Return of the King: Will Quicksilver Reign Once More?

Quicksilver. For seasoned Mac users that word instantly draws up fond memories of an app that was once at the top of every list of must have utilities. The beloved launcher has been out of the game for years though, an unceremoniously abandoned project that went before its time.

It seems though that the story doesn’t end there. The open source Quicksilver project, housed at QSApp.com, is alive and kicking and recently released a major update for Lion users. Intrigued? Read on!

Once Upon a Time

The very first article that I ever published on AppStorm way back in May of 2009 was about an application called Quicksilver (even then it was long past doomed). This Swiss army knife of a utility appeared to be an application launcher on the outside, but when you opened it up you found so much more.

Tucked away in a corner of the Preferences window was a huge collection of plugins waiting to be activated. These enabled the user to perform amazing tricks: converting units, definining words, mouse-activated gestures, pie-shaped menus for navigating the Finder, almost anything you could dream up, Quicksilver could do. Figuring out how it all worked took some dedication, many never made it beyond simple launching, but for the few dedicated souls who ventured further, great things awaited.

screenshot

The Quicksilver Constellation Menu

Quicksilver was an unbeatable command center for your Mac that made it popssible to perform a plethora of complex actions in a few simple keystrokes. In short, it was my favorite app. It wasn’t long before Quicksilver was so ingrained into the way that I used OS X that I couldn’t imagine using the latter without the former. I swore I’d never switch to anything else. There were other impressive contenders, but none with the appeal of QS and certainly none that offered so much for free.

Quicksilver is Laid to Rest

Then something happened. Blacktree, Quicksilver’s developer, abandoned us. It was unthinkable. So much time and effort had obviously been put into this project and yet the developers gave up before it even really achieved mainstream acceptance. Sure, there were always whispers that development was still active, and we’d occasionally see the beta number go up as new versions of OS X mandated slight updates, but ultimately, Quicksilver was stagnant, an unfinished thesis collecting dust as its author moved on to other projects. In fact, as early as 2007, Quicksilver’s impending doom was clearly spelled out by its creator in a Lifehacker article.

screenshot

Google Quick Search Box

It was said that Google had recruited Nicholas Jitkoff, the original developer of Quicksilver, to head up the GQSB project, a fresh start that would become everything we wanted from Quicksilver. Even with Google behind the project though, nothing really materialized that could even begin to match what Quicksilver had been.

Alfred Saves the Day

screenshot

Alfred

I actually really enjoyed using GQSB, it showed a lot of promise. However, there was simply too much in Quicksilver that I couldn’t leave behind. Despite being a long abandoned project, Quicksilver remained at the top of my most used apps for a long time.

It wasn’t until the arrival of Alfred, whose upcoming 1.0 release is something we were proud to exclusively break earlier this week, that I found a worthy replacement. Finally, I could let go. In its early stages Alfred lacked the depth of QS, but it made up for it in charm and promise. Further, Alfred is an active project. The development is racing along at breakneck speeds, new features are being added monthly and with the recent arrival of extensions and global shortcuts, it’s quickly becoming everything that QS once was and more.

Alfred is now the app that I use countless times per day. Its developers are rockstars in my book, super nice people dedicated to creating amazing software. Quicksilver was where I got my taste for rapid fire system wide control, but Alfred has officially taken the abandoned throne in this arena.

Quicksilver Returns

screenshot

You can download Quicksilver at QSApp.com

While most of us moved on to other launchers, a dedicated team of fans was determined not to let Quicksilver die. The project went open source and has been quietly seeing some incremental improvement. For the most part, there hasn’t been anything major, just slight improvements and bug fixes.

Recently though, the site LoveQuicksilver.com announced a big breakthrough. Quicksilver had officially made the jump to Lion. It sports a new icon, a sharp new theme and over forty other additions, fixes and changes.

Needless to say, this seemingly dead project just got a major kick in the pants. But is it enough? Can this app rise from the grave and return to its former glory? Is the Mac world about to see a resurgenece of Quicksilver users?

It’s possible. Despite its age, Quicksilver is still by anyone’s standards one heck of a powerful launcher. Now that many of the old plugins have been updated and are functioning again, Quicksilver is once again packing a serious functionality punch that’s hard to beat.

