How to Summarize Lengthy Documents & Pages in Mac OS

Aug 24, 2016 - 21 Comments

Summarize on Mac

If you’ve ever encountered a lengthy document or webpage that you want the gist of, but don’t have the time to read or scan through, you can use the excellent Summarize Service in Mac OS X to summarize the text for you.

Summarize is adjustable as well, meaning you can choose how dense or light you want the summary to be. You can pick paragraphs or sentences, and adjust the length of the summary, which can vary from a simple outline condensed from the document, to a nearly cliff-notes like version of the text in question, or anything in between.


Summarize must be enabled on most Macs before it will be usable, and then its just a matter of learning how to use the summarize feature to provide a condensed overview of the document, web page, or any selected text. We’ll show you how to enable this helpful feature and how to use it.

Enabling Summarize in Mac OS

Before anything else, you must enable the Summarize service. This exists in nearly all even vaguely modern versions of macOS and Mac OS X:

  1. Open the “System Preferences” from  Apple menu and go to “Keyboard”
  2. Choose the “Shortcuts” tab and visit “Services”
  3. Scroll down until you find “Summarize” and enable the checkbox next to it
  4. Enable Summarize on Mac

  5. Close System Preferencse

Using Summarize on the Mac to Review Text

Now that Summarize is enabled, you can use it with any selected text, whether it’s a web page, a long word, text, or pages document, or just about anything else:

  1. Choose the text you wish to summarize, if you want to summarize an entire document or webpage, select all the text (Command + A for Select All works well for this purpose)
  2. Right-click on the selected text and go to the “Services” menu
  3. Choose “Summarize” to bring up the Summarize Service feature
  4. Choose the Summarize service in the contextual menu on Mac

  5. Adjust the ‘Summary Size’ dial as desired, as well as choosing Sentences or Paragraphs
  6. Adjusting the Summarize text on Mac

As you’ll see, the summary instantly changes as you adjust the settings. Once you are satisfied with the summary, you can copy it, or save it, or discard it.

This is helpful for so many uses, whether you just want to get a quick outline of a document, get the general substance of something without reading it all, and so much more. For example, I had a colleague some years ago who would use Summarize with a word counter to shorten essays and long emails after they were written and they swore by the combination, not a bad idea!

Like any other item in the contextual Services menu, it can be disabled or removed just by going back to the Services system preference area and unchecking the box.

Thanks to LifeHacker for pointing out this useful but long forgotten feature in Mac OS X.

Enjoy this tip? Subscribe to the OSXDaily newsletter to get more of our great Apple tips, tricks, and important news delivered to your inbox! Enter your email address below:

Related articles:

Posted by: Paul Horowitz in Mac OS X, Tips & Tricks

21 Comments

» Comments RSS Feed

  1. Nevin Williams says:

    (The first 3 paragraphs of this article, summarized…)

    If you’ve ever encountered a lengthy document or webpage that you want the gist of, but don’t have the time to read or scan through, you can use the excellent Summarize Service in Mac OS X to summarize the text for you.

    You can pick paragraphs or sentences, and adjust the length of the summary, which can vary from a simple outline condensed from the document, to a nearly cliff-notes like version of the text in question, or anything in between.

    Summarize must be enabled on most Macs before it will be usable, and then its just a matter of learning how to use the summarize feature to provide a condensed overview of the document, web page, or any selected text.

    (154 words -> 121) :)

    • Paul says:

      You can use the little adjuster dial at the bottom to shorten or lengthen the summary, you could really squeeze down the word count if you wanted. It does a decent job but it’s not perfect.

  2. Croydon says:

    For microsoft word 2011 (on mac), i had to access Services a different way:

    Instead of “Right-click on the selected text and go to the “Services” menu”, I had to click on “Word” – next to the File menu at the top of the screen – and then go to the Services menu.

    Same results.

