Mac OS X is well known for being the most user friendly Operating System. Well, Quicksilver raises the bar.
With a very intuitive interface, Quicksilver begs for the simplest of actions; type-in and enjoy!
Disclaimer: I’ll go ahead and say it right now… I was never a big fan of Spotlight, and finding Quicksilver made me revise my views on the core efficiency of Mac OS X.
With this application, I just never had to look further, whether what I wanted was to simply search for an application, play music, or seamlessly e-mail an attachment to my friend.
Quicksilver is an application that by default runs in the background, and silently awaits for your fingers to hit on the magic key-stroke to fire up the plethora of features hidden under the hood.
Some find that it’s a simple and effective application. I will dive deeper into the application’s capabilities to show you that Quicksilver is more than it shows.
Quicksilver is a free application which you can download here. Let’s begin the installation!
You are welcomed to the world of Quicksilver, with a small introduction to its features:
Quicksilver comes equipped with a set of pre-existing plugins that allow its search capabilities to expand to more than just core files and applications. Examples of those, as are visible on the screenshot below, are the Address Book plugin, which enables Quicksilver to index your contacts. Similarly, the Mail plugin allows Quicksilver to send e-mails and attachments to contacts without necessarily opening the Mail App and getting in the way of whatever else you are doing.
Plugins I recommend: Address Book, Shelf, Clipboard Module, Mail, Firefox (it allows instant access to your bookmarks/history and other websites through the Quicksilver interface), Safari (for the same reasons) and iTunes (allows you to browse through your music library and automatically play tracks through the Quicksilver interface).
Activate the application! Choose the key-stroke you feel most comfortable with, to easily pop Quicksilver into action and press Continue.
Press Continue through the next few pages that require no more settings and you are …well almost ready to go!
Before We Begin: Let’s Take a Look at the Preferences Menu
One very important thing about Quicksilver, is that it is very lightweight, which is why I will suggest that you tick “Start at Login”. It will not clog your processor with unnecessary processes and even when at use, it is not memory starved, so it will not slow down your computer at all.
Next, we look at the Appearance settings. If you have it in you to edit the appearance of Quicksilver, which I myself find is very good by default, this is the menu to do it through.
Next, and probably most important, is the menu under which you can change the key-stroke to open up quicksilver. If the initial choice you made upon installation cannot stick to you, or if you feel you ever want to change it for the sake of convenience and whatnot, this is where you do it.
Next is the Actions Menu. Unless you are an expert user, and really want to dig into the capabilities of Quicksilver, you are not to change anything in here. Further down in the guide we will be looking at certain functions that require changes in the Actions Menu; if you feel you want to change something, follow the instructions.
Lastly, the Email Options menu is where you set the automatic Email settings for Quicksilver to use when you send a Quick Attachment E-mail. Because Quicksilver offers the ability to send an e-mail without editing it in the Mail Application, you may want to change the default settings so the Body and Subject of your e-mail reflects upon your own style.
What Does Quicksilver Do?
For the novice user, Quicksilver is a lightweight application that is best described as a tool that allows the user to find applications, music, contacts and other data with minimum effort.
An example of that would be, to click on your Quicksilver hotkey, Type “Dictionary” and then press the Return button. The “Dictionary” application would then open.
The nice thing about Quicksilver, is that it’s very intuitive. Don’t worry about misspelling Dictionary, or writing just half the word. Unlike Spotlight’s clogged index of all files in the computer, Quicksilver knows what you want and you can control what it will find for you by further tweaking its settings through the Preferences. Hence, typing “Dict” is just as good as “Dictionary”, and Quicksilver will get you there just as well. Likewise, if you type “tionary” or “diconary” will get you to the same place. It connects the dots, just like that!
Let’s Use Quicksilver to Find Some Music!
If you followed my instructions during installation, you have already installed the iTunes plugin. That means that you can search for music from within your iTunes library.
Once you have typed in “Browse” (which auto-completes into Browse Artists), you have the option browse music by artists/albums/genres etc. Hit the Right Arrow (→) and proceed to the next screen.
