Screencast: Leveraging Services


Quicksilver services

Services are a part of OS X that many users either don’t even know about, or forget to use. They are a powerful bunch of actions that you can apply to your workflow – mostly in cases where you’re working with text.

In this Screencast, I’ll show you firstly, how to trim that over-grown hedge of a listing that makes up most peoples’ Services Menu. The easiest way I’ve found – as you’ll hear in the Screencast – is using a terrific piece of donationware called Service Scrubber. (Brought to you by Peter Maurer, the same developer of TextPander, yFlicks, and Witch.)

Once that mess is cleaned-up a bit, I’ll run through a few quick examples using Quicksilver with Services. At the very end, I use my favorite (which I forgot the name of temporarily – doh! It’s late, ok?!) service which is called, Shrink URL, and uses the terrific TinyURL web service. You can get the Shrink Service here.

Services with Quicksilver (mov)
11mins / 98mb

The CMD + ESC Trigger is used gratuitously in this screencast. Inevitably, someone watching will not be familiar with this technique – for the details on setting it up yourself, see my explanation here.

I’d love to hear your feedback about screencasts you’d like to see in the future. I have an ever shortening list of things that I plan on screencasting, but want to give you what you’re hoping to see as well. So if you have anything specific – even non-Quicksilver-based! – please let me know in the comments.



Hi Nick, very neat screen-cast. I have been using QS for quite some time but hadn’t been able to figure out the proxy object or the triggers part of QS. Now i have got ctrl+ESC for the current selection load to QS thing.



did you ever end up finding a fix on the spotlight forums. It’s been the third week, I’ve been trying to fix this and it’s driving me nuts!! I book marked this page and will post a solution if I find one.

Best of luck otherwise,



HI Nick! I’ve got a problem…I subsribed to the Apple Blog video podcast, and got it on itunes podcasts section, but whenever i sync my ipod the Apple Blog video podcasts never get synced, do you know why?


Yes, that seems to be it. I just created a text file called “test”, then went to Spotlight to search for it. At first it didn’t show up, but when I went into the “show all” pane and changed the “Where:” field to “Home”, it appeared. I then tagged the file with the word ‘test’ and searched for it with Spotlight, and it didn’t show up. When I re-indexed all was well.

Yeah, this sounds more and more like a Spotlight problem, so I’ll head on over to the Apple forums and see if anyone has encountered this before. I suspect that it’s some random thing that’s my own fault. Thanks for all your help thus far Jono, I really appreciate it. If I get this fixed I’ll let you know.

All the best,


So if you create a new file (text file for example) & save it it will show up immediately if you search for it in Spotlight? But anything added to the Spotlight comments don’t show up unless you re-index Spotlight, do I have that right?

To be honest I don’t know enough about Spotlight maintenance to really advise you. But if it became corrupted I’d have thought adding your HD to the privacy area (delete the index) then removing the HD from the privacy area (indexes the whole HD) would have been enough. I guess you could try the Spotlight reset thing in Onyx, but other than that you’d have to look into fixing spotlight somewhere else that know about these things (e.g. Apple’s forums).


Indeed, I thought that Spotlight should be able to keep up without the continual re-indexing. I’ve done nothing to Spotlight that I’m aware of, though I do run Onyx from time to time (but I checked, and I have selected the option to clear the Spotlight index).

I can run those searches fine, but not for anything newly tagged or when I first turn on my mac in the morning. If I want to use metadata of any sort then I’ve to re-index all over again. It’s a pity as when it works it’s very useful. I removed everything from the privacy part of Spotlight’s preferences, re-indexed the Mac HD and then relaunched QS, still no change in things. Do you think it’s possible that Spotlight has become corrupted in some way?



Glad we’re getting somewhere Dan.
It still seems as the problem is with Spotlight, as having to keep re-indexing Spotlight isn’t normal. Have you done anything else to tweak Spotlight, or run any maintenance apps that would affect Spotlight?

Once you’ve tagged a file/files with Quicksilver you should be able to type in the name of the tag into the Quicksilver command window & QS should find the tag. You’d then select ‘Show Files Matching Tag’ in the right hand side of the command window & it would create a saved search for the tag.
Maybe you could remove everything from the privacy part of Spotlight’s preferences for now & see if this helps at all?


Success! Excellent Jono, re-indexing Spotlight seems to have fixed the problem. I can now have a number beside the File Tags icon in Quicksilver’s catalog. Also, the smart folders now work as well. Thank you very much. However, there is just one issue remaining. When I create new tags, or add tags to other files, they don’t come up in Quicksilver generated smart folders, or in Spotlight. Now re-indexing Spotlight again fixes this, but I was just wondering whether this is normal, or if there is a way to work around continual re-indexing every time I add a tag to something.

Yeah, the privacy settings in Spotlight are set to ignore my external drive and its partitions (External Backup and Storage), and two folders on my HD that contain private documents.

Once again, thanks for the help thus far.




That’s strange. Maybe the problem is with Spotlight rather than Quicksilver?
If you go to System Preferences, Spotlight, Privacy what do you have in there? (Have you accidentally added something there that would stop Spotlight from searching some areas?).

Maybe you should re-index Spotlight (drag your HD to the privacy area, then remove it to re-index). And then try tagging some files again after this.

