How many different utilities do you have on your Mac? For me, it’s the same answer every time. Too many. And, not enough. It’s my objective to find a perfect Mac utility, the best of five utilities my Mac must have if I were stranded on a dessert island.
Beyond the dozen or so utilities included in Mac OS X, what would make the list of absolutely, positively, must-have Mac utilities? At Mac360 we use and review utilities that most Mac users would use and find beneficial. Not the geeks, not the newbies, but regular, average Mac users. Occasionally we receive hate mail because we don’t recommend Quicksilver.
What We Do
Recommending a Mac utility is not difficult. If we like it, if we use it, we review it. It’s simple.
We let our passion for the usability of a utility (and the same process applies to Mac applications) extend to the review. From time to time, that passion is negative, and at other times, ambivalent.
Most successful utilities (defined as those we use regularly and which remain commercially viable) have a distinct purpose, or, at the least a set of similar purposes. For example, DragThing is primarily a launcher, yet it does more, allowing a user to navigate through files.
Quicksilver, for all the vocal praise from users, doesn’t fit because what it is cannot easily be defined. And, what it is cannot easily be used by the average Mac user.
Quicksilver is defined as a unified, extensible interface for working with applications, contacts, music, and other data. That’s a mouthful.
A similar definition also fits your Mac’s Finder. Between the Finder and the Dock, what else do you need to find files, launch apps, search for this or that? At the basic user level, Finder and Dock work well for most Mac owners.
As a utility, Quicksilver assumes you are a power user and your preferred method of navigation is the keyboard. That’s just not the case for most Mac users. In fact, not the case for most of us. I may not be a power user, but I’m an experienced user on a continual quest for tools that improve what I do on my Mac, and how I do it.
Quicksilver gets a nod on my Mac every year, and every year I come to the same conclusion. It’s a battle to use Quicksilver.
Efficient Hodge Podge
Quicksilver is a launcher. It looks for your Mac’s applications and utilities and files, and creates a kind of adaptive and instant catalog. A few keystrokes brings you a quick list of what Quicksilver thinks you want, whether files, apps, folders, or utilities.
Quicksilver is a command center. It lets you do certain functions by just using your keyboard, but that would normally involve the Finder and your mouse. Select a file and hit the Tab key. A menu gives you options to email, move to trash, move to, open, paste, rename, upload, get info and more.
Quicksilver is intuitive. Depending on the file (document, spreadsheet, music, app, etc.), Quicksilver gives you different options. It’s also a search center, not unlike Spotlight but with more knowledge of what kind of data is inside certain files.
Quicksilver’s Keyboard Conundrum
A utility that can replace other utilities should be worth its weight in silver, right? So, why is it that Quicksilver is not in use on everyone’s Mac? Two words: learning curve.
Since Quicksilver breaks the Finder and Dock, drag and drop, click and double-click metaphors for navigation and moves everything you thought you knew direct to the keyboard, there’s more to learn. Much more.
Specific keyboard commands do this or that, invoking pop up menus or navigation window selections, but they can also trigger specific functions which execute automatically when invoked. Therein lies the conundrum. It’s easier to learn what you can see happening click by click, menu by menu.
What you can’t see is what’s going to happen assuming you can remember the proper keystrokes. That paradigm shift makes Quicksilver decidedly more difficult to use for most Mac users. I want a single utility that can do so much, but there’s only so much I can do to make it happen. In the end, point and click still rules.
Quicksilver is, decidedly, for the geekier Mac user, the heavy duty power user, the pinball wizard who disdains mouse and menu for the fluid freedom of keystrokes. That requirement makes Quicksilver, as a powerful and free utility, a utility not for the rest of us.