Wouldn’t it be nice to have a lengthy section of text automatically summarize itself for you? Mac OS X (Tiger) has this capacity built right in, called “Summary Service” — although for some reason, it receives little fanfare.
This function is found under the “Services” menu, and it is therefore available in most programs. Summary Service allows you to automatically summarize any selected text in most software programs. It works in all Apple products (Pages, Keynote, Safari), most web browsers, but not Word.
Better yet, you have the ability to adjust the length of the summary on the fly to make it as long or short as you want. You also have the option of displaying the summaries in either paragraph or sentence mode, which can be particularly useful with longer summaries.
I have found this feature to be particularly helpful for summarizing affidavits, online appellate decisions, and even medical research. While not perfect, it does a surprisingly good job of including the most important content in its summarization.