The list of Artists will come up; once you are satisfied with your selection, hit the Right Arrow (→) once again, to proceed.
The Albums of the artist you selected will appear. Once you select the one you want to listen to, hit the Right Arrow (→).
Select the song you want to listen to, and hit the Return key. iTunes will fire up, and play your selection.
*whistles to the music* Ayoooo-Technology! *whistles*
Quicksilver Meets Mail
Apart from finding files, playing music, and being a delight for its simplicity in every-day activities, Quicksilver has an ace up its sleeve even when it comes to more advanced tasks.
For example, if I want to send an e-mail to my friend and partner, Angel, I can do so through Quicksilver, just by typing two words.
I type in Angel’s name, and Quicksilver automatically recognizes him through my Address Book contacts list. But I don’t want to open the Address Book. What I do next, is I press the Tab key to edit the action to be taken.
After I press the Tab key, I type “Email” and Quicksilver shows me all the possible options pertaining the word “Email”. I choose Compose Email, and the Mail app opens up. Voila!
The Fastest Email You Ever Sent
Say you’re in the middle of a meeting, and this great idea popped up into your head, and you have to tell someone. You’ve already made a note of it, so the only thing left to do, is notify your partner that something great is in your head. Let’s see how it’s done:
Open up Quicksilver, press the Dot “.“, and then Type away:
Once you are pleased with the content of your E-mail, hit Tab and write “Email“, which will automatically generate the fastest Email option available. Email to… (Send) does not ask you for a Subject, or anything else. It just sends the e-mail to the Address we will provide it in the next step.
If your partner exists in your Address Book, just type his name, and his E-mail will be automatically generated:
If you want to send it to someone you have yet to add to your Address Book, you can manually insert the E-mail Address by Pressing Dot “.” in the third box, and typing the E-mail. Quicksilver will recognize it’s an E-mail Address you have provided, and will deal with the rest.
Emailing Attachments using Quicksilver
In the case that I want to Email an attachment to Angel, there are two ways to do that. As is apparent in the “Quicksilver Meets Mail” section, I am presented with two options.
1) Email Item… (Send): This gives me the opportunity to choose the file to be attached to the e-mail, and be sent without the Mail Application opening up and disrupting whatever else I may be doing.
2) Email Item… (Compose): This option attaches the selected file into an Email and opens the Mail Application giving me the chance to edit the email and add comments before it is sent.
The above Quicksilver dialog shows my attempt to send Angel a copy of the Evernote App (never happened!).
Remember: To switch from one box to the other, to edit the action to be taken, and the file to be attached, we press the “Tab“ key.
Clipboard: Storing Information, Never Forget What You Copied!
Have you ever copied a link thinking to yourself – “I’ll get to that in a bit!”, and then you accidentally copied something else over it, and you ended up losing the information you wanted to use?
Quicksilver has a simple-working but great plug-in, called the Clipboard Module, which you need to enable if you want to enjoy its benefits.
To do that, Open the Quicksilver Preferences, and Click on Plug-Ins.
Once you tick the Clipboard Module, it will automatically be installed.
Note: Due to a bug in the β60 version of Quicksilver, the use of the Shelf Module is also suggested to avoid the Clipboard History from acting up. The Shelf Module can be found in the Plug-ins section and installed by ticking its box.
By default, it is set to store 9 clippings. If you are like me, and you want to play it as safe as it gets, you can go ahead and increase that number to… does 150 sound good enough?
To do that, Click on Preferences and on the left pane click on Clipboard. Change the number of history items to whatever you want it to be.
In order to quickly get your history, without having to go through quicksilver, you can set a “Trigger“, which is essentially a key-stroke assignment to a certain task. To set a trigger for showing the Clipboard History, click on Triggers and under Custom Triggers, on the bottom of the window click on the Plus sign (+) to add a new HotKey Trigger.
As you can see on the above screenshot, once the dialog appears, you need to type Clipboard History, then press Tab, and Type “S” which will make “Show” automatically Appear. Click Save, and the only thing left, is binding this action to a key. To do that, click where it says HotKey, and on the new dialog that pops up, edit the HotKey to a key-stroke you feel comfortable with.
