Quicksilver is by far one of the most impressive and yet elusive applications we've ever come across, warranting post after post and inspiring nearly as many disappointing alternatives and knockoffs. A few days ago, I sat down (virtual-style) with Quicksilver's creator Nicholas Jitkoff to discuss my all-time favourite application. Check out where Quicksilver is headed, why "The next Quicksilver might not look anything like what people expect," and how you can help save Quicksilver after the jump.
Quicksilver as an Open Source Project and Its Roadmap
Lifehacker: Now that Quicksilver has made the move to open source, what kind of progress can users expect to from the application? Will we be seeing more regular releases?Nicholas Jitkoff, Quicksilver's Developer: You're not going to like the answers to these questions.Lifehacker: I can live with that.Jitkoff: As for as progress goes, yes there will be progress, but in a much more experimental vein. I released two branches, the one that the B50s come from (ed: the Quicksilver that's currently running on your computer), and a newer one that is really unstable.Lifehacker: So what kind of experimental business is going on with the unstable branch?Jitkoff: So far? Quicklook has been integrated (which I love).Lifehacker: See, I like the answer to that question. Jitkoff: Yes, but I may never distribute that version.Lifehacker: I don't like that answer. I guess that sort of begs the question regarding the stable branch: Do you consider it pretty much feature complete?Jitkoff: Yes. Flawed, but for the most part complete.Lifehacker: So most updates to Quicksilver that the end user will see are probably going to be stability-related?Jitkoff: Right.
Moving Beyond Quicksilver to Other Apps You Didn't Know You Needed
Jitkoff: Right now any fancy functionality has to be built into Quicksilver to take advantage of objects/actions/whatnot. Which is why Constellation (ed: pictured) and Abracadabra (ed: Both are Quicksilver plug-ins) are there, even if they could stand on their own. I'd rather be able to make apps that leverage the same functionality, but don't really require you to have Quicksilver running.Lifehacker: Okay, so apps that build on the same sort of language/action building as Quicksilver but work completely independent of the QS framework?Jitkoff: Right. Possibly in a much more visual, intuitive way. The next Quicksilver might not look anything like what people expect.Lifehacker: What major differences, visually speaking, are you considering? The keyboard is still king, right? Jitkoff: I'm not making any promises. I'll always consider number of keystrokes. But Ideally I want something that can take many forms, allowing the user to use whatever form of input they prefer... or a mix of them.
Ed: At this point Jitkoff showed me a few screenshots that, unfortunately, he asked I not post here. Maybe eventually...
Most of this actually sounds pretty good, until...
Jitkoff: I'm inclined to encourage users to move over to the more stable and well supported alternatives like LaunchBar. Right now QS 54 (ed: the current build) accomplishes everything that I really need, the problem is stability, which for some reason most people seem to be ignoring.Lifehacker: Right, in the end stability is what matters most. I have a MacBook Pro that—until your recent updates—crashed QS on a very regular basis, which was always heartbreaking. But I've seen major stability improvements since the updates, which has been fantastic.Jitkoff: Basically, that branch is condemned to a long slow death. I just don't know if the experimental one will ever be up to snuff. Hence the recommendation of third party apps.Lifehacker: Gotcha. The thing about Quicksilver is that it really is feature complete for features that I am actually aware of that I need right now. But is the current stable-ish build doomed to never hit a really stable landmark?Jitkoff: Unfortunately, I think not.Lifehacker: Oh wow, you're looking to break hearts!Jitkoff: I told you you wouldn't like the answers.Lifehacker: Well, I suppose we'll have to manage.Jitkoff: I think that many of the alternatives are quite good. Making people relearn is a mean thing to do though.Lifehacker: Right. I guess from my standpoint, the fact that Quicksilver is free (as well as open source, now) is a major part of why it's so beloved.Jitkoff: But also why it is so poorly supported. I have to do any work in off-time.
One More Obligatory Question
Lifehacker: What are your favorite/most-used QS plugins?Jitkoff: Mine? Hmm... image and text manipulation. Other than that, I have lots of shell and applescripts that I use that aren't really in any plugin.
Lifehacker: It should prob go without saying, but great work with QS. Despite it's problems, it makes my life so much easier every day, and I feel like I'm working without a limb when it's not installed Jitkoff: I'm glad you like it. Thanks for getting everyone all excited about it.....
So Is Quicksilver Caput?
While it's certainly disappointing to hear Jitkoff's somewhat grim outlook for Quicksilver (at least as we know it), there's one major silver lining. Since Quicksilver is now open source, anyone can pick up the current stable trunk from the Quicksilver repository and run with it if they please. Also—from the sound of things—the Quicksilver development team is a little short on hands, so if you love some Quicksilver and would be interested in taking an active role in its further development and survival (and, of course, you've got some programming chops), I'm sure they'd love the extra help.
Last, if you're interested in learning more about Quicksilver or honing your Quicksilver skills, check out the following guides or the video below of Jitkoff presenting Quicksilver to his co-workers at Google: