Think about how much time you spend dealing with chunks of text, big and small: the search queries you type into Google, the words and phrases you look up on Wikipedia, the chunks of words you copy from one app and paste into another. I deal with such text-based tasks of one sort or another all day every day, which is why I find Liquid (Mac App Store link) so handy. This utility makes many of those tasks a whole lot easier.
Launch Liquid, and it sits quietly in the menubar until you need it. Select a bit of text—in an app, on a website, wherever—and hit Liquid’s keyboard shortcut (Command-Shift-2 by default, but you can change that if you prefer via the Services list in System Preferences’ Keyboard pane.), and up pops a neat, compact window containing your selected text plus six menu options: Search, Reference, Convert, Translate, Copy, and Share, each with a letter next to it (S, R, C, T, 2, and E, respectively). Those letters are reminders of the keyboard shortcut for each menu—so, for example, you can press S to open the Search menu.
Each menu contains an assortment of related actions. Search, for example, contains Google, Google Images, Google Maps, Amazon, LinkedIn, and YouTube. Each of these options has a keyboard shortcut, too, listed right in the menu—press the letter for the desired action to perform it immediately. This means that you can select a bit of text, and with a few quick keypresses (Command-Shift-2, S, G) you can—using my example—initiate a Google search for the selected text.
The other menus provide similarly related groups of actions. By default, you’ll see:
Search: Google, Google Images, Google Maps, Amazon, LinkedIn, and YouTube
Reference: Wikipedia, IMDB, Etymonline, Google Definition, Oxford English Dictionary, Wolfram Alpha, and Wordnik
Convert: Currency, Area, Temperature, Speed, Distance, Volume, Weight, Data, or Power—each of which has its own submenu of specific units to convert to and from
Copy: As an active link (for text on websites); as a citation (for text on websites); as plain text (for styled text anywhere); display all sentences in the selected text that contain the word or phrase you provide; split (within the Liquid window) the selected text into individual sentences based on periods; or split that text into individual phrases based on any punctuation.
Share: Facebook, Twitter, email, or Google Mail
But a $3 in-app purchase unlocks a slew of additional features. (Once you make the purchase, you must relaunch Liquid to access those features.) For starters, you get a new Translate menu that can offer over 32 languages to translate to and from. You can also customize each of the default menus, adding or turning off options as you see fit. The search menu, for example, can hit up Bing, Baidu, Yahoo, CNN, New York Times, BBC, and more—you can even add your own custom search options—the app provides clear instructions on how to do that. You can also customize the keyboard shortcuts that are assigned to each menu item, and you can disable actions that you never use.
Liquid also provides some nice little touches. For example, if you opt to share selected text, you can use the left and right arrow keys, while in Liquid’s dialog box, to move the cursor to the beginning or end of the selected text, respectively. From there, you can add a comment to your text before you share it—handy if you want to, say, tweet a link you’ve selected. Liquid also makes it super-easy to perform a Google search on selected text without having to use the utility’s menus: Just select some text, hit your Liquid shortcut, and then press Enter; Liquid will immediately perform a Google Search for that text.
Liquid is one of those Swiss Army Knife utilities that can do an awful lot without making things complicated—all of its options are just a couple keystrokes away at any time. Once I started using it, I found myself using it all the time, hitting Command-Shift-2 many, many times each day. If your workflow involves text—and whose doesn’t, these days?—Liquid is highly recommended.