5 Things That Make Quicksilver Awesome

I love Quicksilver. As app launchers go its pretty much untouchable. As apps in general go, its right up there with the best of them. I cannot emphasise enough just how much easier Quicksilver can make your OSX life. Unfortunately (I’m kicking myself for using that word) its just got too much functionality available. Too much functionality is rarely a bad thing but with an interface such as QuicksilverQuicksilver’s, which relies upon a certain level of prerequisite knowledge, it can leave users somewhat ignorant to its true capabilities. Coming back to Quicksilver, this means that many people use it as a straight forward application launcher. The sort of thing where you type “ma”, hit enter and mail.app launches. Its a real shame because Quicksilver has alot more to offer, the following are five of my favourites.

  1. Do something in the future – I have a very specific use for this. When I’m cooking I’ve often got my MacBook on, which is a good thing because I’m terrible at keeping track of things in the oven. In comes Quicksilver. The way I use this is to get Quicksilver to remind me to take something out of the oven, and its really quite simple. Firstly, invoke Quicksilver. Then, hit the period key (.) and type OVEN! and then tab into the next box. This should read large text. Oven Quicksilver MessageNow, instead of hitting enter to run the command, hold down “ctrl” and hit enter, this combines the first two pieces of your command into one area. In this area you can either type “Run At”, to have it run at a specific time or “Run After Delay” to have it run after a specified delay. Typically, if you type in something sensible, like 45 mins, Quicksilver will know what you mean. The result is that the word “OVEN!” will appear in giant text across your screen at the appropriate time. Quite the attention grabber (and food saver).
  2. Quick Triggers – Quicksilver is all fine and dandy if you go around invoking it and then typing out what you want to do but theres a much faster way to get around, and that’s Quicksilver Triggerstriggers. What triggers allow you to do is set up a Quicksilver command, any command, and then assign an easy way to run that command. I have multiple triggers set up, for example, hitting “option” and “w” brings up my htdocs apache file (where I do my local web development). Setting up a trigger couldn’t be easier. Pull up the Quicksilver preference pane (invoke Quicksilver then press apple and “,”) and head for the “Triggers” option along the top. From there hit the small plus sign (+) in the bottom left and choose hotkey. Quicksilver Add Trigger Dialogue At this point a window will appear that wil allow you to input a Quicksilver command. This is just like any other Quicksilver command so put in there anything you want. Once you’ve put in your command hit the save button and your command will appear in the list. by default there is no hotkey assigned to your command, so you’ll have to add one. To do this simply highlight the command and press the little “I” in the bottom left of the Window. From here you can assign a key combination to your command as well as setting other options, such as having the command run after the key combination has been held down for a number of seconds or pressed a certain number of consequetive times.
  3. Chain an insane amount of commands together – This is one of my favourite features of Quicksilver, the fact that providing you can split a task into logical steps, you can do it in Quicksilver. Whever I want to show off Quicksilver, I give someone this demonstration. The crux of this is that I have a bunch of pictures I want to email to a friend. The catch is there all quite big pictures so I’ll probably want to Scaling images in Quicksilverresize them first, and to make them easier to send I should probably compress them. So lets do it all in Quicksilver and then send the mail. Firstly, select the pictures in Finder (you can do this in QS but this is really the easier way, less typing) and invoke Quicksilver so it automatically uses the selected finder items (I have a trigger on the ctrl, option and space keys to do this). We’re going to be scaling the image so type in Scale,Quicksilver Compression Action tab into the nex box and then enter a value. Probably the easiest way to do this is to use a percentage value. You’ll notice that Quicksilver creates new images for you instead of just resizing your originals, how very considerate. You should also notice that Quicksilver automatically brings itself back up with the newly scaled images already selected. From here we want to compress them for easy emailing so type compress and then tab to choose the type of file you want to create. I’ve had, and have heard of, problems with the zip file type, so your mileage may vary. Its the same routine again, Quicksilver will create a new compressed file leaving your resized images in tact and re-invoking Quicksilver with your compressed file already selected. Composing an Email in QuicksilverFrom here its just a case of sending your email. With Quicksilver this is just as simple as choosing Compose Email and then typing the address or contact name. While this takes quite a long time to explain, the effect it breathtaking when you see it in action, especially for those who aren’t “in the Quicksilver club”. I can run this entire scenario in around ten seconds, I can’t imagine how long it would take to do the same without Quicksilver.
  4. Run Terminal Commands – I know this sounds a bit stupid but, its sometimes a pain to open up terminal just to run a single command. Luckily, Quicksilver has you covered. Say, for example, I wanted to reveal hidden files (for creating a .htaccess file for example), then you would usually just run the following:

    defaults write com.apple.finder AppleShowAllFiles TRUE

    Which will show you all the files that OSX usually hides from your prying eyes. So, instead of finding terminal.app and then typing that in, you can just do it through Quicksilver. Invoke Quicksilver, hit the period key to enter text mode and type your command. Then, just type terminal and the option to “Run Text Command in Terminal” will appear. Easy.

  5. Master Text Files – Theres a growing movement of people who like to go all low tech when it comes to managing their tasks. This usually involves text files. Quicksilver really excels in this area. You can create text files, open text files and, crucially, edit the contents of those text files. This includes appending and prepending text to the files as well as viewing the contents. This is something many people aren’t aware of, but, if you type the name (or part of the name) of a text file into Quicksilver and then press right, Quicksilver will provide the lines from within that text file. To give you a bit of insight, I use this to maintain a list of things to blog about. This is a text file that resides in my documents folder and I’ve never opened it, ever. It was created in Quicksilver, I edit it using Quicksilver and when I’m looking to write a new blog post, guess what, I use Quicksilver to go through it until something I like the look of turns up. I simply can’t explain how much easier it is to do things this way. Even using spotlight to find the file and OSX’s built in text editor, I couldn’t get close to being this efficient.

So that, right there, is a list of my favourite ways to use Quicksilver. Bear in mind that each of the points above is reliant on you having the Advanced Feature installed as well as the applicable plugins (like the text file plugin or the compression plugin, all these are available through the plugins tab in the preference pane and installation just takes a single mouse click). If you have any great Quicksilver tips, please just drop them in the comments below, I could write a million blog posts on the joys of this fantastic application. Once again, Google and YouTube will be your friends when looking for Quicksilver information.