Improve Your Efficiency With Mac 10.6 Services

Before Snow Leopard, OS X 10.6, was released, how many of you actually remember using the services menu for anything ?

I don’t.

Services is a little used but extremely useful feature of Mac OS X that has been around since a long time but only recently with the release of 10.6 became useful enough to be used by regular users like you and I.

What has changed with the release of OS X 10.6 is that Apple has now made the services menu context aware. So, for example, if you have a line of text selected in TextEdit, only the services for working with that selected piece of text will be visible. Similarly, if you have a file selected in the Finder, only the services useful at that point will be visible.

Another useful thing that Apple has done is that they’ve added support for creating services to Automator, the workflow automation utility that is bundled with OS X. So, creating services has also become that much easier.

Today we’ll take you through the simple process of creating your own service using Automator that will password protect any PDF file that you select in Finder and then let you email them to a friend.

1. Launch Automator from the Applications folder and select the Services template when asked to.

2. From the right hand side of the Automator window, select the context in which the service applies. We’ll select PDF files from the first drop menu and Finder from the second.

3. Now, you’ll have to select the actual workflow that makes the service possible. The workflows are categorized in the Library on the far left sidebar of the automator window according to the type of service that they provide.

Double click the Encrypt PDF Documents workflow and it’ll appear in the right hand sidebar as a part of the service that you’re creating.

Now, enter the password that you want the PDF documents to be encrypted with.

4. At this point, our service is capable of taking a PDF document and encrypting it using the password that we provided. The second step is the email this PDF file. For that we’ll need another workflow from the Library.

Under Library go to Mail and double click the New Mail Message workflow and it’ll be added to your service.

If you have more than one accounts defined in Mail.app, select the one that you want to use for this service, or let the Default Account be used for all emails sent using this service.

What Automator will now do is that it’ll use the first workflow and encrypt the PDF document that is selected in the Finder and then pass that document to the second workflow. The New Mail Message workflow then creates a new email with this document as an attachment and waits for you to enter an address in the To, CC or Bcc fields and then send the email.

Save the service with a descriptive name and automator automatically registers it with the Finder.

You can test it by selecting a PDF file in Finder and calling the Service from the Services menu in the Finder.

As soon as you click the Encrypt and Email PDF service, the selected PDF file will be encrypted with the password that you chose and Mail.app will automatically launch with the encrypted PDF as an attachment.

What other ways do you use Services to improve your efficiency?

5 comments

  1. Hurrah! You’ve explained how to add services. I actually used services on my Powerbook G4 with Leopard. My new iMac with Snow Leopard has hardly any services. I’ve missed a few, like Grab and pasting to Text Edit or Text Wrangler. (I definitely have not missed “Chinese Text Converter” !) I will check out “the 20+ automator scripts” and see what else I can learn. Thanks!

    • OS X 10.6 introduced the ability for users to create their own services using Automator. Earlier the only way one could create a custom service was by coding up their own. Automator has definitely brought services within the reach of a lot of users and that’s what the article highlights.

  2. Thanks for the great tutorial. I tried it without the Mail section, (because I use Thunderbird) just to encrypt a PDF only.
    The first time I tried it, it asked for the password, but did not require a password to open the resulting PDF. i.e. it didn't encrypt it successfully.
    The second time I went to use it, the entry is in the Finder-Services, and the Workflow is in the Library-Services folder, but it just does nothing. :-(
    Sad, because I really could use this service.

  3. I'm not sure why it didn't work for you but the encrypt service worked just fine when I tried it. Are you sure you're following the tutorial properly and creating an actual service or a workflow ?

  4. Thanks for the reply. I really needed this service, so I tracked another one down on the net and it works great. If it works for you them I must have made an error somewhere, but I could not spot it. Cheers.

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