Quicksilver

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You may be looking for the PowerMac G4 model that was code-named Quicksilver

Quicksilver is a fast and free productivity application for Mac OS X that allows a user to invoke actions or recall information with few keystrokes. Quicksilver is similar in function to Launchbar.

Contents

Overview

Quicksilver is a difficult application to convey in few words. However, consider the behavior of Safari's address bar. You type a few characters, and it automatically completes a URL for a previously visited website, sorted by how often that website was visited.

Quicksilver works in a very similar way, except with activities beyond web browsing. It can be used to open applications, recall contacts from the Address Book, open recent websites or even perform commands in the Terminal. These actions are invoked by Ctrl-Space (by default) and specified by a few keystrokes, which "learn" with each use.

For example, typing Ctrl-Space then "PS" will match "PhotoShop", with the default action of "Open". This means that at any time, in any application, Photoshop may be opened by typing "Ctrl-Space PS". However, if you have "Paul Simon" in your Address Book, "PS" may match that. A disambiguation list always appears after a delay, so if you wish to have "PS" be PhotoShop, simply arrow down to PhotoShop and press return. Quicksilver will remember this, and "PS" will equate to "PhotoShop", leaving "Paul Simon" available only by "PAULS" or "PSIMON" or whatever abbreviation you choose.

Operation

Every action in Quicksilver follows a "Object->Action" trail, and in many cases, an "Object->Action->Object" trail. Each Object or Action is specified by a key sequence as mentioned above. To follow the Photoshop example, "PS"+"RF" may translate to "Photoshop"->"Reveal in Finder", which would show the application. "PS"+"GI" may translate to "Photoshop"->"Get Info". In every case where the key sequence you type doesn't yield the behavior or item you're after, a disambiguation list appears, allowing you to select the item you're after. Quicksilver will remember this, and provide better matches in the future.

Some actions require further information. For example, if you ask Quicksilver to e-mail an item to someone, it has to ask who you wish to e-mail it to. Illustrating by example, you wish to email a document called "Quarterly Report" to a person called "Mr. Wick", you would type "QR" (or "QUREPORT" or any combination), <tab>, "EM" (for "Email to..."), <tab>, "MWICK" and press return. A new email is created in Mail with the "Quarterly Report" as an attachment.

Expansion

Quicksilver is expandable, in that third parties can (and have!) developed additional functionality for Quicksilver. Expansion is facilitated by Plug-Ins, all of which are automatically downloaded, installed and updated by Quicksilver (from the Quicksilver->Preferences->Plug-ins section). Below are a few common examples:

Calculator

Often times, simple math needs to be done that may not even warrant invoking Dashboard or using Calculator. Quicksilver offers a very handy Calculator Module.

To use, simply invoke quicksilver and type the "=" sign. This tells Quicksilver that some math is being entered. Enter in your formula using standard ascii math notation, such as "=sqrt(3^2 + 4^2)". Quicksilver will reply with "5.000" in the notification you specify.

Safari/Firefox

Quicksilver has modules that allow content from the browsers to be imported, most notably the bookmarks. With these modules enabled, typing letters also matches against any bookmarked title or url. This means that typing "GUID" may match "guides.macrumors.com", if you have it bookmarked. (Of course, "GMRC" or "GMAC" or any subset of letters may also match).

Additionally, these modules index the history of each browser, which allows for searching of pages you recently visited.

iTunes

Of course, Quicksilver can control iTunes. Enabling the iTunes Module adds all your playlists to Quicksilver. With this module enabled, you can type a few letters to match one of the playlists in iTunes. The default action is "Play", but "Add to Party Shuffle" and a few other actions are also available.

Web Searching

Another very useful module is the "Web Search Module". This allows for rapid searching of Google, eBay, Wikipedia, even MacGuides. To enable web searches:

  1. In Quicksilver->Preferences->Plugins, enable Web Search Module
  2. In Safari or your default browser, search a website for "***". Three asterisks are special to Quicksilver.
  3. Bookmark the resulting page, and give it a short name, such as "goog" for "Google" or "wiki" for the wikipedia. Here are a few common ones.
 google: [1]
 wikpedia: [2]
 imdb: [3]
  1. Rescan the catalog via Quicksilver->Rescan Catalog
  2. Invoke Quicksilver, type (for example) "imdb"<tab><tab>"Raising Arizona"

If things worked, "Raising Arizona" will be searched for in the Internet Movie Database. Technically, Quicksilver replaces "***" with what you search for, so many websites which support searching can be accessed directly through Quicksilver.

Text Entry Mode

Pressing a non-alphanumeric key plunges Quicksilver into plain text mode where it will cease matching. This can be useful when specific text needs to be sent to the action. The most common example is opening websites. Typing a period(.) invokes the plain text mode. Typing "macrumors.com", <tab> will "open" the text "macrumors.com", which is recognized as a website, and is opened in the default browser.

Since the non-alphanumeric character does not necessarily have to precede the text, it is common practice to invoke Quicksilver, type a domain, and press return. The period preceding the "com" lets Quicksilver know it's plain text. Therefore, any url may be quickly opened by invoking Quicksilver and typing the domain name (ex: "macrumors.com" contains a period, and will be treated as plain text, who's default action is to "open").

In other cases, the desired plain-text command does not contain a non-alphanumeric character, so a leading non-alphanumeric character must be entered. For example, if the top command is to be issued to the Terminal (and the Terminal Module is enabled), invoke Quicksilver, type a period, then top then RT for "Run a Text Command in Terminal" (and eventually, as Quicksilver learns, just enter).

Triggers

In Quicksilver, Triggers are keyboard equivalents tied directly to actions, which may or may not even be directly related to Quicksilver. To illustrate, triggers can be set up to control iTunes.

  1. Open Quicksilver->Preferences->Triggers
  2. Choose "iTunes" from the popup menu.
  3. Check the "Next Song" action.
  4. Set it's trigger to something like Control+Option-RightArrow.
  5. Close the window

Type that key combination, in any application. iTunes should dutifully fast forward to the next track.

Some Common Examples

This section shows a few examples of what can be done. In these examples, the "->" represents the <tab> key, and the results may not be exactly what you will see, due to the learning ability. ("PS" may mean "Paul Simon" to you, and "PhotoShop" to someone else). Additionally, Quicksilver is case-insensitive.

PS 
Open Photoshop (because "Open" is likely the default action)
MY->SC 
Mark Young, Show Contact
MY->EM->PG 
Mark Young, Email Item, Pirate Girl
=sqrt(3^2 + 4^2) 
(responds with "5.00", depending on preferences, and requires you have the Calculator Module enabled)
WIKI->->Stirling Engine 
Wikipedia, search for, "Stirling Engine" (utilizes the above bookmark and "Web Search Module")
macrumors.com 
macrumors.com, open. (the period in the URL tells Quicksilver it's plain text, and stops trying to match to a local object. The default action of plain text is to open. So, in the case of a domain name, it's opened in your default browser).
.top->RT 
"top", Run as Text Command in Terminal, which will open the Terminal with top. (as with all actions, if "Run as Text Command in Terminal" is the most common, then it will become the default, meaning ".top"+<return> will automatically run it in the Terminal.

Download

Quicksilver is now open source, and the source is available on Quicksilver's GitHub Repositoory

Development of the Quicksilver has continued in the open source domain, with the latest releases available from Quicksilver's download page