Quicksilver meet the holy wars…

Was just chatting with Howard, who has literally written the book on Quicksilver, and was trying to figure out why he finds so much more utility out of Quicksilver’s keyboard triggers than I do…  I find myself using the "Command Mode" in most of my interactions with Quicksilver, but Howard makes extensive use of keyboard triggers.  We were chatting back and forth about this, and I struck upon a minor epiphany:

Quicksilver’s command mode is somewhat analogous to the command mode in my editor of choice, Vi.  Keyboard triggers, however, are much more like the meta-keystrokes of the Emacs editor, which is Howard’s favorite editor.  My brain is happy to deal with the notion of different modes for different contexts, where as the Emacs user is much more comfortable remembering a multitude of various keyboard combinations to get their work done.

It’s pretty cool that Quicksilver is this flexible, and in fact it one-ups both of the editors by allowing you to seamlessly choose whichever method appeals to you on a task-by-task basis, and furthermore it’s not mutually exclusive.  I do use a few triggers for some common searches (like IMDb, Wikipedia, etc) but setting up those triggers doesn’t prevent me from executing those searches in command mode.  And in this way, allowing you to choose the solution to a problem from a whole menu of methods (commands, keyboard triggers, mouse triggers, gestures, etc), Quicksilver is also analogous to a combatant in another holy war, Perl.  Perl provides many different ways to express oneself, and generally grants the programmer flexibility in expression.

Another way that Quicksilver is like Perl is that it is very tolerant of ambiguities and tries to resolve them as best as it can.  Type "adress book" into the command window of Quicksilver and there’s a good chance that even though "address" is misspelled Address Book will at least be among the top choices of Nouns/Subjects.  Quicksilver’s stated purpose is to allow the user to "Act Without Doing".  While that motto is a little too metaphysical for me, I think that philosophy is what drove this tolerance programmed into QS.

Myself and many other programmers are frustrated by Perl’s anything-goes philosophy, claiming that by being so permissive it makes reading the Perl code of someone who has a different style than you (or even reading your own code fro a few years ago) a difficult challenge at times.  If I were to try to continue to stretch this analogy, I would say that the Quicksilver version of this gripe is that, as a user, you end up growing so dependent on your specific usage patterns that if you work on a machine with QS configured differently, not installed at all, or science-forbid, a windows box, it can be rather frustrating.  You constantly attempt to invoke Quicksilver and fail, or even worse, learn that your carefully selected keyboard triggers vary drastically from your friends.

I have grown to really love Quicksilver, and I urge all Mac users to give it a swing!  They’ve done a great job of pushing most of the really geeky features under the surface a bit, and it tends to be as complicated as you choose.  I used it for a few years in straight command mode and found it to be super empowering, but over the past year or so (mostly due to prodding from Howard), I have found myself slowly expanding my horizons, and playing with more and more features of this amazingly deep tool.  Not all of the features I play with stick, but when one does, it suddenly feels like your old method of doing something was so antiquated.  For more information:

Update: Here is Howard’s take on this subject.

Small World

I’ve been trying to be a better user of Quicksilver for quite some time now…  Back in January, I downloaded a PDF of a User Guide which I had found, probably via some post on 43 Folders.  I opened it up every once in awhile, reading little chunks of it here and there over the year, and have also used it as a reference.  I had kinda forgotten about it, but today, I was watching the Google Tech Talk on Quicksilver and remembered the manual, and figured I’d pick it back up where I left off..  Unfortunately, Preview.app decided to forget what page I was on when I last left off, and took me back to the first page.   On it I see the name of Howard Melman…  After some verification, I am shocked to learn that this valuable resource was written by someone who I’ve broken bread with on several occasions..  I wonder if Howard had already started coming to the film club by the time I had started reading this Manual, or if I have a bit of an excuse for my obliviousness…

SubEthaEdit for Free!

Since learning about SubEthaEdit from CodingMonkeys, I always felt it would have been a great piece of software to have access to while in college. The thought of collaborative notetaking seems very powerful. Anyway, there is some special pricing today on SEE as part of BLOGZOT 2.0 on MacZOT.com. The software starts out at a discount of $5, and every weblog/journal post about it (like this one) submitted to them will decrease the price by 5 cents, eventually making it free. That would mean that MacZOT and TheCodingMonkeys will award $105,000 in Mac software back to the community that made this sale possible. Sounds like some kind of crazy pyramid scheme, but it is sure to generate tons of buzz!

Go Go Gadget Dock

I’ve heard people grumble about the OS X Dock’s behavior before, but today I had my first real problem with it, the “Finder” item in the dock removed itself from the dock and planted itself on the desktop, but it was completely non-functional and couldn’t be dragged back to the dock. Killing the dock fixed the problem.


Land of the Dead was great, although as predicted the Sunday Night Film Club turnout was small (but I don’t really care). As is common in zombie flicks, the (living) characters had retreated to a fortified position, as have I. As the weather has gotten unbearably hot I have retreated to our air-conditioned bedroom. And my love for my Powerbook grows.

I have used command-line mailers for as long as I’ve had internet email. Originally, elm on my Unix UUCP account on Dan’s Domain (hoser@gen.ds.nj.us) through pine then mutt at CSH, I have been a loyal command-line user (although I did have a minor dalliance with Mail-It! while using BeOS). I played around with graphical mailers while convalescing, but had all kinds of trouble dealing with my 500+ mailboxes over IMAP, so I threw in the towel. I finally decided to move my mail archive off of CSH’s servers and onto my laptop, and have been using OSX’s Mail.app as my mailer for a few weeks now. So far, so good, and searching my mail with Spotlight is very, very nice. I tried Thunderbird back with my failed IMAP experiment, and while I fully support the Mozilla project, I think I’ll wait for it to get a bit of polish before I revisit it. Anyway, I had started to feel that the only reason I was sticking with CLI email was geek pride, and that I was just being stubborn. Seeing all the niceties you kids and your GUI mailers have had for god-knows how long now I think I was correct in that assessment.