Quicksilver 3-pane window, showing the icons needed to open a specific file in Pages.

The Secret of Quicksilver

Quicksilver is difficult to describe – it’s a keyboard-controlled launching utility, or perhaps a keyboard-operated graphical shell. It can be immensely helpful to anyone who uses keyboarding as their main type of computer input – including switch users and voice input users.

This program is not something that I use personally and even people who know it very well have a hard time describing it in a single paragraph. It’s pretty much something that’s aimed at very geeky or somewhat technically inclined users. The Quicksilver website says:

An introduction to Quicksilver’s abilities include:

  • Accessing applications, documents, contacts, music and much, much more.
  • Browsing your Mac’s filesystem elegantly using keywords and ‘fuzzy’ matching.
  • Managing content through drag and drop, or grabbing selected content directly.
  • Interacting with installed applications through plugins.

It would also be perfect for VoiceOver users if it were accessible, but sadly it’s not VoiceOver compatible at this time. I reached out to the development team and they confirmed there’s unfortunately no active development on the accessibility front.

There are over 100 plugins which change or extend QuickSilver’s abilities in some area. Most of them allow it to work with specific Mac programs that it doesn’t otherwise cooperate well with. When you first run Quicksilver it’s quite helpful to guide you through installing all the plugins that are appropriate to the programs you already run, as well as a set of standard plugins that most users will find helpful.

Here are some websites that I found helpful and reasonably recent for those learning QuickSilver:


Other sites:

Finally for those who like the idea of keyboard control but aren’t ready to deal with something as complex and unwieldy as Quicksilver, the two alternatives usually recommended are Alfred and LaunchBar. I use Alfred myself and plan to write about it in future.

Users interested in Quicksilver are also advised to look at this ebook for more advice on making your Mac use efficient and quick:

Recommended: Take Control of Automating Your Mac Recommended: Take Control of Automating Your Mac If you use copy and paste, you’re eliminating unnecessary retyping and possible typos. But did you realize that you could be using dozens of additional shortcuts that make tedious tasks quick, accurate, and repeatable? In this essential title, Joe Kissell shines a light on OS X’s many built-in shortcuts and provides sweeping coverage of the utilities that go even further.

Do you use Quicksilver or have you used it in the past? I’d love to hear from disabled users about their experiences …

– Ricky

2 thoughts on “The Secret of Quicksilver”

    • Paul: Me too! It’s one of those things that’s spent literally years on my “I should learn about this… for ATMac at least … really I should…” list but never really got into my head.

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