An Introduction to Quicksilver

by Devanshu Mehta Apr 19, 2007

Last week I reviewed Google Desktop, the not-quite-ready-for-prime-time but mighty interesting competitor to Spotlight. Of course, I have both installed for academic interest—the way I have 6 browsers installed for crazy fun (Firefox, Safari, IE, Camino, Opera, Lynx)—but I use neither. Quicksilver is my go-to app.

Quicksilver is primarily a file/app launcher with the added benefit of being able to automatically perform actions on the selected files. It can potentially replace Finder and Spotlight. It’s a little hard to explain everything it can do, but here is an example.

Say you are looking for a spreadsheet titled “awesome-spreadsheet.xls.” You would launch Quicksilver with a Ctrl-space keystroke (default) and start typing “awes.” At this point, it would most likely bring up what you are looking for. If you hit enter at this point, it would launch the file.

The real power of Quicksilver, however, is that it would also bring up a long list of actions associated with this file such as:

  • Open with
  • Move to
  • Copy to
  • Email to
  • Compress
  • Upload Using FTP

And so on. There are modules for actions for iTunes, FTP programs, Mail, browsers, and all sorts of other stuff. It also makes it easy to perform similar actions on a group of files. For example, if I select a group of files in Finder and hit cmd-Esc, it will bring up all those files in Quicksilver and allow me to select a similar set of actions. If they are images, it may give me image manipulation options (resize, etc). If they are music files, it may give me actions related to music.

To get started, download and install Quicksilver. As soon as it is installed, give it a shot: Ctrl-space (by default) will launch the “Command Window.” As soon as it shows up, start typing the first few letters of your favorite application. As soon as its name and icon show up, hit enter to launch the application. Once you become comfortable with this process, it will be quicker than launching from the Dock and certainly quicker than launching from anywhere else.

Dive straight in to the Preferences. Under the Plug-ins tab, install all the modules that seem relevant to applications you use (e.g. Apple Mail Module, Firefox Module, Gmail Module, iPhoto, Safari). This will add extra search and action options to Quicksilver such as directly sending a file by email, searching your Address Book contacts, resizing images, and much more. “Ctrl-space had ENTER” brings my venerable Apple Matters editor up in Address Book.

The other thing you want to do is under Preferences->Triggers->Quicksilver: enable “Command Window with Selection.” This will allow you to select a set of files and hit Cmd-esc (by default) to perform actions on it. Select a set of photographs and hit the trigger; it gives options to resize, upload to Flickr, email as attachments, compress to zip, and more. There are plug-ins for other file formats as well and things only get better once it becomes second nature.

In future articles, I will go through the major features of Quicksilver with how-tos and hacks. For now, I will leave you with this magnificent set of video tutorials to give you an appetite for it.

NOTE: Quicksilver is not for full-text search. I do not find myself using full-text search very often. When I do need to, I use Google Desktop (which is faster than Spotlight for me) or the CLI command grep.


  • Quicksilver is a great app. It gets a lot of great reviews from a whole bunch of sites. I’ve used it before, and I can attest that most all of those reviews, including this one, are right about the app. But I left Quicksilver and picked up Butler and have never looked back. I find QS too bulky. Butler seemed to me to be faster, more user-friendly, and more aesthetically pleasing.

    In the end of the day, both are good apps. I think Butler is better, but that’s just my 2 cents. I don’t know why nobody really writes reviews of it though.

    Beef Jerkey had this to say on Apr 19, 2007 Posts: 6
  • Butler is nice, as is Quicksilver. In my experience, QS crashed on me more than Butler has, and was a little slower. I prefer Butler, but both are great tools and kick the crap out of Spotlight.

    motherduce had this to say on Apr 19, 2007 Posts: 17
  • Butler is nice, as is Quicksilver. In my experience, QS crashed on me more than Butler has, and was a little slower. I prefer Butler, but both are great tools and kick the crap out of Spotlight.
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    Ericka Bentle had this to say on Oct 26, 2011 Posts: 64
  • Quicksilver was my favourite brand. Edible Arrangements Coupons

    Jack had this to say on Oct 27, 2011 Posts: 36
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