Open source Mac utility Quicksilver isn’t just an application launcher—it’s a comprehensive keyboard interface. Launching applications and documents is just Quicksilver’s gateway drug: The more you get used to doing things with Quicksilver, the more things you want to do with it. Out of the box Quicksilver comes with the barest essentials, but once you add the right plug-ins that interact with menus, apps, documents, and settings, you can accomplish more and more complex tasks from that familiar three-paned prompt. After the jump, check out top 10 favourite Quicksilver plug-ins, and how to set them up.
To install a Quicksilver plug-in, visit the Plug-ins pane and simply check off its name from the list. Some plug-ins have dependencies and required settings to work. However, even with “Install dependencies automatically” selected in Quicksilver’s Plug-in Pane configuration, often you need to enable settings manually to get the most out of certain plug-ins. While Blacktree’s Plug-in documentation is good, for some plug-ins, it’s outdated or incomplete. In this list I’ve noted every single setting that has to be made to enable the actions described from scratch. You can also get more information about a plug-in by selecting it and clicking the info (i) button on the lower right hand side of the panel.
Before you start, make sure you’re running the latest version B53 of Quicksilver, available for download here. The screenshots in this list may look different than your version of Quicksilver because I’m using the Bezel style interface. To turn on Bezel in your Quicksilver installation, in the Preferences area, under Appearance, choose it from the Command Interface drop-down.
Let’s get to the plug-ins.
10. Email To (Compose via Apple Mail or Gmail)
Dash off a quick note or even attach files to a new message using either the Apple Mail Module or the Gmail Module. To use, invoke Quicksilver, select a file or use . (period) to freehand type a text message in the first pane. Choose the “Email To… (Compose)” action, and choose a contact from your Address Book in the third pane. (The contact must have an email address associated with it.)
- The Apple Mail Module can browse the various mail boxes (like the Inbox, Out, Drafts, Sent, etc), move messages around, check for new messages, attach files and send messages directly from Quicksilver, without ever opening Mail.
- The Gmail Module is much less featured. It cannot attach or send messages; it will open a new Compose Message page in Gmail with the To: field and body filled in.
- The Gmail Module requires that the Apple Mail Module is installed.
- In Preferences, Handlers, set the email handler to the appropriate module.
- Install the Address Book module to choose the message recipient from your contacts list.
9. Spotlight Module
Forget the key combination to open the Spotlight search box, you can disable it completely. With Quicksilver’s Spotlight Module plug-in installed, simply freehand type your query (use . to open up the textarea in the first pane) and choose “Spotlight in Window/Finder/Command” to execute your search. Note: the Spotlight Module’s documentation page seems to be out of date; it doesn’t include the “Spotlight in Command” option which I see on my Mac but doesn’t work. Any readers who know how to get that one going, let us know in the comments.
8. Firefox Module (Bookmarks)
Launch one of your Firefox bookmarks without even opening the ‘fox using Quicksilver. With the Firefox Module installed (docs), invoke Quicksilver and type any word in the bookmark’s title or its keyword (like if you’ve assigned Lifehacker the LH keyword, as shown.) Hit the “Open URL” action and Firefox will launch with your bookmark loaded. You can also fire off bookmarklets directly from Quicksilver without navigating through your bookmark folders. Obviously you need Firefox for this Module to work. Note: Although Firefox’s History is listed in the Module’s name and in the Catalog, even enabled, History entries for Firefox 2.0 and greater don’t work.
7. Dictionary Module
Look up any word in the Mac dictionary using Quicksilver. With the Dictionary Module installed, invoke Quicksilver, hit period (.) to freehand enter your word (or paste it from clipboard), and from the Actions panel either choose “Define with dict.org” to get several definitions from online dictionaries, or choose “Look up in Dictionary” to open a window defining the word courtesy of Dictionary.app. Note: The Dictionary and Thesaurus actions don’t work on Leopard with B53, for both Adam and myself, so use “Look up in Dictionary” or “Define with dict.org.”
- You must enable the Services Menu Module in Quicksilver Plug-ins to see the “Look Up in Dictionary” action. The Dictionary Module only adds “Define with dict.org,” if you prefer “Look Up in Dictionary,” you can uninstall the Dictionary Module and only use the Services Menu Module
6. iTunes Module
Control your iTunes library while you work from Quicksilver using the feature-rich iTunes Module (docs). Rate the current song, browse artists, albums, and playlists, control the volume, skip and pause songs, and more.
Available iTunes Module Actions: The iTunes Module adds the following actions to Quicksilver:
- “Browse by Artist” (Also Album/Genre/Playlist/Composer/Tracks)
- “Set Rating to X” (where X is 0 through 5 stars for currently playing song)
- “Next Song”/”Previous Song”
- “Play” and “Play/Pause”
- “Decrease iTunes Volume”/”Increase iTunes Volume”
Customize the iTunes Module: With the iTunes Module installed, in Quicksilver Preferences, an iTunes area appears on the left-hand side. Go there to set iTunes Module options, like showing artwork, and notifying you of the track information when it starts to play.
