Quicksilver launcher utility for OS X review

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After almost 10 years of beta testing, Quicksilver finally announced “final” 1.0 status a few weeks back. Quicksilver is a launcher utility app (and a whole lot more, if you want it to be) for Mac OS X that gives you the ability to perform common, everyday tasks rapidly and efficiently.

As the Quicksilver Blog notes, “Saying that Quicksilver is an application launcher is like saying a car is a drinks holder.” Quicksilver, which I’ve been using for many of those ten years, is one of those utilities that grows on you to the point where you really don’t want to be without it.

Anyone using a computer (the Macintosh is no exception) spends a lot of time locating files and applications, and then carrying out actions on those items. The Finder is a reasonably good tool for getting a visual overview of the contents of your disk, but it isn’t ideal for quickly locating more.

Quicksilver’s primary function is that it allows you to find what you need on your hard drive quickly and easily, while keeping your hands on the keyboard. For example, if you want to launch an application buried somewhere in a folder, simply activate Quicksilver with a keystroke, type a few letters of the application’s name, then hit Return or Enter to launch it.


This is quicksilver-fast, and works for both applications and documents, which appear in a pull-down menu under the initial result. The search is adaptive, so Quicksilver will recognize which items you are searching for based on previous experience. It also supports abbreviations, so you can type entire words, or just fragments of each. When not in use, Quicksilver vanishes, waiting for the next time you summon it.

When you don’t need Quicksilver, it keeps out of your way, preserving screen real estate, yet you can summon it instantly with a keystroke.

Quicksilver’s abilities include:

  • Accessing applications, documents, contacts, music and other stuff.
  • Browsing your Mac’s filesystem elegantly using keywords and “fuzzy” matching.
  • Managing content through drag and drop, or grabbing selected content directly.
  • Interacting with installed applications through plug-ins.

To search for an item, just start typing some letters that are in the name of the item you are looking for. Quicksilver’s matching algorithm will try to choose the best option. For example, if you are searching for Preview, the letters prv, pre or prw would all find the application.

If the selected item is not the one you wanted, the chances are that you can find it in the results list that pops up automatically. Quicksilver indexes and parses selected parts of the contents of your hard drive (a process that takes a couple of minutes) in its “Catalog,” so it locates and displays the items matching your search almost instantly.

If you use the right arrow or slash to drill into the contents of a folder, you enter browsing mode. In this mode, any further searches you make by typing letters will search only the item and sub-items in the folder you have selected. For example if you select the Documents folder in your home directory, the search will operate only on the files and folders within Documents.

Numerous actions you can perform on your selected item are available. Quicksilver allows you to do all sorts of things with files—move, copy, rename, delete—whilst also letting you navigate your entire file system. Just add a few important top-level folders to the catalog and you can browse through your folders from there. The default action for an application is Launch. The item you have selected will be shown in the first field with the default action (in this case, Launch) in the second field. When you hit the Return or Enter key, the default action is performed, and your application is launched. If the application you selected is already running, launching will bring the application forwards. If you want to use one of the non-default actions, select the second field by clicking it with the mouse or hitting the Tab key, then use the up and down arrow keys to select another action.

The Shelf


The Shelf is a place for the temporary storage of almost any kind of object. You drag objects onto the Shelf, and then drag them off again. So what’s the point of that? If you have to copy a file or a bunch of files from one part of a deeply-nested folder hierarchy to another, you’ll probably need to open a number of Finder windows, or else deal with a lot of time-consuming mousing around. The Shelf can act as a convenient place to gather together multiple items to copy somewhere else.

Strictly speaking, the Shelf doesn’t store the item, but just a link to it. So, deleting an item from the Shelf has no effect on the original item, but dragging it onto a folder will move the original.

Open the Shelf by choosing it from the Window menu of Quicksilver (Window > Shelf), or by typing Command-Option-S. If you drag the Shelf window to one edge of the screen, it will auto-hide itself; hover the mouse over that edge of the screen to pop the window up.


Drag and drop files or folders onto the Shelf window to store them there. If you drop multiple items, a special icon identifies it as a group of objects, and a red badge displays the number of items the group contains. Single objects are shown with their icon and their current path.

To copy the objects somewhere, simply drag them off to the new location. The Shelf acts non-destructively, so the objects are linked to, rather than moved, and still exist in the original location. Objects stay on the shelf until you delete them; select the object and press Delete.

You can also right or control-click an item to get a list of actions for it.

