Friday, January 19, 2007

Quicksilver for Dummies

Three entries? In one day? Somebody must have slipped me something.

Quicksilver is the first thing I turn to on my Mac when I want to get something done. The sentiment among users that "a Mac doesn't feel like a Mac without it," may be a cliche, but it's so true. I'm constanly trying to invoke cmd-space even at work where it's never going to have an effect.

Whether I want to open an app or file, send an email, find a phone number, browse my music, upload to ftp, search the web or append text to an existing file, I can do it all within Quicksilver. It's so capable that it's more than just an app, it's an entire way of working, a powerful and enabling way of communicating with your computer.

It's awesome.

But it can be mystifying. The first time people look at it, they see an application launcher, and wonder why they would need Quicksilver if they've got Spotlight. Can Spotlight fire off an e-mail without opening Mail? Can Spotlight add text to a file without opening the file? It can take some time and a fair amount of experimentation to find out what Quicksilver is capable of because, alas, the documentation is shocking in its absence. Alcor, as Quicksilver’s developer is known on his forums, admits that over the years of caffine laden late nights he’s probably programmed many cool features into Quicksilver, which have never been documented and never discovered, and which he himself has completely forgotten about.

Over time, several tutorials have emerged espousing the Quicksilver philosophy. Probably the best up to now has been Dan Dickenson’s A Better OSX in Ten Minutes. Graduating from using Quicksilver as a launcher to using it for just about everything requires a conceptual leap that many people just don’t manage, and this article, with its successor, From A Better OS X To Even More are great guides to “getting it.”

So hats off to Howard Melman, who has done the world a huge favour by creating a Quicksilver User Guide, an 89 page PDF which covers just about everything – from selecting items, to choosing an interface, creating triggers, using the clipboard, and (holy of holies) explaining what many of the plug-ins do, and how to use them. A real labour of love and a true boon to the Quicksilver user.

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