Quicksilver 1.0: Out Of Beta After Ten Years – The ‘Book Mystique Review

The Quicksilver Blog reports that after almost 10 years of testing, Quicksilver has finally laid the beta designation to rest, signifying the app’s long-gestating maturity and a sign of what’s to come.

Quicksilver is one of those utilities that grows on you to the point where you really don’t want to be without it. Defined by its developers as: “an evolving structure for manipulating any form of data; an application as slippery and mutable as its namesake. Modules can be added to accomplish almost anything.” That is a pretty good summary, but leaves out the fact that unlike most utility software, Quicksilver has the unquantifiable quality of being pleasurable and fun to use.

Anyone using a computer (and the Macintosh is no exception) spends a lot of time locating files and applications, and then carrying out actions on those items. The Finder is a reasonably good tool for getting a visual overview of the contents of your disk, but it isn’t ideal for quickly locating more.

Quicksilver is nominally a launcher utility app for Mac OS X that also gives you the ability to perform common, everyday tasks rapidly and without thought. Quicksilver’s primary function is that it allows you to find what you need on your hard drive quickly and easily, while keeping your hands on the keyboard. For example, if you want to launch an application buried somewhere in a folder, simply activate Quicksilver with a keystroke, type a few letters of the application’s name, then hit Return or Enter to launch it. This is quicksilver-fast, and works for both applications and documents, which appear in a pull-down menu under the initial result.

When you don’t need Quicksilver, it keeps out of your way, preserving screen real estate, yet you can summon it instantly with a key stroke.

Quicksilver indexes and parses selected parts of the contents of your hard drive (a process that takes a couple of minutes) in its “Catalog,” so that it locates and displays the items matching your search almost instantly.

But Quicksilver can be much more than that. OS X Spotlight is about finding things. Quicksilver is about finding things (faster) then doing something with what you’ve found. Spotlight can show your dad’s entry in the Address Book. Quicksilver can show your dad’s work phone number, call it or send your dad a file. Spotlight forces you to think as you search. Quicksilver allows you to just start typing to get what you want.

Quicksilver’s abilities include:
• Accessing applications, documents, contacts, music and much, much more.
• Browsing your Mac’s filesystem elegantly using keywords and ‘fuzzy’ matching.
• Managing content through drag and drop, or grabbing selected content directly.
• Interacting with installed applications through plugins.

Quicksilver of course finds and launches applications or documents quickly and extremely well, but it also provides quick access to pretty much all your stuff stored on local volumes. With only a few keystrokes, you can get to your applications, files, contacts, bookmarks, music, and so forth.

What Quicksilver distinctively brings to the table is its ability to learn what you like doing, and turn your chores into two-second thoughts. By learning the patterns of your habits, Quicksilver blurs the line between thinking about something and simply getting it done.

For example:

• Type It Like You Think It:
– Using OS X’s Spotlight or a similar app to find the contact ‘John Smith’ requires you to search for, say, “john.” But what if you just want to type “js”? Quicksilver lets you abbreviate using letters from anywhere in the name, ergo: if you are searching for Preview, the letters prv, pre or prw would all find the application. Use ps to find Photoshop or tun to find iTunes. You can use abbreviations that make sense to you. Quicksilver’s matching algorithm will try to choose the best option. If the selected item is not the one you wanted, the chances are that you can find it in the results list that pops up automatically.

– Numerous actions you can perform on your selected item are available. The default action for an application is Launch. The item you have selected will be shown in the first field with the default action (in this case Launch) in the second field. When you hit the Return or Enter key, the default action is performed, and your application is launched. If the application you selected is already running, Launching will bring the application forwards. If you want to use one of the non-default actions, select the second field by clicking it with the mouse or hitting the Tab key, then use the up and down arrow keys to select another action. Actions are discussed in detail in the section on the Command Window module.

• Do It Like You Think It

– Quicksilver lets you do things the way you think of them, adapting to however you think.
– If you use the right arrow or slash to drill into the contents of a folder, you enter browsing mode. In this mode, any further searches you make by typing letters will search only the item and sub-items in the folder you have selected. For example if you select the Documents folder in your home directory, the search will operate only on the files and folders within Documents.
– You can Google search for ‘some text’, or find ‘some text’ with Google search.
– You can select a contact and e-mail them a file, or you can select a file and e-mail it to a contact.

• Stay Where You Are:
– With Quicksilver, you never need to interrupt what you’re doing to complete simple tasks. Move the file you just downloaded to your Documents folder without leaving your browser. Add something to your To Do List as soon as you think of it. Quicksilver allows you to process your thoughts instantly, and lets you get right back to what you want to be doing.

• Grab And Go:
– Select files or text and act upon them immediately.
– Quicksilver can grab the current selection from almost any application. Grab selected text to search for it on the web or append it to a file. Grab files and delete them, move them or send them. Grab pictures to resize them or change their format (above), the options are limitless.

• Keep The Finder At Arms Length

– Quicksilver allows you to do all sorts of things with files: move, copy, rename, delete, whilst also letting you navigate your entire file system. Just add a few important top-level folders to the catalog and you can browse through your folders from there.

• Still Not Fast Enough?
– If you find yourself doing something frequently, you can speed up the task even further by assigning a trigger to it.
– Triggers give you the power to assign regular tasks to keyboard shortcuts or mouse movements; you don’t even need to activate Quicksilver.