Clipboard History


If you’ve ever been frustrated by the fact that the OS X System clipboard only stores the last item you’ve cut or copied to it, you’ll love Quicksilver’s Clipboard History. It stores all of the items you’ve copied or cut, limited only by the available memory, or by the limit you enter in the Clipboard Preferences.

Show the Clipboard History window by choosing it from the Edit menu of Quicksilver (Edit > Show Clipboard), or by typing the keyboard shortcut of Command-L when Quicksilver is the front-most application. You can choose to leave the window open all the time, or to have it hide after you’ve pasted an item in the Clipboard Preferences. If you choose to hide the window and position it at the edge of the screen, it will hide automatically. Hover the mouse over the edge of the screen to pop up the window.

The list will be populated automatically with items as you cut and copy objects in other applications. In addition to text, the Clipboard History can store any of the image formats supported natively in Mac OS X (e.g. JPG, PDF, PNG, TIFF), as well as Rich Text with simple formatting. If the object is text, the first few words are included in the list to help you identify the correct object. If the object is an image, the icon shows a thumbnail of it.

When you want to paste an object from the Clipboard history, click on the Clipboard History window to bring it forward, or hover the mouse over the screen edge to pop the window up (if you have set it to hide in the Preferences). You can then insert an item by double-clicking it in the list, or by typing the number to the left of the item. If you have the Clipboard History limit set to more than 10 items, only the last 10 items can be accessed using the number keys (0-9).

If you want to free up some memory (particularly if you have copied large images to the clipboard), or to remove some clutter from the list, click the “Clear” button at the bottom of the Clipboard History window. This clears all but the last item from the History.

With Quicksilver, you never need to stop what you’re doing to complete simple tasks. Move the file you just downloaded to your Documents folder without leaving your browser. Add something to your To Do List as soon as you think of it. Quicksilver allows you to process your thoughts instantly, and lets you get right back to what you want to be doing.

There are many plug-ins that extend Quicksilver’s functionality even further. Interact with your installed applications: Mail, 1Password, Microsoft Office and more. Check out the “Plugins” section within the Quicksilver preferences to see the all the entire list containing over 100 plug-ins.


If you have programming skills, you can also extend and customize Quicksilver to do exactly what you want it to. The modular structure also means that the application will never be bloated; you only load the modules that you find useful.

New in Quicksilver 1.0:

  • Preliminary support for retina displays.
  • Many internal images have been upscaled.
  • Icons and images are no longer downscaled in the interface.
  • Add files and folders to the catalog using the Add To Catalog action.
  • A core feature of QS is direct access to only the things you care about. Now it’s easier then ever to add your latest fancy to the top-level catalog.
  • Visit the new entry’s catalog info panel to include its contents.
  • Assign an alternate name to something by creating a synonym.
  • Abbreviations are limited to letters contained within the target objects name. Synonyms make it possible to use any name you like! Die-hard Address Book devotees rejoice.
  • Fixed the Add Trigger action, and the trigger type can be specified in the third pane.
  • Get a new trigger straight into preferences. Make a command, press and search for Add Trigger.
  • Assign the same trigger to different actions in different applications.
  • Add apps in the Scope field of the triggers information panels to use the same shortcut multiple times.

AppleScript Action Enhancements:

  • Custom actions now have the ability to handle files in both the first and third panes. Also, the type of objects that the action will appear for, and will subsequently display in pane 3, can be specified making it a lot easier to mimic plugin functionality without lower-level coding skills.
  • Store email addresses on the shelf for easy access.
  • Recent Commands and the Last Command proxy are working. One excellent use for the Last Command proxy is doing repetitive tasks within an app that are normally done from the menubar. Assign Last Command>Run to a trigger. Use the User Interface plug-in to press a menu item. The Last Command is now that menu item. Your shortcut will work for as long as you can resist using QS for something else. But even then, you can just in Recent Commands (Catalog) to perform the task again.
  • Over 40 different bugs and stability improvements in this release, more than in any other release.

You can view the complete Quicksilver 1.0 Changelog at

Note that this will be the last release to support Mac OS X 10.6 and 32-bit mode.

Quicksilver is freeware.

Appletell Rating:
Quicksilver review

Download Quicksilver

Format: Digital download
Developer: Quicksilver
Price: Donations accepted
Availability: Now
Version Reviewed: 1.0.0

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  • Max Braden

    Thank you very much for your review and tutorial. Thanks to your post I was able to get up and running far more quickly, and in greater depth, than I would have poking around the scant information I was finding and working on my own.