Quicksilver isn’t exactly a new app (it’s been around since 2003), but I just started using it recently as an alternative to the built-in Spotlight function in OSX. My motivation was an observation by the famed Gordon Koo that Quicksilver allows many operations to be performed by keyboard instead of mouse, thus significantly reducing mouse use (a rampant killer of productivity and passionate promoter of RSI).
I have to admit that I initially wasn’t sure I’d find it useful, since the only thing I used Spotlight for was launching apps. My thought was: do I really need a stand-alone program for app launching?
Here’s the deal though: Spotlight is only useful for launching apps. Sure, it can search your system to index files and folders (a process that takes hours, I might add), but I have literally never used/never seen anyone use Spotlight’s search function. Ironically, users familiar enough with OSX to use Spotlight regularly are typically also organized enough to keep their files in well-known locations, such that searching via Spotlight is unnecessary. Meanwhile, for apps, Spotlight can only launch them: there are no hooks for doing interesting things with apps that are already open, besides bringing them to the foreground. You’re limited to opening things.
Quicksilver, on the other hand, is a whole new ball game. Here are 5 big things about it that have really impressed me.
1. Launching apps is phenomenal
2. There’s a plugin for pretty much everything
Plugins allow Quicksilver to tie into specialized app functionality, such as opening files, sending messages, and playing media. The folks as qsapp have done a great job of collecting Quicksilver plugins into a centralized repository. In reality, though, that’s a small slice of all the available plugins: if you can think of it, it’s probably already a Quicksilver plugin.
3. Making macros (“triggers”) is super-flexible
You can put together little macros (called “Triggers”) that take care of little things: emptying trash, installing apps, updating Git repos, etc. It’s a lot like OSX’s built-in Automator, but I find it easier to build convenience macros within the same UI that I’ll be using to run them.
4. Searching with the iTunes plugin is better than searching in iTunes
One of the many annoyances in the iTunes v11 UI update was a new search box that’s smaller, slower, and that shows a shorter list of results than in previous versions. Quicksilver to the rescue! With the iTunes plugin, you can set up a key command to search all your music and instantly play the song you select. Not a life-changing feature, but I’ve certainly been enjoying iTunes a lot more since I discovered this.
5. Reminders are absurdly easy
I’ve always wanted a way to use my computer as a timer, but having to run a standalone app like Reminder didn’t make sense. Quicksilver is a perfect solution: you can display text or play a sound after a specified delay or at a specific time.
Here are some Quicksilver resources I found handy: