My Mac usage dates back nearly two decades 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.
Quicksilver isn’t easy to describe because it’s so capable, does so much, and does nearly everything different than what and how you’re used to doing. 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. That makes it a Mac power user app.
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 and the keyboard seems to flummox many younger users (who, conversely, can type fast using thumbs on iPhones; go figure).
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 week, but not before then. Why? Because it stretches our user interface envelope to focus only on words entered into the keyboard. For many Mac users that is a newly learned behavior for an interface that’s slowly dying. My poor MacBook Air has been replaced by a new MacBook Pro, but I spend more time on an iPad Pro. Toting around a Mac has been replaced by toting around an iPhone and iPad (or, just the iPhone).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 if you’re disciplined you can get it to perform wonders in a week.
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. Quicksilver might be the last Mac power user app.