Too Little Too Late?

I downloaded the most recent build of Quicksilver and gave it another spin. The nostalgia definitely made me smile, but I simply don’t see myself going back. It’s definitely a little rough around the edges and doesn’t seem to have that instant, smooth feel that it once did. Plus, despite being quite grateful to the hardworking folks who have brought QS back to life, the app’s future still doesn’t seem as solid or promising as that of several competing launchers. And I don’t just mean the newcomers like Alfred. Long time contender Launchbar is still the favorite of plenty of Mac owners and has been fairly actively updated for years.

Regardless of what I’ll be using on a daily basis, I’m still stoked to see this beloved app striving for a comeback. Leave a comment below and let us know what you think. Are you once again using Quicksilver? Will you give it a shot after reading this article or do your loyalties lie elsewhere?


  • Pieter V

    I’ve kept using QuickSilver, stopped using Alfred once it became clear the the new features they were going to add that I actually wanted were going to be paid power pack features.

    Needless to say I’m very happy with the great work the people working on the open source project are doing.

  • http://ahmednuaman.com Ahmed Nuaman

    Quicksilver rocks my balls!

    • http://hlektronika-tsigara.com.gr/ Ηλεκτρονικο Τσιγαρο

      xexexe… me too :)

  • Amal

    Never left Quicksilver. Still use it hundreds (thousands?) of times a day. Very happy with the devs on the open source version.

    • Mr. Me

      I never left Quicksilver either! It’s an app about which I feel oddly intensely passionate. I don’t (or, perhaps, can’t) understand how other Mac users without Quicksilver use their computers in any effective or efficient manner—I swear by it.

      Sure, Alfred is nice. Launchbar is, perhaps, better. But Quicksilver, while arguably not as pretty as either of those launchers, seems to have more raw power in its sheer bare-bones simplicity. It’s an anti-productivity mass-murderer. And it’s FREE, thanks to open-sourcing and new developers.

      Quicksilver makes me a Mac ninja on (not-unhealthy) crack. I slice though files and folders like there’s no tomorrow. I can navigate my entire system without looking at the map. I can easily and simply make the complex things I routinely do one keystroke away. I can manipulate workflows and files without even knowing where the heck they are (which, of course, I could use Quicksilver to quickly find out, had I the need). With Quicksilver, I could probably take over the world—without a trackpad. Seriously. (Almost.)

  • zdlo

    I have paid copies of Alfred, Nukit, and anything else I don’t remember the names of, and I still continue using Quicksilver. Because others are, after all the hype, still, only a little more than “launcher”s.

    With a keystroke I defined for a specific iTunes playlist I already have, QS opens up, I start to type the name of the song within that playlist, it finds the song, I hit return, and it starts to play. If I can’t define a shortcut to search in a specific playlist, it will end up listing different versions of the same songs otherwise.

    This is just an example, showing how others don’t even come close. I was hopeful, but after QS started working again, I saw no reason to use anything but QS. And now it’s Lion compatible (it was working under Lion even before this release though).

    Yes, I know you can use Apple Scripts and some code to make Alfred do anything, but I wouldn’t probably need an app if I did that. And you can do everything you can with Alfred & Nukit (Launcher) combined with QS, and more, and more, and more. If you don’t, well, you don’t have to. But if you’ve already started using QS for some of the functions others don’t have, there is still no alternative. And now, you don’t even need an alternative, as they started to continue developing QS.

    With Quicksilver, you can program it to do anything within its interface. With others, you are either stuck with their limited selection, or you can write your own script or automation somewhere, and put it in the app just to be able to use its interface; which is beautiful in Alfred’s case I must say. However, I’m not going to write scripts to be able to use Alfred, and I’m not going to compromise QS features I’m already using.

  • Pedro

    I used Quicksilver, then went to Alfred ( which is great by the away), and now I’m back to Quicksilver.

    Quicksilver is more powerful and more versatile than the competition, the comma trick is, alone, the single reason you need to use Quicksilver.
    It is running solid on Lion.

  • http://photo.monkey.net Roger

    Never stopped using QS. Been using it heavy for many years. Nothing has came close

  • Pingback: www.04.11.2011 | ZWAME Portal

  • ical

    QS4ever! never stopped using it!

