How-To Geek

Speeding Up OS X Navigation with Quicksilver

We are always looking to improve efficiency, fewer steps to edit photos, fewer steps to format word processing, etc. Today we look at using the mouse less and be able to find files and open applications faster in OS X.

Instead of digging though several folders, with Quicksilver you can just use a few key strokes to complete the same commands that several mouse clicks combined with trying to remember where you stored that .doc file will do.

Getting Started

After you have downloaded Quicksilver and placed the icon into you Applications, open it up. At that point you will be presented with this introduction. Click continue and enjoy the animation change to the next screen.

As it usually goes with software, they want you to agree to licensing terms. Click continue after checking the “I agree…” box.

The plug-ins that are recommended can include some helpful shortcuts. For the time being we won’t add any plug-ins during installation.

Here are the basic options for using Quicksilver. Activation is how you enable Quicksilver to receive your commands. By default this is set to control + Space (control is represented by ^). Catalog Update is the interval that Quicksilver will scan for updates of your applications, and other areas you have the program looking for.

Now you will see another introduction of Quicksilver, giving some basic overview of what you can do with it.

This is the last step of the basic setup, Blacktree wants you to know where you can receive support from their community. These options are also available on their website.

Now that setup is complete, Quicksilver will open with its default theme and color options. You can type and see what possibilities you have available to you now.

One example of what you can do with Quicksilver is open a URL in your default browser. Type in the URL and tab to the second pane to see what options are there. Some of the options that you have include copying the search object, moving the object to the trash, show the object in the trash, and many more.

The arrow will drop down an options menu. Let’s look into the Preferences to see how we can customize Quicksilver.

Adding Some Power and Customizations

The Guide pane will give you access to the support resources on the left hand side. The right hand side acts like a table of contents, where all of the links will bring you to the same places that the links across the top do.

The Application menu in the Preferences page has the typical options that you need…

  • Start at login obviously sets weather Quicksilver will start once you log into OS X.
  • Warn before quitting will pop up a box to let you know that you are exiting the program.
  • Enable advanced features will open up advanced plug-ins and actions.
  • Show icon in dock will add or remove the icon from the dock when Quicksilver is open.
  • Show icon in the menu bar will add or remove the icon from the menu bar when Quicksilver is open, the sub option to Include access to the full contents of the menubar will give you the same options as the drop-down arrow in the Quicksilver app.

There are other options you can choose from such as checking for updates and allowing them to download in the background. You can also run setup again, reset preferences to default, or uninstall Quicksilver.

The Triggers page will let you set up key commands to trigger actions. In Custom Triggers you can set them up to open applications or to do other system tasks like engaging your screensaver when pressing command + option + s. Quicksilver will have pre-made trigger templates that are already built into Quicksilver. The two templates are Execute and Select (null) in command window. For now we will leave the Triggers alone.

The Catalog is everything that is indexed and therefore searchable by Quicksilver. If there are things you do not wish to have searched, you would uncheck them in this pane. If you add new content to an area that you can search, you can either wait for the rescan of the catalog that you have set to take place or you can activate Quicksilver and press command + r to rescan it.

The Plug-ins pane will let you use Quicksilver within programs and modules that would allow for more in-depth Keyboard Fun if you dig into them. By default Quicksilver is powerful, but by adding more plug-ins you can keep your interactions with the mouse to a minimum.

If we enable the iTunes module, for example, we are able to type “itu”, press the right arrow and we get a list of options that are available in iTunes. This allows us to browse the different categories or go straight to a built-in or custom playlist.

Quicksilver is great in allowing you to become more efficient, instead of trying to find applications using the Finder and your folder organization, you can just type the application, which is almost as fast as thinking it.


To download quicksilver go to GitHub, click on Quicksilver and download the .dmg that belongs to you OS X version.

Chris is a Mac geek who still knows his way around Linux and Windows. He's always looking for a good way to translate geek to english.

  • Published 06/30/10

Comments (4)

  1. David Levine

    Great overview. I’ve heard of Quicksilver before, but never really knew about its full potential. I’m going to give it a try after reading this article.

  2. SmallWorld

    If Launchy had as many plugins…

    Welcome to the writing staff, Chris!

  3. trm96

    This is one the most quintessential OS X apps ever!

  4. NaeNae

    Love Quicksilver…have been using it for years. I don’t have the newest version yet, but installed it on my sisters computer and like it well enough.

    One thing I did notice in the new version is that you need to select single command in order to use just the Apple key to open the quick type window, which is my preference.

    Good article showing the many possibilities Quicksilver has to offer :)

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