OS X: A quick guide to Services on your Mac

Apple's OS X has an incredibly useful time-saving feature called Services. In this short guide you'll learn what Services are, how to use them and how to control them.


What are Services?

Available since 10.6, Services let you use features from other apps while working in another. There are some Mac users who aren't aware Services are contextual and access to them usually depends on selecting something first. You can also control what services are available, and create your own services using Automator.

Using Services

Services are available across many apps on your Mac. You can access them by:

  • In the Finder, open Services using the application name drop down menu item.
  • You also access Services using Control-click or Right-click on your mouse or trackpad.

You will usually see the Finder Menu Services list contains more items than you'll generally see when right clicking an item on your screen.

Here is a simple example of using Services.

  • With nothing selected click on the name of your browser at the top of your screen and select the Services menu that appears. On Safari you'll see Quick Reminder and Services Preferences.
  • Now select some text in this story. With the text selected open the Services menu once again, you should see several more options appear.
  • You will see additional Services appear in response to whatever data you have selected -- select an image file and then explore Services and you will have additional options.

Reducing Services

Many apps create new Services as they are installed. If you have reached a point at which too many Services are available, or have an available Service that is no longer relevant as you no longer use the app, you can control available services like this:

  • Launch System Preferences>Keyboard and select the Shortcuts pane.
  • With this pane selected select Services from the list at the lower left.
  • You will be presented with a list of all supported Services on your Mac in the window to the right of the previous list. The list is organized into relevant sections: Text, images, Internet etc. Work through the list to disable Services you no longer need (just uncheck the tick box) or to add new Services (by checking the box).

You will now have the Services you choose to have available too you via the Services menu and through use of right-click on your Mac.

While in the Services list you will note that some Services also have existing keyboard shortcuts you can use to quickly use them on your computer -- memorize these and you won't need to go through Services.

Creating Services

It's possible to create your own Services using Automator. We're going to create an image-cropping tool.

  • Launch Automator and choose "Service".
  • Look in the Library of Actions and you'll see numerous options in various categories. Under the Record button at the top of the app you see the phrase "Service receives selected" and a drop down list. Choose "image files".
  • Select Photos in the Actions Library and then choose Crop Images. Drag this item across to the workflow window.
  • Press Command-S to save the service and give it a name. We will call this "Image crop Service test". Click Save.

Now when you select an image in any app you should see the Service you created turn up as an option in the Services menu or as an available choice using Right-click.

Special Services

Some developers offer additional Services you can download and install for free, MacAutomation offers numerous examples. Just Bing it.

I hope this helps you make better use of Services on your Mac.

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Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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