Productivity apps are a dime a dozen on Mac. Everybody’s talking about Evernote this and Alfred that. Those apps are undeniably useful, but when it comes to getting things done quickly without touching the mouse, you can’t touch Quicksilver.
The first week or so with Quicksilver mystified me. “Why should I bother keeping this over Spotlight, again?” I wondered. While Spotlight is a decent app launcher, Quicksilver offers more features and greater potential to boost your workflow. Once you get just how much this app can do, there’s no going back.
Getting Started with Quicksilver
First, download Quicksilver from the developer’s website. Install it, and make sure to go into the app’s preferences and add plugins for all the apps you use.
For example, as a heavy Google Calendar user, I got the Calendar extension. I also added a plugin that searches my Evernote files, always a useful feature.
Now we need to set up a shortcut for Quicksilver. I like using Cmd-Space and moving Spotlight to Ctrl-Space, but you can change it to anything you’d like. Just be ready to dig through the System Preferences and Quicksilver preferences.
Using Quicksilver is easy. Simply type your shortcut and start typing. Here’s how the app works. The first box is the object of your action. The second box is what you do with the first box.
For example, if I open Quicksilver and type “sa,” it’ll suggest Safari. Notice how the first box is the Safari app, and the second box says “Open.” In this case, you’re executing the open action on Safari.
This concept seems simple enough until you start digging into all the actions you can do with the third box, which adds context.
What you do is start typing and press tab to switch to the second box, which includes the action. Start typing there or use the arrow keys and enter to select an action to perform on the first box.
For example, I could hit Cmd-Space to open Quicksilver and type “screensh” to pull up the screenshots on my desktop I’m taking for this article.
Then I hit tab and type “Open w” to bring up “Open with…”, then tab one more time to bring up the third box. When I type “Pho” and hit enter, the files open in Photoshop.
Quicksilver is less practical than other methods when you’re starting out. However, if you take the time to learn how to use it, I promise it gets better.
For keyboard aficionados, Quicksilver provides a one-stop shop for all kinds of useful functions. With enough practice (and once the app learns what you like to use), it becomes exponentially more useful.
Other starter guides to Quicksilver often skipped over some of the really cool stuff that made it useful to me. I’ll include those for interested users looking for more Quicksilver uses.
First, the text entry box. Press the Quicksilver shortcut and then the period key. You can type strings of text into the box and do cool stuff with them like add events to your calendar or send emails right from the app.
Second, the file shortcut. If you’ve got a bunch of files selected in Finder, press Cmd-Escape to open Quicksilver with those files already selected.
You can do anything with those files within your imagination- zip them, copy them, move them, or email them. Again, I use Quicksilver to move those screenshots to my work images folder.
Third, the multi-selector. Open Quicksilver, start typing a file name, and press the comma key to add another file to the first box. Now you can do whatever action to both files at once. Neat!
Fourth, the Finder finder. Start Quicksilver and start typing a folder name. This will open a new Finder window at that folder.
This feature is immensely useful to compensate for Apple’s asinine handling of Finder windows across multiple desktops. When you click the Finder dock icon, it jumps you across desktops instead of opening a new window on that desktop.
This way, you can open a new Finder window, and the one you want. It’s better this way.
Quicksilver can dramatically improve your productivity, as long as you fit within two categories. One, you’ve got to put some time into learning its potential and what it can do for your.
Two, you’ve got to be a keyboard person, someone who memorizes shortcuts for everything.
If you nodded your head to both of those, try Quicksilver. It helps a lot once you understand what it can do.