5 Ways to use Quicksilver

David Parry bio photo By David Parry


I was just looking through iusethis a great resource for Mac apps. and noticed that the sixth most popular application is Quicsilver. This doesn’t suprise me, as I use this application so frequently I almost forget about it. My favorite quote was the person who wrote, “I consider a Mac without Quicksilver broken.” It’s true, whenever I sit down at my partner’s Mac I always feel disoriented. I am forever trying to use it on other computers–its just so second nature at this point. And that is the problem, I have been professing Quicksilver to people lately, and they ask me what is it for? I always fumble the answer, because its for everything! So I thought I would outline a few of the key ways I use Quicksilver that are specific to my “academic” interests. A couple of warnings though: 1. I am not going to go thru a tutorial here about Quicksilver, that would be too hard and others have done a much better job than I could. If you have no idea what Quicksilver is start with this page in particular look at Dan Dickson’s tutorial. 2. Quicksilver is not a basic program, that is it takes time to learn. You have to invest the time to learn it, but the pay off is worth it. 3. Some of these require plugins, so make sure you have the plugin for quicksilver if you are having trouble (for example the text plugin is necessary for #2) 4. This is Mac only, sorry PC folks.

  • Opening Multiple Documents: Obviously I use documents a great deal, whether .pdf, .rtf or whatever. Much of my day is writing and reading documents. Often when I am getting started on something I want to open multiple documents. I could open the program and select the documents one by one, or I could ctrl click to highlight multiple ones. But Quicksilver makes this so much easier. Say for example I want to open Chp. 5 of my diss., a bibliography, a journal article, and a page of random quotes, Quicksilver makes this super fast (in fact I can get all of these open usually in the time it would take me to open just one with clicking on a mouse). All you have to learn is the comma trick. Invoke Quicksilver (for me this is ctrl + space) next select the first document. Now rather than tabbing over to the second pane to select open, press comma, this allows you to stay in this pane and select another document. Select your second document press comma, Select your third document press comma . . .(you should see them all in minature in the current pane) when you have all the docs loaded up then press tab and select open. (Note this works for lots of things, I just find it most useful for opening documents).
  • Managing Book Lists:(Need Text Manipulation Action plugin) I like to keep a running list of all the books I might want to check out or look for if I end up in a bookstore. Quicksilver has a tremendously useful function, the “textbox.” That allows you to input text straight into Quicksilver. To do this invoke quicksilver and press period. You will notice that the box turns white and you can now type in it. So, I use this for lots of things, but the most frequent is appending to notes. So as long as the file is a .txt file Quicksilver can add the text you type stragiht to the document without opening the document. I have a file called bookstoread.txt. I invoke Quicksilver, press period to get text box, type the name of the book I want to remember plus the author (or if the name is in the clipboard just press command + V to paste), now press tab to get to the second pane, select append to, tab to the third pane and select bookstoread.txt (or whatever the name of the list is). I use this for lots of lists, but the book one is the most frequent. Others: if I am asking people to email an RSVP for something I create an RSVP list and when I get their email I just use Quicksilver to add their name to the list, this way I have in one place all the names. A list of items of questions for my dissertation committee. This way regardless of what I am doing on the computer if I think of something, add it to the list. A grocery list . . .a list of digital games I might want to check out . . .The possibilites are endless. Some people even use it to organize a todo list. (I use kinkless but…) The key here I found is to keep all the lists in one folder (I call mine rather cleverly “Notekeeper”) so that you can find them with ease, and you can set Quicksilver to scan the folder if it is too deep in the heirarchy.
  • Search the Net:(Need Web Search Module Plugin) So in most web browsers now there is a little search box in the upper right corner, which allows you to send an inquiry straight to google, or yahoo, or wikipedia, or whatever you have set as the default, and most allow you to swtich to other searches. This is useful, but only works when you are in the browser already. Quicksilver has a better way. This took we awhile to find in Quicksilver, but in the catalog under modules, is the web module. This allows you to select web pages in the first pane, select search in the second, and enter text in the third. So I can invoke quicksilver, press “goo” (sans-quotes) which gets me google, tab (search is the default so I don’t need to do anything here in the third), tab, automatically the third box is a textbox, type what I am searching for say “Greatest Michael Botlon songs” (this should be a short list), press return and quicksilver automatically open the web browser with the the requested page, in this case the search results for Michael Bolton’s greatest hits. But wait . . .you can do this with weather.com, wikipedia, amazon, youtube, torrentspy. Actually there are something like 350 options. This is the quickest way to get to search a website.
  • Dictionary:(Need Dictionary plugin) Anybody who has been reading this blog for a while has probably realized I am spelling challenged. Quicksilver gives you instant access to the dictionary, and you don’t even have to be in a native Mac application. Invoke Quicksilver, press period to get the text box, type the word you want to check, tab to second pane, select dictionary, press return. You can also search Dictionary.com using the trick above, but this one is faster as it doesn’t need an internet connection, and thus will also work when you are not connected.
  • Switching between Devon databases: So right now I have two Devon databases going (you need DevonPro for this). The reason: I have one dedicated to being on the job market (yes I am finishing the PhD this year and going on the job market). To manage the document intensive task of the job market I set up a Devon database. But at times I want to switch quickly to that database. Rather than going over to Devon and selecting a new database, I just assign a hotkey to each database. This way pressing the selected hotkey (in my case F6 and F9) swtichs quickly between the two. (If it intrests people I can post more later on how I use Devon to set up a job database.)