Quicksilver (software)

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Quicksilver icon
Quicksilver's bezel interface and results.
Quicksilver's bezel interface and results.
Developed by Blacktree Software
Latest release 1.0β54 (Build 3815) / 2007-12-14; 484 days ago
Preview release 1.0β56a6 (Build 3824)[1] / 2009-4-3; 8 days ago
Operating system Mac OS X
Type Application Launcher (utility software)
License Apache License
Website http://www.blacktree.com/

Quicksilver is a computer utility software program for Mac OS X, made by Blacktree Software and distributed freely. It allows users to use the keyboard to rapidly perform tasks such as launching applications, manipulating files and data, running scripts, or sending e-mail. It is similar to the Mac OS X applications LaunchBar and Butler, but uses a different interaction paradigm. Although it is a complex application, it is centered on a very simple three-panel interface, called the "command window": the user performs complex tasks using simple, configurable key-combinations.

On November 6, 2007 the source code for Quicksilver was made available via Google Code.[2]

Contrary to popular belief, the original version of Quicksilver is still being developed, mainly with the aim of fixing bugs. Many recent fixes have enabled the application to run smoothly again on the latest version of Mac OS X.[3]


[edit] Three-panel interface

Quicksilver is designed to run all the time in the background while the operating system is running. It maintains a configurable "catalog" of items including files and folders on your disk, address book contacts, Internet bookmarks, scripts, clipboard contents, etc. This catalog is automatically refreshed at certain intervals of time. Pressing a configurable hotkey or a combination of keys, usually Control-Space, invokes the Quicksilver command window, which contains three panes.

The panes roughly correspond to the subject, predicate, and attributes of the desired task. The user first chooses the subject of the command (an application, a file, an e-mail address, an IM contact, a bookmark, etc.), then an action (predicate) to be performed on that subject, and finally additional details (attributes) for the action.

The Quicksilver user interface provides access to a wide range of actions by applying incremental search to input typed on the keyboard. Most of the actions require typing only a few letters into any of the panes: i.e. typing into the first pane searches the Quicksilver catalog for items matching those letters (the direct object, or "subject"). The names actions matching these letters are displayed in the pane. As more letters are typed, the list gets shorter, as fewer actions match the typed letters.

Quicksilver uses a priority system based on previous usage (see mnemonic) to determine which items to list first of those which match, apparently "learning" from the user's actions. For example, typing "intern" might show the Internet Connect utility, the International panel of System Preferences, the Internet Plug-ins folder, an address book card for someone who works at International Example Corp., and that company's home page from a web browser's history. Repeatedly typing "intern" and choosing the Internet Connect utility will tell Quicksilver to boost this entry's ranking in its internal list, making it the first option after several such uses.

Once an object is selected in the first panel, pressing the Tab key moves the focus to the second pane to search for available actions for that object (the "predicate"). Each type of object has certain actions which can be performed with it. For example, files on the hard drive can be moved to the trash, revealed in the Finder, or opened in the default application for that file type.

Some actions require an "attribute" that provides further details or the specifics of an action. In this case, the third panel is used to find such an object on which to perform the command. For instance, the "Move to folder..." command requires the selection of a folder in the third panel. Quicksilver also accepts a direct-text entry mode in its panels (by pressing the "." key on a QWERTY keyboard or "=" on an AZERTY keyboard), making it particularly useful for quick shell commands (Terminal) and instant messaging software (such as iChat and Adium).

[edit] Triggers

Quicksilver allows users to define "triggers," which perform a specific command (direct object + action + indirect object) whenever a predefined keyboard shortcut is pressed. For instance, the <"Documents", "Reveal"> command could be bound to the F7 key. Then pressing the F7 key would open the Documents folder in the Finder and bring it to the front.

In addition to keyboard triggers, the "Mouse Triggers" plugin allows commands to be bound to simple mouse actions such as clicks or mouseovers in different parts of the screen. A plugin called "Abracadabra" supports triggers activated through more complicated mouse gestures.

[edit] Flexibility

Because shell scripts and AppleScripts can be stored in the catalog, any function which can be performed using a script can be tied to Quicksilver, either through the command window, or through triggers. Because most Apple-native applications have extensive scripting libraries, many common tasks can easily be performed from Quicksilver. For instance, iTunes can be told to play or pause, increase or decrease the rating on the current track, or skip to the previous or next track.

There are various visual interfaces for the Quicksilver, alternative Constellation Menus and also a Notification Hub, which supports Growl via a plugin.

[edit] Interfaces with other applications

Quicksilver has a plug-in architecture, with each plug-in providing integration with a program, an interface, or a new feature.

[edit] Icon

Quicksilver's icon is based on the alchemical symbol for mercury (quicksilver is another name for mercury).

[edit] Alchemy

Experimental trunk builds of Quicksilver, known as Alchemy, have many major changes.

  • Triggers are moving to a separate product, called Catalyst
  • All the little frameworks are being joined into one big one called Crucible. This includes extensions and core functionality that most apps and plugins will use. This is currently called QSBase.framework
  • The preferences are going to get MUCH simpler. There will be Extras-style advanced prefs for the fiddly options.
  • Plugins are going to be hidden from most users, they'll activate themselves automatically or be installable from the web
  • β5X Plugins are incompatible.

These builds have four major components:

[edit] Crucible

A framework with extension to AppKit and tools common to all Alchemy apps

[edit] Elements

A framework supporting the plugin architecture

[edit] Quicksilver

Command window driven launcher

[edit] Catalyst

Triggers preference pane

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ Latest Preview release of Quicksilver, 2009-04-03, http://code.google.com/p/blacktree-alchemy/downloads/list, retrieved on 2009-04-03 
  2. ^ Lu, Mat (2007-11-6), Quicksilver goes Open Source, http://www.tuaw.com/2007/11/06/quicksilver-goes-open-source/, retrieved on 2007-11-06 
  3. ^ Quicksilver Google Code, http://code.google.com/p/blacktree-alchemy/, retrieved on 2009-04-07 

[edit] External links

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