The Mac User’s Free Power App (and why it’s the last of its kind)

My Mac usage dates back well over a decade and I’ve been something of an appoholic since. There are few apps I’m not willing to try (affordability being the big killer of incentive), even those normally reserved for my geekier Mac friends.

Sometimes I need to be challenged to dip into a more complex, complicated app. I’m willing, especially if the app can help me do more, do it faster, do it better, and if it’s priced right. As in free.

That’s the story of Quicksilver.

Hands On The Keyboard Is So 1999

Quicksilver isn’t easy to describe because it’s so capable, does so much. It’s a Mac app launcher. It searches like Spotlight only better. It slices, dices, and Juliennes fries (potato optional).

What’s good about Quicksilver is that it’s totally keyboard driven. There’s really nothing to click (at least, nothing you should click). Invoke Quicksilver with a keyboard combo, enter a few letters of what you want, and it does the rest. Whether an Address Book entry or a document or whatever, Quicksilver grabs and presents what it grabs right to your face and keeps doing it until you select something or start over.

What’s bad about Quicksilver is that it’s keyboard driven. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But keyboard usage is on the decline among post-PC era computer users. We’re into touch and voice these days.

As much as Quicksilver is productive, and it is by serving up options as fast as you can type in hints, it’s all fingers and eyeballs, keystrokes and carpal tunnel inducing wrist action.

Quicksilver is fun to use after the first day, not during the first day. Why? Because it stretches our user interface envelope to focus only on words entered into the keyboard. It’s newly learned behavior for an interface that’s slowly dying. My poor MacBook Air has been replaced by an iPad. Toting around a Mac has been replaced by toting around an iPhone and iPad (or, just the iPhone).

True, there are times when keyboarding is the only way to enter text (like writing an article about a legacy app). But my iPad and iPhone can take dictation and both are damned good at it. The Mac? Not so much.

If you’re slaving over a hot Mac keyboard all day and you’d like a keyboard-driven way to find and launch apps and documents, Quicksilver will be attractive. It’s free. It’s easy to install. It has a learning curve, but it can be mastered in a day.

But compare that to how quickly users master iPad and iPhone interfaces. Touch, touch, talk, listen. That’s the future. Your keyboard is the legacy instrument.