Control Everything on Your Mac with Your Keyboard Using Quicksilver
OS X's Spotlight feature is a great search tool, and is fast enough to use as a keyboard-based application launcher, but that's about where its usefulness ends. Quicksilver picks up the slack by allowing users to control nearly every aspect of their computer without ever touching their mouse. Once you use it, you'll wonder what you did without it. Read the review and tips after the jump.
Before I continue, I know I've been paying a lot of attention to Apple users recently. While the features I discuss in this article are specific to Quicksilver, there are alternatives available forWindows and Linux.
Quicksilver has four major advantages over spotlight. First, Quicksilver is blazing fast. Spotlight is a lot zippier on OS X Leopard (10.5) than it was on Tiger (10.4), but Quicksilver is still faster than Spotlight on either system. Tiger users will especially appreciate Quicksilver's speed.
Second, Quicksilver is adaptive. After using Quicksilver for a couple days, the application starts to learn which items you search for most frequently, what search terms you use to find them, and pulls those up within a couple keystrokes when you search. For example, when I activate Quicksilver and type "i," the application populates a list of matches from which I can choose the desired item, but Quicksilver does a great job of ordering that list according to which items I use most frequently. I launch iTunes from Quicksilver most often, so Quicksilver first suggests iTunes and I just hit enter to launch it. Typing "is" pulls up iSync, "ic" pulls up iCal, etc.
Third, Quicksilver is extensible (like, open source Swiss army knife extensible). Users can install plug-ins to handle everything from Safari and iTunes to sending SMS text messages right from the Quicksilver interface. Installing plug-ins is a snap—just click the checkbox next to the plug-in you want to install and Quicksilver downloads and installs it automatically. I'll go over a couple of my favorite plug-ins below.
Fourth, Quicksilver supports custom keyboard triggers. Users can set up a keyboard shortcut to do almost anything. Skip iTunes tracks, activate scripts, connect to servers, all with a key combination you create. This function has allowed me to quickly complete repetitive tasks on my Mac without having to install a separate keyboard shortcut application. I'll go over these below, too.
Tips for Using Quicksilver
One of the most useful plug-ins I've found for Quicksilver is the iTunes Module. This plug-in allows users to search their iTunes library and control iTunes playback from Quicksilver. It's especially useful in combination with customized iTunes triggers in Quicksilver. For example, I createdCtrl+Option+Command keyboard shortcuts that allow me to quickly skip tracks, rate songs, adjust iTunes volume, and search my iTunes library, all without needing to switch to the iTunes Window. Now I can control iTunes from any application, using just the keyboard.
The Clipboard Module keeps a history of the 10 most recent items in the clipboard, which Quicksilver displays in a small window that floats over top others, making URLs in the clipboard easy to access when typing a news article in Firefox, for example. There exist alternative applications and dashboard widgets that provide this function, but Quicksilver is so extensible that it can handle this among all its other tasks. Why install several applications when Quicksilver handles it all?
Quicksilver triggers, as mentioned above, have put many controls literally at my fingertips. iTunes control is one example of triggers. Another: I've created a simple workflow in Automator, which comes with OS X, that ejects my external hard drives. Using a custom trigger I set up in Quicksilver, I just press Ctrl+Option+Command+Esc to eject all external hard drives on my laptop, eliminating the need to switch to my desktop, select them each individually, and eject them manually.
The Quicksilver wiki on Blacktree's site has an extensive list of tutorials and suggestions for using Quicksilver. Browse around if you're just getting started with Quicksilver, or even if you're a long-time user who wants to do more with the application.
Show Us Yours
Do you use Quicksilver and have examples of useful triggers or plug-ins that I failed to mention? Let us know by leaving a comment.