    Thanks to you (and lifehacker) for the reminder

    • Bev in TX says:

      @Croydon,
      Thanks for that tip. It also works in Mozilla Thunderbird in the same fashion. (Of course, select Thunderbird rather than Word on the menu.bar)

  3. Cindy Huffman says:

    Thanks, it worked as it’s supposed to. It would be more helpful to me, if I can find a way to increase the type size. Anyone know of a way to do that? Even if I increase the size of the dialogue box, the type size stays the same — about a six-point “mice” type. Looking under Summary Services preferences, that only took me back to the Keyboard Shortcuts. Would love to hear any suggestions. Thanks.

    • junebeetle says:

      Not sure about Summary Service but you can easily copy it into TextEdit and increase the size there.

      I’m sure there’s a better solution.

    • Dale Mackie says:

      You can try the keyboard shortcuts of option+command +
      This will really increase the size of the type, but maybe you can make this work.

  4. Gary Gladstone says:

    re:How to Summarize Lengthy Documents & Pages in Mac OS

    I was hoping for something like this but alas, it doesn’t seem to work in 10.7.5 (Lion) after the right click is applied to the selected text, there is no “services” in the following submenu.

    I didn’t see an OS limitation in the article.

    Is there hope?

    Thanks

    –GG

  5. Peter Yudkin says:

    I found this did not work in Microsoft Word, so this is what I did:
    Opened the document in Pages.
    Summarised it.
    Saved it and made sure the .doc suffix was added.
    (The first time I saved it, it turned into a useless text file)
    I then opened it in Word and it was a shorter document that I could change as I wished.

  6. Ken says:

    Is there a way to do it with text on a web page?

    • J-L says:

      Yes. Method one is to select the text on the page manually and then use the summary function. But if you first open “Reader View”, then Command A (select all) then it works quite neatly. You can try it on this very page.

    • Dale Mackie says:

      Just hit command + and you type is increased in size.
      Command – to reduce it back to the regular size.

  7. Steve Steele says:

    Love this forgotten feature. 40% seems to be the sweet spot.

    Btw, when was this added to the OS?

  8. RM says:

    “If you’ve ever encountered a lengthy document or webpage that you want the gist of, but don’t have the time to read or scan through, you can use the excellent Summarize Service in Mac OS X to summarize the text for you.”

    hey, it works! thanks

  9. mike v says:

    Might be useful for Apple T&C :-)

  10. Can’t get it to work in El Capitan. What am I doing wrong?

  11. JohnnyV says:

    I’m running El Capitan. That feature isn’t available in System Preferences.

    • Boss Hogs says:

      Summarize is a feature in Mac OS X, saying it isn’t there is like saying “Finder” isn’t available. What that means is you are having an issue specific to you or you are not looking in the right place. It is unequivocally there, I have El Capitan and Sierra and it is there in all.

  12. JohnnyV says:

    El Capitan now allows this through the individual apps:

    “If you don’t see or can’t use a service:
    Open the app menu (to the right of the Apple menu), then choose Services > Services Preferences. Select the checkbox next to the service you want to use.” Here’s the link:https://support.apple.com/kb/PH21862?viewlocale=en_US&locale=en_US

  13. CAROL RYAN says:

    OSXDAILY……….I LOVE YOU!! THANK YOU THANK YOU FOR INTRODUCING ME TO SUMMARIZE……….I’VE HAD A MAC FOR YEARS AND NEVER KNEW ABOUT THIS SERVICE UNTIL YOUR TIP ARRIVED IN MY EMAIL BOX. THANK YOU FOR MAKING LIFE EASIER! YOU’RE WONDERFUL…….AND YOU GAVE STRAIGHTFORWARD EASY TO FOLLOW INSTRUCTIONS TOO!! GENIUS………

Leave a Reply

 

Shop for Apple & Mac Deals on Amazon.com

Subscribe to OSXDaily

Subscribe to RSS Subscribe to Twitter Feed Follow on Facebook Subscribe to eMail Updates