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ATPM 14.12
December 2008


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by Mark Tennent,

What a Scrubber

If there is one area of Mac OS X most over-looked and under-used it must be the Services menu. Many Macaholics don’t even know it exists, and those who do complain it is too long and stuffed with junk. The Services menu is found under the second entry in the Mac’s menu bar—usually the name of the current active application, including the Finder.

Services are one of the prizes won from choosing NeXT as the basis for Mac OS X. They are, in effect, tiny applets that enhance whatever program is running, be it Carbon or Cocoa, as long as it is services-aware. Firefox is not one, which for us marks it down as a definite runner-up for the lack of services support; but then, neither QuarkXPress nor Word is services-aware. Entries under Services will be greyed-out if a program is not written to use them.

For an example of services in action, sweep across a paragraph or more of text to highlight it and select Summarize from the Services menu. The resulting window has the text with a slider control to create a summary dynamically, even reducing it to the barest minimum. This can be very useful in dealing with long reports or to shorten documents.

Perhaps the text came from the Web and has funny line endings. Because we have installed WordService, we can strip those out as well as making it all capitals, lower case, or sentence capitals, as well as deleting multiple spaces. That’s not to mention sorting lists into alphabetical order and creating proper curly quotes, or converting curly quotes to straight ones.

There are many free and incredibly useful services, including WordService and CalcService, which does for figures what its sibling application does for text. Googling will find many more.

Or it is easy(ish) to write your own. Philippe Mougin explains how, using Bellhop, a shareware script editor.

At Your Service

Like buses, services have a nasty habit of coming along in pairs. Many applications will automatically put their own service into the menu, even if a similar one is there already. Often they remain, long after you have deleted the original application.

Sometimes they can simply be removed from the ~/Library/Services/ folder, but others don’t live there. Web browsers, FTP programs, and games are culprits, installing multiple copies even if only one of the services appears in the menu. Add a few of your own, and the Services menu can get over stuffed, which is where Service Scubber comes into play. This handy little freebee is from an Austrian-based company called Many Tricks.

Service Scrubber will turn Services on and off as well as activate/deactivate any keyboard shortcuts. Until Mac OS X 10.5 this included Apple’s pre-installed services, but Apple’s new application-signing security measures make it impractical now. Earlier versions of Mac OS X are not affected, and Snow Leopard, a.k.a. 10.6, is rumoured to have a service organiser built-in.

With services there is no excuse for one of our pet hates, using curly quotes as inch signs, purely because the designer/copy editor doesn’t know how to turn off automatic quote conversion in whatever package they are using.

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Reader Comments (2)

D. L. Fuller · December 4, 2008 - 12:39 EST #1
Note that Service Scrubber cannot delete or deactivate newer style Services. They appear grayed-out in Service Scrubber.
Andy Melton · December 14, 2008 - 08:16 EST #2
Thanks for this article. I have been a Macaholic for 22 years and have gotten behind in my al things Macintosh. I had no idea how to use this feature but now I will explore it some more.

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