Taking Quicksilver for a spin

I’ve now been blogging about my Mac experience for nearly four months. In that time I’ve had one product consistently recommended to me by the readers of this blog: Quicksilver. Initially I was getting so many recommendations for different products to try that I couldn’t keep track of all of them and Quicksilver was one I would get to "some day".

As the weeks went by I continued to get Quicksilver recommendations. Finally I decided to look into it a bit more. I went to the web site and started to poke around. I scanned through a couple of tutorials and was basically a bit overwhelmed – while Quicksilver could be used as a simple Spotlight replacement it also had a huge number of plugins that would provide enhanced functionality. I like my Mac because it’s simple, not complicated, and Quicksilver looked like it would take a fair amount of work to just get configured properly. I watched a screen cast from a now defunct web site that contained 10 minutes of a fast talking walk through just to get Quicksilver installed and configured and that reinforced it for me.
Back to the shelf for Quicksilver.
Well, not long after I wrote my last post about Spotlight I started to have second thoughts about using it. I’ve now seen my Spotlight index get corrupted 3 times. If you are using Spotlight for searches – which is what it’s designed to do – and it can’t find what you are looking for then you can assume one of two things: either the item doesn’t exist or your Spotlight index is corrupt. Since both of those situations give the same results it’s hard to trust Spotlight. As Pecos Bill noted in some recent comments, hopefully this will be addressed in 10.5.3.
Instead of waiting around for that possible event I decided to give Quicksilver one more try. My initial goals are not very ambitious; allow me to quickly launch applications without touching the mouse, find documents that I have on my local hard drive and search through recent browser history. I know Quicksilver can do a lot more than that but for my purposes all I really wanted to do was replace Spotlight for now. Once mastered I’ll look into using more functionality.
Launching Applications
This was about as easy as it gets. Quicksilver is FAST; it loads quickly and has this uncanny ability to present the application I want to run after 2-3 letters. The text model is a little different than Spotlight since the letters you type will disappear after a second – there is not a text entry field. Make a mistake? Hit backspace just once and everything you type up until that point is gone. In practice this is not an issue for application launching – at least not for me – because it always seems to find the right app.
Searching for Documents and Browser History
Again, the results I received were nearly identical to the way Spotlight worked for me. It quickly found the documents I was searching for provided they were in my list of "watched" folders. Searching for documents is a bit odd without a dedicated search box though. Any fat fingering of the search string and it’s time for a do-over. I’m also finding that if I hit a period while in the middle of a query the searching stops and the only way to get back into search mode is to hit the Quicksilver activation keys twice (close and reopen).
There are clearly some quirks to work through here but I can see the value in this.
Bonus feature – the clipboard history
There was one plugin that I did try out and start to use – the Clipboard History manager. This little gem will keep track of the last X items (I have mine set to 9) you copied to your clipboard and allow you to select and paste them easily. I simply activate Quicksilver and then hit Command-L. Up popped my list of recently copied items; all I need to do is double click on an item from that list and it’s pasted into the focused window below or press the number next to the item on the list. Very handy.
In summary Quicksilver looks to be a blessing to people that simply love to use the keyboard. If you are keyboard inclined at all and would like an alternative to touching the mouse when doing all but simple transitions between applications then Quicksilver looks like it can be quite powerful.