Quicksilver & Tiger: Part I

“I forget it’s not part of OS X…” I’ve read the same sentiment about Quicksilver many many times, and it’s a testament to how great it really is. But to me, Quicksilver IS OS X. The things that Quicksilver (QS from here on out) enables users to do on OS X are the things that drop Windows users’ jaws. A while back I wrote Quicksilver Changes Everything as an introduction and tutorial of this incredible app. Today I aim to reintroduce QS and address the Spotlight argument. Soon to follow I’ll give a few more walk throughs of cool QS powers.

Quickly, QS is an Application Launcher. Whoop-dee-doo, right? Right! Because beyond the Launcher capabilities, it allows you to handle files, folders, manipulate just about any data on your system, interface with a multitude of OS X apps, and so on. Swiss Army Knife has got nothing on Quicksilver.
Claire – a commenter on Merlin Mann’s 43Folders website said of Quicksilver, “it’s like a command line without a Terminal” Well said Claire. You don’t have to be a Unix guru to harness the power of Quicksilver, it’s just there, and accessible in the way that your own mind works most logically. As you use QS for a week, it becomes an automatic extension of the way you interact with your Apple Computer. It’s that good.

SPOTLIGHT: Friend or Foe?
In a nut – The two applications have similar functionality, but very different purposes. Similarly, both Quicksilver and Spotlight index your hard drive and allow you to launch a file from a few keystrokes. However, each has separate strengths which make it useful for specific tasks.

Spotlight is tied into the OS, and indexes every bit of data the instant it is created, opened, saved, modified, and so on. By far, Spotlight has the best tabs on everything on your Tiger system. For me, I know where my files reside already. The reason to use Spotlight is to save that extra few seconds (and save myself from getting carpal tunnel from pointing and clicking the mouse X number of times) getting to the folder itself. Instead of all that pointing/clicking, a half dozen keystrokes should locate and launch the file in a few seconds (depending on your RAM configuration, your mileage may vary). In this realm, Spotlight is king. It knows all, and takes up relatively few CPU cycles (after its initial indexing) on a regular basis. I like that it finds things instantly upon making a change to something on your filesystem.

Quicksilver can do the same things as Spotlight. The handicap is that QS takes much more time and CPU cycles to re-index on a regular basis. It’s not tied right into the OS, so there’s more work it’s got to do to discover and index new items. But more than finding and launching files, Quicksilver can manipulate said files. Without even OPENING them. There’s a bit of an attention grabber, eh?

Quicksilver can move files on your system, append text to documents, upload files to a website using ftp, locate a file attach it to an email and send the email WITHOUT OPENING MAIL. It does all these things (and a zillion others) with a few keystrokes that take a matter of seconds. Do you use Del.icio.us? Type del. arrow [tag] arrow select the item you want and hit enter. Your browser launches that webpage you bookmarked, without have to launch del.icio.us first, find the tag, and then sort through the entries. Or assign a Trigger (another QS function, that lets you assign keystrokes to actions) to the del.icio.us bookmarklet to quickly post a new entry to your account (I don’t like having to find that bookmarklet each time I grab a new url for archiving).

As you get more familiar with Quicksilver, you’ll be more apt to play with the multitude of settings (*make sure you’ve got beta and development modes enabled). This is where the ability to tune Quicksilver to search the things you want, in a way you prefer comes into play. It’ll respond quicker, and give you more pleasing results. But it still won’t reach as far as Spotlight. In fact, I’d love to see a script or hack to send a Spotlight search to Quicksilver and let QS take it from there. If I’ve missed something along these lines, LET ME KNOW!

I’m probably biased as I’ve been hooked on Quicksilver for sometime, but the comparison makes things pretty obvious to me: Spotlight searches for files well and Quicksilver handles files well.

I’d planned to put the Quicksilver goodies into this post, but I’ve had it sitting around for too long, so I’m publishing as it stands. So stay tuned for my next piece (in short order) detailing some new and fun Quicksilver tricks that you may not be aware of yet.