June 21, 2006

I’m still puzzling over Quicksilver. I’m really not sure whether I don’t get it, or it’s the people that love it that really don’t get it.

In other words, is this really the wonderful Swiss Army knife of applications that its proponents seem to think it is, or is it just a complicated and unwieldy crutch that tries to shield them from reality?

I’m really not sure. I lean toward the latter partially because of comments like this:

QuickSilver, very under-described on the page, currently contains just a few main components – a shelf and a launcher. While the clipboard recorder and shelf are both useful and will be covered, the real power here is the launcher. And it’s not so much a launcher as a really powerful personal search engine.

(from QuickSilver – A Better OS X In Just 10 Minutes)

I think the title really tells the story: rather than learn how OS X works, Quicksilver users want all of it to work through Quicksilver’s interface methods. And what is that paradigm? Well, it’s pretty simple, actually: you start typing something and Quicksilver finds things that might be what you are looking for. For example, I start typing “Par” and Quicksilver suggests “Parallels.app”. That’s a reasonable thought, but it also has come up with 163 other choices in case that’s not my desire. But let’s say it is – now what?

Well, now I can choose one of thirteen possible actions. The default is “Open”, and the others are things like Get Info, Move to Trash, Always Open With, etc. All things I might want to do. Are you with me so far?

Wait, there’s more. There’s a couple of zillion (well, it seems like it) available plug-in modules that provide features. Often these are application specific, providing specific actions for specific apps. All very confusing, and horribly documented (often not documented at all).

Supposedly this makes you more efficient. From the same page referenced above:

Now you can stop switching to the finder, hitting a three-key hotkey for the folder, and drilling down a level or two to launch an application – QuickSilver is so fast, you can probably get the app launched before you would be able to pull up a finder window.

Umm.. maybe. Personally I don’t find it all that hard to launch apps – I keep the ones I use frequently in my dock, and it hardly seems onerous to click on Applications to find the less used apps. As for anything else in the available Action choices, well, I’m sorry, but I don’t see the advantage. Again, I’m not sure whether I’m just not giving it a chance or the people who swear by it just think very differently than I do. Maybe it’s a little of both.

Overall, I found Quicksilver confusing and clumsy. That flies in the face of the many laudatory comments and reviews I’ve found: a lot of people really think this is fantastic.

Well, maybe you will too. I don’t think I’ll be using it, but you might love it.

*Originally published at APLawrence.com

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A.P. Lawrence provides SCO Unix and Linux consulting services http://www.pcunix.com