On Quicksilver

Yesterday I found myself trying out Launchbar again. I tried to use it consistently, and I quickly found that I loved using it. This puzzled me, and made me wonder why I was definitely not one of the Quicksilver lovers…

I know that not liking Quicksilver is considered a big no-no these days when you’re a mac user. Everybody raves about its slick interface, its amazing workflow, etc. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t work for me.
Of course, as a launcher Quicksilver is really fun. It’s waaaay faster than hunting for an app in the Finder, and still faster than using Spotlight. But everywhere you look you’re surrounded by How-to‘s about QS’s advanced features, which make you understand very clearly that if you’re only using it as a launcher, you’re just wasting your time, you poor, pathetic newbie. Exploring QS’s preferences pane only adds to the feeling – I’m mesmerized by panes after panes of endless lists and high-tech features, so I feel even more like a loser for not using them.

The canonical example of QS’s power involves selecting a file from the QS interface, hitting tab to get to the action area, choose “mail” and then select a person in your contacts. That way you can easily send a file to somebody without ever touching your mouse. I don’t argue that it sounds very powerful, and it is. Unfortunately, that’s a scenario I never, ever find myself doing. I never think, “gee, I’m going to send that file to someone without any kind of subject or explanation !” – generally I am first composing an email to the person in question, and then I attach the file to the email. It’s generally a Word file (yeah, I know, it’s lame and it makes my brain hurt, but try forcing all four collaborators to work with latex when they’re not used to, with no modification tracking…) so at this point I generally drag-n-drop the document icon from Word’s titlebar, and I’m done – I hit command-shift-D and off the email goes.
I’m not saying this is the only thing you can do with QS’s powerful features, but I’m just not finding any ‘entry point’ to these features, so I never use them. When used like this QS is just a fancy launcher – and a memory-hungry one, too: after a using it for a while, it’s using more memory than iTunes fully loaded with its 5000 songs, podcasts, videos, what have you. It’s not even especially fast – Launchbar is waaaaay faster.

Finally, I must admit that I like using the mouse a little once in a while. We (well, I) spent years waiting to get a nice, fast and convenient graphical interface. Trying to do everything by keyboard in QS seems like a step backward to me, it’s like using a less-powerful terminal window – if I want a full-keyboard interface, I might as well just keep a terminal window opened at all times, and vi in my text files…

So considering all this Launchbar is a good challenger – it’s lightning fast, doesn’t eat too much memory, is visually slick, you can access your contact’s phone numbers without opening anything, you can even trigger Spotlight searches directly with it – without the annoying delay happening when you start typing in the Spotlight menu. So am I gonna pluck down the money for it? Not sure yet. Thinking about it.

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