Gerald Buckley

Nick – Thanks a ton for this. Just activated the services module and a whole new world opens open. Man I love QuickSilver! (How long could it be before Apple writes their own version? as they seem to do with things like Spaces, Watson, et al). One of the remaining 298 secret features? (hope not)


Yes, any file I tag with Quicksilver has the given tag appear in ‘Spotlight Comments’ in its ‘Get Info’ box.
No, there is no number at all beside the File Tags in Quicksilver’s preference pane. However, the box itself is ticked, so I don’t know why there are no numbers. No, there is nothing in the Contents when I click the Info icon.
Yeah, I’ve tried quitting Quicksilver and then re-opening it again, but that doesn’t do anything. The problem still persists, unfortunately.
I’m beginning to think that this is a wider problem: tags have never worked for me, even when I’ve just used Spotlight; it’s as if it ignores them. Very odd.



Thanks for explaining, that part sounds fine.
If you tag a file with Quicksilver, select the file you’ve tagged & ‘Get Info’ on is the tag in the Spotlight comments?
Also if you go to Quicksilver preferences, Catalog, Modules, File Tags can you see a number of tagged files on the right? If you select the File Tags module, click on the ‘i” info icon at the bottom right of the window & then click on Contents can you see any tags?
(This usually works but is buggy in Quicksilver so sometimes it doesn’t show any tagged files for me. Restarting Quicksilver usually fixes this (for a while)).


Cheers for replying. Why yes, it was the first thing I did when I decided to try this whole metadata approach. Normally, I invoke QS, then specify whatever file I want to tag, TAB into the next QS Box, then type Add Tags, then TAB into the third box and assign a tag (in this instance something like “medievalmind”, or “mind’, or “project” etc.) Despite assigning these various tags, the QS Catalog still doesn’t seem to be aware of them, so when I try to view them I get nothing. Moreover, this makes the smart folder useless. Though in fairness, smart folders have never really been of use for any form of tagging: even in spotlight, if I assign a tag manually in the file’s Get Info box like “&project1”, nothing comes up when I search for it in the spotlight box. This one has go me baffled.

Have I explained that clearly enough?



Have you set the prefix as & in the File Tags preferences? (in Quicksilver’s preferences). Could you explain what process you do to tag files?

Nick Santilli

Concerning the services in the demonstration, I regret that I don’t recall where all of them may have come from. (like most mac users, I’ve shunned that menu of items for a long time, so haven’t kept track of it very well). But as was mentioned, Devon has a bunch of great [free] services for download –

Jono – thanks for catching the plugin requirement for me. If readers are having trouble accessing service through Quicksilver, check the Plugins section of the Quicksilver Preferences. It looks like this:

Paulo – I’m not sure about the podcast subscription/iPod syncing issue. I’ll try to see if I can find out what the issue may be.

Evgeny – true – very easy. I’m just so used to Quicksilver that it’s easier for me to remember the way to do things through Quicksilver than all the various keystrokes. plus I <3 Quicksilver.

Screencast settings:
Yup, new keystroke indicator - think it works better than the keyboard viewer - less distracting, true/false? It's Mousepose - by boinx software. I've had it on my system for a long time, and totally forgot about it. Was reminded while watching one of the kGTD screencasts and saw it there.

The rest of the settings can be found in the post I wrote here:


Excellent screencast, as usual. I’m a big fan of Quicksilver and try to implement it into my workflow at every opportunity. I’m very interested in file tags a the moment, but unfortunately they don’t work for me, either in the Quicksilver on-the-fly smart folder (just empty), or in spotlight itself (if I enter a tag such as &quicksilver, nothing shows up). Odd problem, one that I’ve been trying to fix for the past few days with no luck. Any QS geniuses out there who could tell me what I’m doing wrong? (I’ve already made sure that the File Attribute Actions plug-in is installed, and I’ve made sure to select File Tags in the QS Catalog; still doesn’t fix things though). So, any ideas? Please respond



to make a stickie from the selected text just use Shift+Command+Y
that’s easy

Peter Jones

These screencasts are getting very nice. What are you using to record the screen? What resolution do you run at for the recording? Are you reducing the resolution at post-processing time?


I see there’s a new keystroke indicator… want to tell us about it?

Paulo Fontes

HI Nick! I’ve got a problem…I subsribed to the Apple Blog video podcast, and got it on itunes podcasts section, but whenever i sync my ipod the Apple Blog video podcasts never get synced, do you know why?


Thanks for another helpful screencast. I knew about Service Scrubber but hadn’t used it for a while. So it’s made me clean things up. (Not sure if Nick mentioned it but you need the Services Module plugin installed in Quicksilver to use it in there).

If you’re taking requests for screencasts what I think would be helpful is if you went through your favourite Quicksilver tips (that people might not know about) & what triggers you have set up for things. I listed mine here
Maybe you could use these along with your own & put them all in a screencast (which I think gets things across better than just writing about them).
Even though I’m pretty well up on Quicksilver I’m always looking for new tips & interested to see what triggers up people have set up.

And thanks for the link mekanic. I was thinking they look like really handy services & wondering where I could get them.


as a matter of fact i dont seem to have any of the service items available in quicksilver.. :(
any idea? do i have to activate that somehow?

greets Nils


for some reason I don’t have the statistics or the convert services. Are they installed with the OS?


Very nice. I’ve always wanted to make use of Services more, but since they only work in Cocoa apps, it’s kind of tough to make them a consistent part of one’s daily workflow.

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