Introducing Quicksilver

There are some apps that I simply can’t imagine living without and Quicksilver Quicksilver is at the top of that list (link updated 21 Apr 2011). And it’s not just me, here’s what Adam Pash of Lifehacker said:

Quicksilver is bar-none the best productivity application on the market today. Whether we’re talking Mac, Windows, or Linux, freeware or shareware, this Mac-only, freeware application launcher-and-then-some is the best productivity booster I have on my computer.

Quicksilver is simply, a launcher which enables you to do almost anything from your keyboard. If you’ve never seen it in action, it will blow your mind. Oh yeah, it’s also free.

Quicksilver is essential for people who prefer to stick to the keyboard since it empowers you to do most common tasks, such as opening applications and documents, in just a couple keystrokes. I don’t want to start a keyboard vs. mouse debate, but I am going to say that I am solidly in the keyboard camp and put a non-trivial amount of effort into learning keyboard shortcuts and finding ways to avoid mousing. This preference is probably not unrelated to fact that I occasionally have wrist pain.

Here is the simplest example of what Quicksilver can do:
open Firefox in 3 keystrokes

  • ⌘-space: Launch Quicksilver
  • F: for Firefox
  • enter

This example demonstrates the basic language of Firefox: first, select the Subject you want to mess with (e.g., an application or file); second, choose the Action you want to perform on that item (e.g., open, reveal, move); third, hit return to Execute the action.

Only one letter was required to identify Firefox since Quicksilver remembers previous searches. Firefox is the most common item I’ve searched for that begins with the letter F. Quicksilver also supports abbreviations, so you can type entire words, or just fragments to identify applications, files, or actions.

Quicksilver is much more powerful than just launching applications. Beyond the basics of opening applications and files, I use Quicksilver and just a couple keystrokes to

Don’t let the versatility of Quicksilver intimidate you. Start simple and just use it as an application launcher to see how you like it. As you get used to it, you can start learning and using the more advanced functions.

Here’s a compilation of resources to get you started with Quicksilver, listed in ascending order of approximate techy-ness.

For those already in the loop, what’s your favorite Quicksilver trick?

Quicksilver, freeware

10 comments… add one
  • grantk Jun 24, 2009 @ 23:42

    Add /System/Library/CoreServices and /Developer/Applications to your catalogue so you can launch things like Screen Sharing, Software Update, and Xcode.
    And while you’re at the Blacktree site, perhaps check out Visor, a Quake style drop down terminal window you can access with a hot key. Good if you usually use X11 for your terminals.

  • John Jun 25, 2009 @ 2:20

    I like the idea of Quicksilver, but not the complexity. I can do many of the same things — launching Firefox in a couple of keystrokes, using a calculator, etc — using Spotlight, which is quicker and ‘just works’, without installing anything extra. It’s obviously much simpler and less capable, but it’s worth looking at as a ‘poor-man’s Quicksilver’ for idle sods like me!

  • Jeffrey Jun 25, 2009 @ 7:12

    Personally, I’ve found that spotlight on my computer (an older Macbook Pro) is sort of slow, whereas Quicksilver doesn’t have any lag at all. I hadn’t tried it before today, but I think I’m quickly becoming a convert!

  • John Jun 26, 2009 @ 2:51

    Jeffrey — it might not be the issue, but if you’re using an older MBP are you still running Tiger? I found upgrading to Leopard took Spotlight from unusable to indispensable.

  • Juan Cabanela Jun 26, 2009 @ 7:25

    I actually moved away from using Quicksilver because of its bugginess to what I believe is its heir apparent, Google Quick Search. Alcor, the programmer behind the genius that is Quicksilver is now at Google and is the lead behind Google Quick Search. Alcor himself has commented on part of the reason he dropped the ball on Quicksilver is because (my words) it grew sort of organically and became an unmanagable code base. I suspect by starting from scratch, with the knowledge he gained writing Quicksilver, Google Quick Search will be much better. It can’t quite do everything that Quicksilver did, but it fixed at least one long standing bug. If you select an iTunes album to play in Quicksilver, it plays the tracks in random order. QSB does it in the proper order. I like using it quickly select and play and album while working on programming projects. 🙂

    Give QSB a try, as I am a convert, this is a completely biased opinion.

  • Marcos Jun 29, 2009 @ 4:52

    Launchbar is another, similar, app. There are plenty of Quicksilver vs. Launchbar debates out there in Mac-land. I don’t use either, however.

  • Wolfgang Kerzendorf Jun 29, 2009 @ 18:27

    I found Quicksilver is much quicker than spotlight. It integrates really nicely with address book as well. You just type the name and then say call via skype. It takes like 5 seconds to do a skype out call to people (if they are in your address book). You can also type in the number and do a skype out call without having to switch applications.
    Very useful program

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