Parallel Desktops

Adding Quicksilver to your Mac

My friend Dylan—one of the guys that got me to consider a Mac in the first place—asked me the other day why I liked Quicksilver.

"I don’t see what I can get from it that I don’t get from Spotlight".

Given the relatively steep learning curve that Quicksilver can have I understand why Dylan feels that way; I experienced nearly the same thing myself when I first tried using QuickSilver. Because Quicksilver is so powerful and has so many options I think people are either too intimidated to use it or simply don’t see how they will get that much value out of it.

I see a lot of similarities between using Quicksilver over other methods (Finder/Spotlight/Dock/etc) and switching to Mac from Windows. When I was considering the switch to Mac and asking Mac users about their machines they would tell me enlightening things like "it just works" or "it’s so easy". Rarely did people give me hard, specific reasons that made me say "Oh wow, I gotta get me some of that!"

I didn’t fully appreciate the Mac until I had my own sitting in front of me and even then it wasn’t until a couple of months in that I really felt confident enough with the machine to switch over to it and walk away from Windows. It just took a little time to grow on me. Quicksilver is the same way.

How I learned to adopt Quicksilver
I’ve been able to get into Quicksilver because I used it purely as an application launcher at first. Command-Space would pull it up, I’d type in the first couple letters of the application I wanted to run and boom, there it was. It was quick, simple and unimpressive. Spotlight did basically the same thing.

What happened though was that after a couple of weeks it got better and better at finding the application I wanted to run. The applications I used most frequently only required a couple of letters (T pulled up Terminal, TEX pulled up TextMate—not TextEdit, etc). After a couple of weeks I noticed that I wasn’t even thinking about the application I was loading; I was barely even looking at the display to confirm I had the right application because it always got it right.

It was at this point that I started to leverage the fact that I could perform actions on the things I was working with. I would activate Quicksilver, enter "PA" and see the icon for Pages, then hit the Right Arrow and see a list of the documents I had recently opened. Instead of opening Pages, then selecting the File / Open Recent menu list, I was able to select them right at launch. Sure, I could have typed in the name of the file and launched it directly but I often remember things based on the context. I knew it was a Pages document, I just wasn’t sure what I named the thing. Seeing it associated with Pages locked it in for me.

I’m now starting to really explore some of the cool things that Quicksilver can do for me.

Still not convinced?
One of the readers of this blog—Jon—pointed me towards one of the best high level views of how cool Quicksilver can be. It was done by Merlin Mann a couple of years ago for MacBreak. I’ve watched perhaps half a dozen tutorials on Quicksilver that give you a sense of how to set it up but Merlin’s tutorial presents it from the standpoint of how you can get the most out of this application. If you are still struggling to understand why you should even use Quicksilver then check out his video.

Needless to say I’ve become a big fan of Quicksilver.

By David Alison

I bought my first Mac almost 24 years ago when DOS ruled the world. I didn't keep it too long though. I was just kicking off my career as a software engineer and needed to go with PCs. I bought my 2nd Mac in February of 2008. I didn't expect that I would find myself using the machine as much as I have. It's not that I hate Windows (well, I pretty much hate Vista but XP is a fine OS), it's just that I find myself constantly playing with this machine.

I'll share with you here my experiences of making the move from Windows to Macintosh. I still have a foot in both worlds, hence the name of my section.