Now all you have to do is continue on your work. When you Copy (⌘Command + C), the information will be automatically stored on your Clipboard. To access the Clipboard History, we use the keystroke we just assigned (In my case Shift + ⌘Command + Space) and we get this:
Do Just About Anything With Quicksilver
The amazing features that Quicksilver offers are not all that obvious. There are numerous plugins to offer unique features, but the very core of the Application does most of the things one could need. For example:
I want to access a website: All I have to do, is bring up quicksilver, hit “.” (Dot) and type the website you want to navigate to.
Other Uses of the Dot:
The . can be used to write and execute anything that is not an application or a specific file. It can be a command, a website, or just something you want your computer to say out loud. Intriguing? See how it’s done:
First, make sure that the “Speak Text (Say)“ Action is enabled. To do that you have to navigate inside the Quicksilver Preferences and under Actions, tick the “Speak Text (Say)” action.
Now, you simply have to open up Quicksilver, press the Dot “.”, and Type anything; hit the Tab Key, and type “Say”. Listen to your computer speaking back at you!
When you press the Dot “.“, write something, and then hit Tab, the default action is called “Large Type“. This projects what you have written, on your screen, with huge letters, like this:
Pairing the Dot function with the Dictionary and Thesaurus
Quicksilver has a plugin called the “Dictionary Module”. Well, it doesn’t work; at least for most people it doesn’t, and it’s sad.
Not to worry though, there is another way around that!
Because the Dictionary Module doesn’t work, you don’t need to install it at all. The Services Menu Module adds all the Services menus of Mac OS X to Quicksilver as Actions. Essentially, it uses the Dictionary App that is already installed, unlike the Dictionary Module which installs a third party Dictionary and Thesaurus, that don’t work.
All that is left to do now, is open Quicksilver, Press Dot “.”, type the word you want to look up, Press Tab, and then the word “Dictionary”.
Press Enter and… Voila!
Lastly, I would like to share with you some of the Quicksilver features I use the most, because they have made my everyday life easier.
|#||Command||Special Actions||What It Does|
|1||"App Name" (e.g. Dictionary)||-||Launches the Dictionary App|
|2||Dot "." + Text||Email To... (Send)||Sends E-mail Automatically|
|3||Email To... (Compose)||Prompts You to Compose|
|4||Website (e.g. applecasts.com OR www.applecasts.com Both ways work the same)||Opens up a website using your default browser. If a browser is already open it opens a new tab|
|5||Say||Activates Text to Speech|
|6||Dictionary||Looks up the word you typed in, using the Mac Dictionary App|
|7||Large Type||Displays Message On Screen|
|8||Dot "." + E-mail Address||Email To... (Send)||Prompts you to enter Text to be sent automatically|
|9||Email To... (Compose)||Prompts you to Compose an E-mail to the Address you just plugged in|
|10||Email Item||Prompts you to E-mail an Attachment to the Address you just plugged in|
|11||Browse Artists / Albums / Genres / Tracks / Composers||-||Allows you to Browse your music Library using the chosen criteria|
|12||Name of Contact (e.g. "John")||Show Contact||Brings up the Address Book information for the contact of your choice|
|13||Compose Email||Brings up the Mail App to let you compose an E-mail and send it to the contact of your choice|
|14||Email Item... (Send)||Prompts you to choose a file to be automatically sent via E-mail to the contact of your choice|
|15||Email Item... (Compose)||Brings up the Mail App with the E-mail Address and Attachment spaces already filled, and prompts you to type a message and edit the subject before the E-mail is sent out|
|16||Shift + ⌘ Command + Space||-||Automatically brings up the Clipboard History (Requires that you have set the trigger for it to be Shift + ⌘ Command + Space)|
|Note:||In Bold you will find the keywords you need to type in for Quicksilver to Auto-Complete the command listed. (Less words typed, less time spent!)|
Note: All the Screenshots shown in this article have been captured using a great little tool called Skitch. Read Angel’s review on this great Screen Capture and Annotation tool.
So, tell me… how has Quicksilver made your life easier? Do you use it, or some alternative to make your workflow smoother?