, and type:
defaults write com.apple.mail DisableDataDetectors YES
To turn it back on again, type:
defaults write com.apple.mail DisableDataDetectors NO

Comments: One Response to “MacMost Now 159: Using Data Detectors”

    11/14/08 @ 1:48 pm

    Just wanted to drop you a line letting you know that your videos have really helped me utilize my iMac. It is greatly appreciated, please keep up the good work!!!

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