  • http://xyrer.wordpress.com Xyrer

    I tried Alfred, the google launcher and even tried using just old plain spotlight, but there was always something quicksilver did that no other does free, now that it’s back I compared it and it still has the lowest memory print and that big amount of functions we love. It’s always on my bar.

  • Ptkn

    Quicksilver makes using a computer an efficient and engaging pleasure. It connects you to everything you could need to use in incredibly intuitive ways. Who needs mice? Other contenders are just launchers.

  • Luis Martins

    “Too little…” Wow!!
    Quicksilver does so many more than any other of the alternatives mentioned. I’ve used it all, Launchbar for the most part after Quicksilver stopped being actively maintained.
    Now that Quicksilver is active again i dont even can consider other options, not until they come close to what QS allows me to do.

  • Rich

    Never left it – still the simplest and best.

  • http://www.themer.me Methemer

    Wow, lots of quicksilver fans here. Well. I used quicksilver for a year or so, because I didn’t know it had alternatives. I’m more of a designer than a developer, and I don’t like the way that quicksilver performs some things, for example if I search something and qs doesn’t find it, the list below is ugly, compared to the alrfreds one (besides cmd+1-9 comes in handy too). Because I’m not using QS to move files or perform tasks on them, Alfred works much much better for me.

    • http://www.themer.me Methemer

      Besides, Design does matter, A LOT!
      When quicksilver becomes a little more pretty, I might think about it.

      • guy

        Surely amongst the 15 or so different UI’s you can find one that appeals to you? Admittedly the default option isn’t that sexy but amongst the others there are options that mimic both Launchbar & Alfred, with the only difference that you can drag them to anywhere on the screen.

  • http://LoveQuicksilver.com LoveQuicksilver

    Thanks for trying out the latest version of Quicksilver, and I understand your sentiment.

    Quicksilver is an open source project, and only a year ago it’s development cycle was, although not dead, in a state of semi-consciousness. Since then, the development team has been revived, and has produced three version updates in the last 7 months. In fact, another update is due out in the next week.

    QSApp.com has recently started accepting donations. Not only as a result of the many requests we’ve had to accept them, but also to eliminate the ongoing cost of web hosting and to pay for books and software to enable the team to take Quicksilver to new heights.

    The people behind QSApp.com believe that Quicksilver is the most useful piece of software to have been written for the Mac. They have no intention of letting it die. Compatibility with Lion, donations for running costs, and the commitment of the developers mean that Quicksilver will be around for a few years yet!

    Alfred is a very real alternative to Quicksilver, and is continuing to improve. Distinct features of QS that I recommend include: large icons, text editing space, custom Catalogs that don’t rely on Spotlight, the ability to select and act on multiple files, URL browsing, Proxy Objects such as current document and Finder selection, over one hundred plugins, and the sheer extensibility of it – Quicksilver can get it’s hooks into almost anything, with a bit of effort.

    Things to come:
    Revived Trigger preferences
    Improvements to auto-plugins
    Better handling of faulty plugins
    64-bit Quicksilver
    And a lot more…

    Here’s to the future.

    @LoveQuicksilver

    • http://www.coroflot.com/joshuajohnson Joshua Johnson

      Thanks for the update!

  • http://jon.henshaw.me Jon Henshaw

    Was a big fan of Quicksilver (and still am) but I think Alfred got it right for the average user. Users who want to geek out will go with Quicksilver, but the rest will stick with Alfred.

  • http://overit.com Stephen Orsini

    Got my start with QS – and am now using Alfred… may give QS a try again. Another developer I work with still uses it… it’s good to see that it is being revived a bit.

  • http://8stars.org/ Adam Rice

    I never stopped using QS. I always managed to keep it working, albeit with some losses in functionality along the way.

    I did try out Alfred, and it definitely came close to giving me that Quicksilver feeling. Launchbar seemed worthwhile but didn’t fit with my Quicksilver-trained instincts.

  • Jon

    Last I used Alfred a few months ago, it was responsive but I hated the fact that for example, to launch the App Store, if I typed “app” it recognized it but if I typed “as” it didn’t. It doesn’t intuitively recognize app if what you type is not like the app name. I have many two character acronyms/abbreviations such as “dw for Dreamweaver and “ps” for Photoshop that Alfred failed to recognize, making it in the long run more difficult for me to launch apps quickly.

