Quicksilver Still Can't Make The Cut23 Aug 2011
It’s true, I have never really been much of a fan of the ancient productivity guru known as “Quicksilver”. It was adopted by all my Mac loving brethren and even, after several ad-hoc presentations, I continued to obstain. Launchbar was too small and Spotlight, if mastered couldn’t come close to both the 3rd party applications. In addition, everytime Quicksilver was left to rot due to an ambitious developer(s) realizing the size of the project, I was content knowing there was no need to lament.
Recently the Quicksilver Project was picked up by a group of very talented and driven developers who have a laundry list of grand plans for the ailing product. With Quicksilver making a rapid comeback, I decided to drop my current productivity love affair: Alfred and give the beast a whirl for the span of a long weekend(4-5 days).
User Experience Quicksilver still has one of the best looking UXs for its time. It jumps into view with big blocks that are easy to see and clearly show the user what they are doing at the very moment. Launchbar, with its tiny “unibar” easily fails hard in this category. Quicksilver’s simple select what you want to do(noun), tab over to select an action(verb), and if needed, a location approach to doing things is truly brilliant! If a mistake is made, the user just tabs back to the problem, fixes it and goes about their merry way. Alfred and Launchbar both prescribe to a “unibar” philosophy which can be confusing if the user forgets where they are in their launching process.
Functionality These applications construct a higher amount of functionality over Spotlight(OS X default), hence why many of us use them. Alfred isn’t more than a few years old which means 99% of its functionality works great on a new, Intel powered, Lion running Mac. Lock, Shutdown, and other system commands function beautifully (NOT true with Quicksilver) along with the clipboard, file navigation, etc. Quicksilver continues to be burdened with the cruft from its days being build on and for the PPC architecture and man, does it show:
- The app doesn’t run in 64bit mode
- Many of the plugins haven’t been updated in 4+ years (they are working on it)
- Several of the apps rely on the PPC architecture which isn’t supported in Snow Leopard or Lion (SL was released in August 2009)
- The app itself continues to be flaky with several crashes per day under heavy use
Extensibility Quicksilver is known for having an incredibly robust plugin structure. 1Password, Bbedit, Vim, Photos, FlickrUploads, and etc are just a few that are at the user’s fingertip. As a self proclaimed “power-user” this excites me. However, several weeks ago Alfred implemented the ability to run applescripts, shell scripts, and automator workflows. Although Qucksilver has a leg up with the raw amount of extensions, many of them need updating because of their age. I am genuinly excited to see what kind of plugins are developed by Alfred’s robust and seeminly clever community. Here are just a few so far: Alfred Extensions
Conclusions At the end of the weekend I simply couldn’t wait to fire back up Alfred and get back to work. Sure there is always a problem of knowing how to access similar functions in new applications, however; this wasn’t specific to my case. I spent a good portion of time tweaking and “groking” the Quicksilver way (a good 2-5 hours). However, was ultimately unimpressed with its high crash rate (running on a 1st gen 17inch(2.66C2D/8gigs) Unibody w/ SSD
- Optibay), inconsistent plugin compatibility, and the amount of time it took to rescan for new items(fairly sure Quicksilver continues to use its own index, not Spotlight’s). For the immediate future, this nerd is sticking with Alfred. In addition, I have a powerpack licences for Alfred so if you don’t feel like assisting really cool developers, yet want some of the functionality mentioned above, stick with Quicksilver as a free solution.