OS X: Create Shortcuts to Email Text

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Using what are called Services, you can do all sorts of crazy, incredibly handy stuff. One of my personal favorites is creating a keyboard shortcut so that every time I highlight some text, I can press that shortcut to automagically start a new email and include the selected text. It's pretty simple to set up, too. To get started, open System Preferences > Keyboard, click on the Keyboard Shortcuts tab, and select Services from the menu on the left.

Then scroll down in the rightmost pane until you see New Email With Selection (it's under the "Messaging" header), and make sure it's toggled on.

Note from my screenshot above that when you click on an item from the list, you can assign a keyboard shortcut to it just by clicking "Add Shortcut" and then pressing the keys you want to use.

I've used Control-Option-Command-M here, but you can do whatever you want. Just make sure you don't override an existing shortcut that's useful to you.

Now all you have to do is highlight any text and press your assigned shortcut, and you'll get a new message in Mail with the selected text included.

You can use this in Safari as I've done above, in TextEdit and Pages (and Microsoft Word!), and even in some pretty bizarre places, like any fields in the Contacts program. In fact, it'll work almost everywhere. If you do have trouble getting it to function immediately after you set it up, though, quit the program in question and reopen it.

One more neat trick here—when you import text into an email message in this way, it pulls in all of the formatting, including links, images, and fonts. If you want to strip out all of that in one fell swoop, just press Shift-Command-T (Format > Make Plain Text) when you're looking at the message in Mail. That'll change stuff I copied out of an article from this…

…to this:

I use this pretty much all of the time. There are other ways of getting text into a new email message (such as copying and pasting, obviously), but I think this is the quickest method. Plus, I got to create my own keyboard shortcut, which is just darned awesome on its own!

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Lee Dronick

Another gem from Melissa’s mine of tips.

Melissa Holt

Thank you, Lee! You’re always too kind.



Thanks for that.

Set it up, and works fine.  One thing though, when I select and perform the import, it brings it in as plain text right away, and does not bring in any figures.

Must be some other setting somewhere affecting this action I guess.

Still, it is very useful.

Melissa Holt

Hey there Imagestealer,

It is indeed a setting. It’s within Mail > Preferences under the Composing tab (labeled “Message Format”). Yours is probably set to default to Plain Text.

Hope that helps!


Thanks.  That’s not it.  Found that preference screen and it is configured as rich text.

Still showing the capture as plain text however.

I think I can live with it, but would be nice to figure out what is going on. Using 10.8.3 with all up to date patches.

Melissa Holt

Hey Imagestealer,

Can you send me a personal message? You can do so by clicking on my name in the byline underneath the article title. Maybe I can help you figure out what’s going on. smile



Hi. I’m wondering why I can’t see this in Safari behind the right-click -> Services?
I’ve not really been able to figure out a way to make it show up. I’d rather use that than enable another keyboard shortcut which might override some shortcuts that I’m already using..
If you know how to make it show in context menu->Services->  on Safari or any other app, I’d really love to know how-to..

Melissa Holt

Hi esaruoho,

It’s a little bit complicated, but if you send me a message personally, I’ll be happy to give you instructions. (I told another reader how to contact me in the response right above yours.)



It doesn’t work with Mac Notes. In fact, Mail Freezes when I use it from Notes. It also doesn’t work from within an email message.


Ah, Melissa, your choice of wording allowed me to search for “Services not appearing in the contextual menu” … and I found this which I tried and it seems to have made the Service visible, at least my experiment with selecting text in Safari and seeing the Email selected text option is working (I was extra cautious and closed System Prefs between the two steps of #3 below):
[Using Lion 10.7.5;  Note: Melissa says it didn’t work for her, however]


Open the Keyboard System Preferences panel, and select the Keyboard Shortcuts tab.
Select Services in left-hand column.
Deselect and reselect the Services you wish to appear in the contextual menu.

Melissa Holt

Thanks very much for researching that and coming back to post it, Tim! I’m sure our readers will find it very useful.


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