If you’ve read Mac360 for any length of time, you know how much I like certain Mac applications.
DragThing. SuperDuper. ChronoSync. FinalCut Studio. Transmit. Camino. Rapidweaver. Comic Life. Textwrangler, and many others. Today, Tera steps into something new. A paradigm shift.
One of my favorite Mac applications for many years has been DragThing. It’s more than just an application or file launcher. It’s the center of my Mac setup.
This isn’t about DragThing, as it’s doubtful this gem will ever leave my Mac. It’s about change. Nothing improves without change.
As I sort through new applications I’m usually willing to try something new. I’m sure you’ll agree that Mac applications set a slightly higher standard than Windows and Mac developers are willing, as it is with Apple, to break new ground, try a new approach.
Think different. That’s the only way to improve. Who introduced Mac360 readers to RSS before it was cool?
In the past year I’ve had a few readers hit me with a need to give Quicksilver more time. Time isn’t something I’ve had as much of as I’d like over the past year, so I didn’t venture too deeply into Quicksilver.
Why? What is Quicksilver? A quick answer isn’t easy and that may account for why I haven’t given it a due spin. Now it’s time to spin.
It’s actually easier to describe Quicksilver by telling you what it’s not.
It’s not a file or application launcher, though it does that. It’s not a search utility like Spotlight (integrated into OS X Tiger), though Quicksilver’s search functions are unique.
It’s not the Finder, though similar functions are built in. What Quicksilver is is a new way, and an effcient way at that, to get to things on your Mac.
Quicksilver lets you find (search) files, find applications, manipulate the former, quickly access the latter, without leaving the keyboard (mostly).
Quicksilver lets you get to what you want on your Mac; quickly, easily. It just does it differently than traditional file or application launchers, and it’s different than Spotlight.
First, let me give you a gripe I have about some Mac applications. Keyboard shortcuts. Rather, the lack of keyboard shortcuts. It’s hit or miss. Some applications have shortcuts, some don’t, some don’t have enough.
For those of us on the keyboard a lot, using the mouse for mere point and click is not efficient. It’s easy, but not an efficient use of effort.
Unfortunately, Mac OS X and many Mac applications don’t provide a consistent “keyboard only” method for navigating menus or the Finder or whatever.
For me, I use the Finder in column mode for file manipulation, Spotlight for finding files, the Dock as a launcher, and DragThing as kind of the center of everything (it’s that good).
Then, I’ve got a dozen applications open, and I bounce, point and click (to the Dock, to an open window, to DragThing, whatever) between applications as needed.
Frankly, that’s a lot of effort. I’m an experienced Mac user and it’s much easier than Windows, so I’m not complaining.
Is there a better way? Different isn’t necessarily better, right? Like the rest of us as Mac users, Quicksilver users make a little noise and point out that they’ve found something better.
Better for you isn’t necessarily better for me, but I’m willing to try a new trick. Tera’s an old dog, but she’s not a dead dog. At least, not yet.
I went through the arduous installation of Quicksilver. You get spinning cubes all over the place. These developers are truly thinking different.
It took four tries to get Quicksilver installed. The first three times it crashed, but each time a littler further along in the install process.
Once installed, there’s not much there. So I thought.
Quicksilver can be invoked as a hot key combo. I set mine to something I don’t use and fired ‘er up. A floating window beckoned me to, well, do something.
I typed in M-a-i-l. Before I was done with the “M” Quicksilver had Mail’s icon ready to go. I typed in S-a… and before I was done, a Safari icon showed up instead of Mail.
Hmmm. That was fast. Easier than stopping my typing, moving my hand off the keyboard, grabbing the mouse, and finding the Dock or DragThing. Much fast than Command-Tab (remember, I’ve got a dozen applications open).
Quicksilver launches. It finds. OK, what else? What you get is another layer of control over files (data, images, applications, documents, location, etc) on your Mac.
If you can find, drag, close, open, move a file (anything) then Quicksilver helps it go faster. The pop up Quicksilver “tabs” are deceptively simple, remarkably efficient, and layered to learn as you learn and apply new steps.
Search, email, copy, compress, send, move, queue, dial, run, look up, all from Quicksilver’s pop up window from the keyboard.
It’s like taking four or five Mac utilities and rolling some of their characterisitics into one.
I read somewhere that you must give Quicksilver 10 minutes. For dogs like me, that’s not enough time, because Quicksilver can do more than you can learn in 10 minutes.
That said, a day after sticking my nose into “thinking different” I’m still finding new ways to get to information. I’m also stopping to think: “OK, Tera, you could get this done that way, how would it get done using Quicksilver?”
See? Paradigm shift. Thinking different. Nothing improves without change. Quicksilver has a number of plugins which add functionality and access. Fortunately, many of those are for applications I already use.
Since Quicksilver learns from watching my keystrokes, I don’t need to type in full words and hope for the best. Regardless, I get a list of everything that matches, so in that respect, it’s like Spotlight. But different.
This is becoming both fun and productive.
Are you interested in learning something new, improving how your Mac lets you get things done (after all, you’re a Mac user because you “think different”)? Try Quicksilver. Give it some breathing room. Devote a little time to learning something new. Report back.
Click Here for more details and a download link. One more thing. Quicksilver is free.
At first, I thought it was a replacement for Spotlight or the Dock. It’s not. But you have to think different.
What’s wrong with point and click? Why does everyone have to be so efficient? Oh, it’s free? I’ll try it.
Jack D. Miller
One of the things I appreciate about Mac developers is the willingness to expand the universe and look at what we do from a different perspective. Quicksilver is one such effort.