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By Rob Pegoraro
Sunday, June 8, 2008

Q Is there any way to get rid of all the irrelevant stuff in the Services menus of the programs on my Mac?

AThe Services menu could be one of the best parts of Mac OS X. It provides a common set of tools to your software, via a "Services" item in each program's application menu. For example, to get a word count of an e-mail message, I select the message's text, click on the Mail menu, scroll down to Services and select "Statistics..."

Unfortunately, Apple let this good idea get out of hand. Programs commonly add their own entries to the Services menu, resulting in a long list cluttered with things you don't need (say, "ChineseTextConverter" or "OpenURLinRealPlayer"). The Services menu now reminds me too much of Windows' "tray," the minefield of tiny icons at the bottom right of the desktop -- a dumping ground for developers with an exaggerated sense of their software's importance.

If you run OS X 10.4 Tiger, the free Service Scrubber ( can delete unwanted entries, but security measures in the current version of OS X Leopard stop this application from yanking all but a handful of services. Apple needs to give users a way to clean up this mess.

My Windows 98 computer throws up strange errors when I try to defragment its hard drive.

The point of "defragging" a drive -- moving files around so the ones you open most often are next to each other and can be read faster-- is to save time. So spending lots of time debugging a defragger is likely to be counterproductive, and you might as well opt out of that chore.

Instead, put the time you spent on defragging into making regular backups of your data. Ten-year-old computers don't have the best odds of seeing their 11th birthday.

Rob Pegoraro attempts to untangle computing conundrums and errant electronics each week. Send questions to The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 Turn to Thursday's Business section or visit anytime for his Fast Forward column.

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