Four great OS X services you don't know about

Once you know the basics about services, OS X’s underused shortcuts, your next question is inevitably: Where can I find more? You can add—and even create—your own services. Here are four of the best:

1. DevonTechnologies’ WordService

You can find some third-party services if you look around. DevonTechnologies’ free WordService is actually a bundle of services that allow you to perform actions on selected text. This set of services is for you if you ever find that you need to reformat text copied from an email, remove line breaks, change text in ALL CAPITALS to normal case, or Capitalize Every Word In A Text without having to manually alter your texts.

2. DevonTechnologies’ CalcService

CalcService, also available free from DevonTechnologies, provides calculation functions from within any application that handles services. With this set of services, you can type a formula in a text document and then use one of the services to perform the calculation. Also use the services to either display the result or add it to your document (replacing the formula, or appending the result to the formula). I’m not a math geek, but anything that can take a formula like bs(sin(sqrt(2)))*sign(cos(pi*pi)) and give me an answer (it’s -0.987765945993 if you’re curious) is pretty nifty.

3. MacAutomation’s Finder services

The MacAutomation website offers a number of free services, including some that encode music files and others that work with Apple's iPhoto, Mail, Safari, Terminal, the OS X Finder, and more. One of my favorites is Disk Item • New Disk Image with Selection, which is part of the site’s Finder Services bundle. This service creates a new disk image file (.dmg) containing the selected Finder items. If you send or archive files in disk images, this service can save a lot of time. The other services included in this bundle are Disk Item • Rename Selected Items and Disk Item • Set Spotlight Comments.

4. Your own custom-made services

It's easy to turn your Automator workflows into services so you can access them more quickly.
Just about anything you can do with OS X’s Automator can be saved as a service. This makes your workflows extremely easy to access and use. In a recent article, “How to convert PDFs to Word (and other formats),” I describe how to build an automator workflow to extract text from a PDF. Take this one step further, and you can save the workflow as a service.

Launch Automator, and, in the Choose a Type for Your Document pane, click on Service, then click Choose. At the top of the window, in the menu following Service Receives Selected, choose PDF Files. Next, click on PDFs in the Library column of Automator, then in the second column, click on Extract PDF Text and drag that to the right-hand section of the Automator window.

Press Command-S to save the service, and, in the dialog box that displays, give it a name, such as PDF to Text. Click on Save.

Check to make sure it’s working. Find a PDF file in the Finder, right-click on it, and choose the Services sub-menu from the contextual menu that displays. You should see your service listed there. Also choose Finder -> Services, and check to make sure it shows up in the menu there. You should see it in both places.

If you've followed the instructions above, your completed Automator window should look like this.

Notice that if you select a file that isn’t a PDF, the service won’t show up; that’s because you specified, in the beginning, that the service would only work with PDF files.

Senior contributor Kirk McElhearn writes about more than just Macs on his blog Kirkville. Twitter: @mcelhearn Kirk is the author of Take Control of Scrivener 2.

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