• Extend Quicksilver & Do More
– One of Quicksilver’s major strong points is that there is a broad selection of plug-ins that extend Quicksilver’s functionality even further, for example, interacting directly with your installed applications; storing and accessing Clipboard history (see below), parking stuff on Quicksilver’s Shelf (see below redux), and much more. You can access information from web-based services or your browser’s bookmarks and history. Check out the ‘Plugins’ section in Quicksilver’s preferences or under the Plugins” tab on the Quicksilver Website to review the entire plugins list; containing over 100 plugins. Downloading the plugins you find interesting takes only a few seconds, and double-click installation only a few seconds more.

• Numerous Interfaces
– Customize Quicksilver with one of the many interface plugins, or alter the colours, bezels and font sizes.

There are also appearance options in the default Preferences.

Clipboard History

If you’ve ever been frustrated by the fact that the OS X System clipboard only stores the last item you’ve cut or copied to it, you’ll be a fan of Quicksilver’s Clipboard History plugin feature. Clipboard History stores all of the items you’ve copied or cut, limited only by available memory or by the limit you enter in the Clipboard Preferences. I find that somewhere between 30 and 100 is about right.

You display the Clipboard History window by selecting it from the Quicksilver Edit menu (Edit > Show Clipboard), or by typing the keyboard shortcut Command-L when Quicksilver is the frontmost application. You can choose in the Clipboard Preferences to leave the window open all the time, or to have it hide after you paste an item. If you choose to hide the window, and position it at the edge of the screen, it will hide automatically – hover the mouse over the edge of the screen to pop up the window.

Once it’s enabled in the Preferences, the Clipboard History list will populate automatically with items as you cut and copy objects in other applications. In addition to text, the Clipboard History can store any of the image formats supported natively in OS X (e.g. JPG, PDF, PNG, TIFF), as well as Rich Text with simple formatting. If the object is text, the first few words are included in the list to help you identify the correct object. If the object is an image, the icon shows a thumbnail of it.

When you want to paste an object from the Clipboard history, click on the Clipboard History window to bring it forward, or hover the mouse over the screen edge to pop the window up (if you have set it to hide in the Preferences). You can then insert an item by double-clicking it in the list, or by typing the number to the left of the item. If you have the Clipboard History limit set to more than 10 items, only the last 10 items can be accessed using the number keys (0-9).

If you want to free up some memory (particularly if you have copied large images to the clipboard), or to remove some clutter from the list, click the ‘Clear’ button at the bottom of the Clipboard History window. This clears all but the last item from the History.

The Shelf

Strictly speaking, the Shelf doesn’t store entries, but established links to them Finder Alias-style. Consequently, deleting an item from the Shelf has no effect on the original file, but dragging it onto a folder will move the original.

The Shelf is a place for temporary storage of almost any kind of object. You drag objects onto the Shelf, then drag them off again. So what’s the point of that? If you have to copy a file or a bunch of files from one part of a deeply-nested folder hierarchy to another, you’ll probably need to open a number of Finder windows, or else do a lot of time-consuming mousing around. The Shelf can act as a convenient place to gather together multiple items to copy somewhere else.

You open the Shelf by selecting it from the Quicksilver Window menu (Window > Shelf), or by typing Command-Option-S. If you drag the Shelf window to one edge of the screen, it will auto-hide itself; hover the mouse over that edge of the screen to pop the window up.

Drag and drop files or folders onto the Shelf window to store them there. If you drop multiple items, a special icon identifies it as a group of objects, and a red badge displays the number of items the group contains. Single objects are shown with their icon and their current path.

To copy the objects somewhere, simply drag them off to the new location. As fore-noted, the Shelf acts non-destructively, so objects are linked to, rather than moved, and still exist in the original location. Objects stay on the shelf until you delete them; select the object and press Delete.

New in Quicksilver 1.0:
• Preliminary support for Retina displays
• Many internal images have been upscaled
• Icons and images are no longer downscaled in the interface
• Add files and folders to the catalog using the Add To Catalog action
• A core feature of QS is direct access to only the things you care about. Now its easier then ever to add your latest fancy to the top-level catalog.
• Visit the new entry’s catalog info panel to include its contents
• Assign an alternate name to something by creating a synonym
• Abbreviations are limited to letters contained within the target objects name. Synonyms make it possible to use any name you like! Die-hard Address Book devotees rejoice.
• Fixed the Add Trigger action, and the trigger type can be specified in the third pane
• Get a new trigger straight into preferences. Make a command, press and search for Add Trigger.
• Assign the same trigger to different actions in different applications
• Add apps in the Scope field of the triggers information panels to use the same shortcut multiple times.

AppleScript Action Enhancements:
• Custom actions now have the ability to handle files in both the first and third panes. Also, the type of objects that the action will appear for, and will subsequently display in pane 3 can be specified making it a lot easier to mimic plugin functionality without lower-level coding skills.

• Over 40 different bugs and stability improvements in this release, more than in any other QS release.

Complete Quicksilver 1.0 Changelog:

Note that Version 1.0 will be the last release to support Mac OS X 10.6 and 32-bit mode. Older versions of Quicksilver remain available for use with earlier OS X versions

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