5. Text Manipulation Actions
Add a line to a text file (like “Hackintosh” to projects.txt, as shown), or edit a particular line in a text file with Quicksilver’s Text Manipulations plug-in (docs) installed. To work with individual lines inside an existing .txt file, select the file in Quicksilver’s first pane and hit the right arrow key to drill down to the line you want. Use the up and down arrows to select a line, then Tab to the Action pane for the “Change To…” to replace a line or “Prepend To…” to add text to the beginning of a line.
Note: If you don’t see all the actions described even with Text Manipulation enabled, in Preferences, Actions, next to Text and Text Lines, select additional text manipulation actions (like “Change To…” and “Prepend Text…” to lines.)
4. Screen Capture Actions
You can also forget the Cmd+Shift+3/4 +(Space) key combination to take screenshots. Install the Screen Capture Module plug-in to make the following commands available in the first QS panel: “Capture Screen,” “Capture Window,” and “Capture Region.” The advantage to using Quicksilver over OS X’s built-in command is that QS will automatically reopen with the image file already selected, ready for a new action—like renaming or scaling.
Prerequisites: In Catalog, under Quicksilver, make sure Internal Commands is selected. Also in Catalog, under Application, make sure “Enabled advanced features” is selected. Both are required for Screen Capture Actions to appear in your menu.
3. Shelf Module
Perhaps the least recognised and celebrated Quicksilver plug-in, the Shelf is a handy way to bookmark files, text snippets, and folders that you use frequently but that you don’t want cluttering your Desktop or Dock. I used to keep files “in progress” stored on my Desktop, but the Shelf lets me keep a clear desktop and still refer to stuff I’m working on. Items on the Shelf last across Quicksilver sessions (unlike the Clipboard.) For example, for the last three days a text file called “top10.txt” was stored deep in my home directory’s hierarchy, but it was at the top of my Quicksilver Shelf for easy access as I wrote this post.
What it adds: With the Shelf plug-in enabled and configured, you can select any file, folder, contact, or enter text freeform, and choose the “Put on Shelf” action. To see your Shelf, either invoke Quicksilver and choose “Shelf”->”Show Contents,” or use the Opt+Cmd+S hotkey combination. Otherwise you can browse down into your Shelf’s contents from the Quicksilver pane by typing Shelf in the first panel and hitting the forward slash (/) key.
Prerequisites: In the Catalog, in Modules, make sure “Shelf & Clipboard” is selected for the Shelf to work. When “Shelf & Clipboard” is selected in the Catalog, you can hit the “i” button (lower right) to expand an options sidebar, and check off either both Shelf and Clipboard contents.
2. Extra Scripts
Control your system with Quicksilver by installing the Extra Scripts plug-in (docs), which adds the following options to the first pane:
- “Shutdown”/”Force Shutdown”/”Restart”/”Force Restart”/”Sleep”
- “Empty Trash”
- “Get External IP”/”Get IP” (local IP)
- “Top 10” (show top 10 processes taking up CPU time)
- “Hide Others” (hide all visible apps except for the current)
- and more
1. Image Manipulation Actions
Resize and format images directly in Quicksilver using the Image Manipulations plug-in. Select the image (or images, using the comma trick) you want to format and save as a new file. Tab to the action pane and select “Scale Image…” From there you can simply enter a number that represents the new width in pixels, or you can specify width, height, format, and quality. From the Image Manipulation plug-in’s Info panel, usage details:
Use the “scale image” action and give it text in the form:
“SCALE_INFO [as FORMAT_INFO] “
SCALE_INFO: “[fit]WIDTH [x HEIGHT] “
FORMAT_INFO: “JPG/PNG/GIF/TIFF [low/med*/hi*][prog(ressive)][inter(laced)] “
“fit 640×480 as jpg high progressive” – creates an image that will fit within a 640×480 rectangle
“50% as interlaced png” – creates a png with dimensions half of the original
“x72 as gif” – makes a gif 72 pixels tall, with width to maintain the proportions
If you just want a .JPG from that .TIFF, you can also use the Image Manipulation plug-in’s “Save Image in Format…” action. Both actions will re-save the file as a new filename (it doesn’t overwrite the original) and will automatically invoke Quicksilver again, with the result selected for further action.
If you’re new to Quicksilver, be sure to check out Adam’s series of tutorials:
- A Beginner’s Guide to Quicksilver
- Advanced Quicksilver Guide
- The Quicksilver Video Extravaganza
Also, Howard Melman’s comprehensive Quicksilver User Guide (PDF) is a life-saving reference when you’re having one of those QS WTF moments.
What’s the first plug-in you install when you set up Quicksilver? Got any questions about the plug-ins on this list? You know what to do. The comments await.