App of the Week – Control your Mac from your Keyboard with Quicksilver
Over the years, Quicksilver has developed quite a cult following as a Swiss army knife of an app that can do everything. If you’ve never heard about it though, at the simplest level, it’s an application launcher. However, if you’re willing to learn about all its various intricacies, custom triggers, and plug-ins, Quicksilver becomes more of a human interface application that allows you to do almost anything you want on your Mac with your keyboard. I know it sounds like hyperbole, but Quicksilver really is that powerful and exactly why I’m featuring it on App of the Week!
Platform Availability: Mac OS X 10.3 and up.
Cost: It’s free! Find the appropriate version for your OS here.
What it is: An interface manager that allows you to do amazing things with files and applications. It runs the gamut from launching applications to controlling iTunes to instant Google search from anywhere.
What it Does: After you invoke Quicksilver (most likely with Ctrl+Space, although you can customize it however you wish), manipulate files, folders, and application to your heart’s content. As I mentioned before, the simplest action is to simply launch applications. However, there’s a wealth of additional functionality available that you can find out more about here.
Features: System-Wide Google Search – With the power of the Web Search Module Plug-in, you can create a custom hotkey that instantly invokes a search box that taps into pretty much any search form on the web! This is even faster than using the Omnibar in Chrome/Firefox because you don’t even need to switch over to your browser to search! If you’d like a tutorial on how to set up this trigger, check out this YouTube Video. Although there’s no voiceover, the key commands in the lower right hand corner give away what you need to press to make the trigger work.
Instant Text Entry for Emails and Apps – If you enable other plug-ins, like E-mail Support or Remember the Milk, you can use Quicksilver to quickly do whatever you’d like without having to open up those programs. For example, you can choose a contact from your address book, type out a quick email, and then send if off without even touching Gmail or the Mail app! This is very cool for tightening up your workflow and getting things to be as efficient as possible.
Control iTunes – Again, this requires a separate plug-in, but once it’s installed, Quicksilver can essentially replace iTunes as well. Invoke Quicksilver, go to iTunes, and then search for whatever song you’d like. Just with like sending off quick emails, there’s no need to switch applications to change your song when you can just use Quicksilver.
Finder – For all you keyboard junkies out there, Quicksilver is amazing for file and folder management. Instead of having to go through the typical file structure hierarchy, you can just search for whatever you’re looking for by name, and then do whatever you want with it just as you’d do in Finder. A list of example actions includes: Open, Open With, Always Open With, Move To (which you can’t do with Finder!), Copy To, Email To, and so much more!
The Competition: There are a slew of applications launchers that also let you manipulate files, folders, and programs.
Spotlight – Free – Mac OS X 10.4 and Up (Comes included with OS)
Alfred – Free/Additional Features for £12 - Mac OS X 10.6 and Up
LaunchBar – $35 - Mac OS X 10.4 and Up
Why the Featured App is Best: As a native solution, Spotlight is clearly Quicksilver’s biggest competition. While it’s great for finding files and folders on your system, that’s all it does; Quicksilver actually allows you to do something with whatever you’re looking for, whereas Spotlight only shows you where the file is in Finder. The drawback to Alfred is that even though it’s free, you still have to pay £12 to unlock additional features like accessing iTunes, email, and your clipboard that all come included for free with Quicksilver. Beyond LaunchBar’s hefty $35 price tag, general sentiment is that it works more quickly than Quicksilver. However, no other app launcher contains the level of customizability or plug-in support that Quicksilver does.
Summary: Much more than an application launcher, Quicksilver opens up a whole new world of ways to interact with your Mac. With a great price tag of $0 and a ridiculous amount of customizability and plug-ins, Quicksilver lets you do pretty much everything more quickly and efficiently. While there’s a steep learning curve, if you’re willing to be patient and play around with it, I think Quicksilver will quickly become your favorite application.
What are your favorite Quicksilver tips and tricks? Or maybe you want to tell us why the competition is actually better? Let us know in the comments!