Mac OS X: Configuring and Using the Services Menu

If you’ve never played around with what options are available under the Services menu (viewable in most programs by going to the application menu in the top-left of the screen—which is labeled with the particular program’s name—and choosing Services), you’re missing out on a ton of life-changing commands. OK, maybe they’re not life-changing. I am known to be hyperbolic.

To use a Service, you’ll need to make sure that you have something selected to perform one on, such as some text, an e-mail address, or a picture file.


The Services menu is available in most Mac OS X applications.


For example, one of the Services I use most often is invoked by selecting a block of text and choosing [Program name] > Services > Add to iTunes as a Spoken Track. This will create a playlist in iTunes called “Spoken Text” containing that newly created audio file. I like to use this when I have to be up and about doing work that’s not computer-related (crazy talk, I know). I’ll often collect a few long articles I’d like to read into audio files and just listen to them as I go about my tasks. It’s like making your own short audiobook out of your favorite news source (or what have you).

Another favorite of mine is Show Address in Google Maps, which works if you have the text of an address selected in, say, your browser. I don’t need to explain to you how much faster this is than copying and pasting, do I? Good. You’re all such quick learners.

Can’t see what you want under your Services menu, even when you select something? Go to System Preferences > Keyboard, and then select the Keyboard Shortcuts tab. Once there, you’ll see a Services menu item on the left side of the window, and you can scroll through the list it offers you to see if the particular function you want is deselected. I’d also recommend that you spend some time perusing that list to find any other handy gems you might not know you always needed. 


Check out System Preferences for what Services you may be missing.


And one final note: depending on what program you’re in, some Services are available when you right-click or control-click on your actionable item. So you may not even have to drag your cursor up to the Services menu to use these tricks. Man, but I do love me some Mac OS X.


Right-click on the item you’re attempting to perform a Service on (like a text selection) to access options in the contextual menu.