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This magical app gives Macs the feature I wish they always had

If I had to request one feature from all Macs right now, it wouldn’t be Face ID. It wouldn’t be thinner bezels. Not even more ports.

It’s something much smaller: The context menu. The right-click menu on MacOS is severely limited when it comes to opening files and choosing Mac apps.

I know, I know — it may not sound like much in the grand scheme of things. But when you use many times a day, its shortcomings start to become inescapable. Fortunately, there’s a solution, and I’m hoping it gets Apple’s attention.

Opening apps, made easy

Service Station on MacOS
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Let’s take an example. When you double-click an image in MacOS, it will usually be opened in Preview. That is, unless it has a propriety file type. If you want to change that, you need to right-click the file, hover over Open With, then pick your app from the list. If the app isn’t there, you have got to select Other and browse for it.

But the next time you go to open that file, it will go back to being opened in Preview. What is worse is that the method to change the default app is hidden away in a different location — you have to right-click the file and click Get Info, open the “Open with” menu, choose a new app, click Change All, then click Continue to confirm. You see what I’m driving at? It is a complete pain.

As it turns out, there is an app called Service Station that can fix so much that’s wrong with the Mac’s right-click menu. Its method is so simple and makes so much sense, I am left wondering why Apple never thought of it.

Open Service Station and, once you have given it the required permissions, you will see a couple of tabs at the top: Context Menu and System Startup. Click Context Menu and you will see a split window, with Rules on the left and Menu Items on the right. Simply click a rule and you can see what options you will get in the context menu.

For instance, by default the Images rule only has Preview as an option. Click the + icon under the Menu Items section and you can choose to either add a new app to the list, or a script. Just pick whichever apps you want to see on the context menu — next time you right click, you will see those apps appear as options for processing the file. The apps you choose do not even have to be directly related to the file type — you can add the Messages app to the image file context menu so you can share pictures with your friends, for example.

Service Station on Macos
Service Station gives a lot more control over what you see on the context menu Image used with permission by copyright holder

One of Service Station’s strengths is that its context menu options are, um, context-sensitive. You can define specific actions for specific file types, so you will not be prompted to open a text file in Photos unless you choose to be, for instance. That stops the context menu from getting clogged up with unnecessary options and ensures you only see what you need when you right-click a file.

The app works with a range of automation scripts, from Automator actions to AppleScript, JavaScript, and more. If you have a workflow that automatically resizes and watermarks your photos, just add it to Service Station, then every time you right-click an image you will have that option.

If you want to try these features out, the base version of Service Station is free and allows you to create up to four separate rules, each with up to three menu items. I find that’s usually plenty for me, but if you need more, Service Station Pro is $15.

Combined, these features feel so Apple-like it is a marvel they are not already part of MacOS. Apple has a history of absorbing features from third-party apps into its own operating systems, a process that is now so well-known it has its own name — Sherlocking. MacOS Catalina’s Sidecar is the most recent example, as it closely mirrors the features of a popular app called Duet Display.

If Apple continues to take “inspiration” from the developer community (that’s one way of putting it), we could one day see Service Station’s functionality become a regular part of MacOS.

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