Monday, April 14, 2008

Use Summarize To Get To The Point

By Jon:

DISCLAIMER: This is a function for Apple users only. I know, I know, I use a PC at work too, but this is so cool I had to share it with you.

Have you ever received an email or been passed along an article that you're encouraged to read, only to find that it's 16 paragraphs of solid text? Rather than spend twenty minutes digging through this text, a hidden but incredibly valuable tool can help you get right to business.

The app is called Summarize, and it's normally located in the Services menu of any Apple app you may have. It's also located in the Services folder of your Library for quick access. Personally, I use it in conjunction with Quicksilver, so I'll be sure to explain that incredible app in a future post.

Here's what you do:

Select a block of text in an email, a website, or a document, then access the Summarize function. It'll pop up this display (I've selected a recent post of ours as an example):

As you can see, I've got the slider set to 100% and the whole article is displayed. Let's drag the slider down to, say, 4 sentences.

As you can see, it's pulled out 4 unique and important pieces of info from this post; this gives us a general idea of what the post is about and what it's explaining. Turns out Apple uses an algorithm to deduce how often this sentence is referenced (or how unique it is) and how important it is to the overall structure of the piece. Fancy.

Now let's drill it down to just one sentence:

A-ha! This is a one sentence summary of what the post is going to be about -- unconventional directions.

This might seem a little confusing at first, so I'll toggle over to paragraphs for a little more clarity:

Interesting. The article is teaching me how to find directions based upon the sun. The summary also includes the caveat paragraph, good if I don't live in the Northern hemisphere.

This is just an example, but I've seen this get used to great result with company emails, presentations and other corporate memos. If I just don't have time to read something, I'll fire this up and get to the heart of it immediately.


Sarah Hurst said...

Microsoft Word has this feature, too. It's set up a little differently, and I don't know how accurate it is compared to the Mac version, but it's worth a shot.

Jon @ The Corporate Hack said...

Good to know! I'll try it out on my desktop. I'm curious to see the difference. Thanks for stopping by Sarah!