    Maybe I needed to retrain myself but why when QS still worked well for me before it’s recent update. Long live QS

    • Jean Ravin

      You need to check an option in the prefs for this to work : Features › Applications › Partial Matching…

  • https://twitter.com/#!/phette23 phette23

    I use both QS and Alfred but I’m more devoted to Quicksilver. Alfred’s best features are in the power pack which I can’t quite bring myself to purchase. QS is still very powerful and extensible. It’s improved markedly over the past year in terms of speed and stability. I’d say it’s going to stay in my apps for a long time.

  • Geoff

    The king is dead! Long live the king!

    Long time QS user here, but when I tried Alfred I gave up QS. Alfred can do many of the things others above are complaining it can’t. It’s easier to configure and add on features *I want* without the bulk and bloat of features I don’t want.

  • Pagey

    The question is: which is better, Notorious or 2Pac?

  • http://www.summerseale.com Summer Seale

    Wow, how timely! =)

    I, too, continued to use QS until *yesterday* when I switched to Alfred because I read that 1.0 came out and it was really amazing. Since years, I kept up with QS and wished it had become active again, but yesterday morning I finally switched.

    So far, I really like Alfred. I have a really special place for QS, but if it’s as you say, then I’m going to stick with Alfred for now. I can’t believe how I saw this article right after I switched. I thought QS fans were long gone.

    Still, if QS comes back and beats them all again, I will go back. That’s for sure.

    Thank you for writing this article and comparison. =)

  • cargath

    I tried QS several times when i got my first Mac. People always told me how great it was. But it didn’t work for me. I’ve had it running in the background for years but never actually used it. Sure, it’s extremely powerful, but i always found it awkward to use. For example, you can’t use backspace if you made a typo, you have reenter everything. And for most stuff you first have to select a command, often you even then have to select a subcommand, before you can start using it. Perhaps i’m an idiot, but it often took me multiple shots before i finally got it right. Alfreds simple textfield + keywords approach works a lot better for me. I tried a lot of app launchers, but Alfred is the first that i started using on a daily basis, and it’s the first i use for more than just launching apps. But still great QS is alive, nothing wrong with some competition :) It’s a great app, just doesn’t suit my needs.

  • http://fikkit.com Jeff

    Quicksilver was the first app I installed on my very first Macbook to blow me away. I couldn’t believe it was free.

    Anyway, I’ve never really stopped using it since. When it got buggy as hell circa the transition to Snow Leopard, I tried some of the alternatives—QSB, for example—and have been unimpressed by nearly all of them. If you know what you’re doing with QS you can a lot of amazing stuff. And lately, it’s getting better than ever.

  • guy

    I began using Quicksilver in 2009, just as everyone began spreading rumours about it being abandoned & an ex-App. I’ve used it ever since, plus I’ve spent lots of time with all the alternatives & I have come to the conclusion it’s incredibly superior to all of them. During all the time that people were dissing it I found no serious problems. Plus, even during these “abandoned” years the support community have been top notch. If anyone contacts the support group they’re rarely waiting more than an hour or two for a reply. Granted there have been one or two bugs over the last couple of years but that’s inevitable considering the vast amount of features it boasts & the fact that over the time since it’s gone open source Apple have pushed through two major software updates, snow leopard & lion. It now built up a committed core of devs who’re not only bug fixing but now also adding extra fixtures.

    What I’d really like to see would be 3 committed power users of Quicksilver, Launchbar & Alfred sat down together to compile a comparison list of the three. Which Application is best is not something that can be decided by one person.

  • http://twitter.com/joseluis Jose Luis Benavente

    Quicksilver -> Alfred -> Back to Quicksilver

  • QSisCrap

    QS and all other launchers are a waste of time. All you need is spotlight. Too much time is wasted talking about this app which is almost completely pointless.

    • Christian

      Variety is the spice of life, friend.

      Everyone is different, and clearly there are many people who like to try new things with their OS X installs.

      I’ve only been using macs for around 12 months after switching from windows. Tried a few launchers (including Spotlight) but eventually settled on Alfred for its simplicity.

      I will definitely be giving QS another look though, Spicy! :)

    • http://tuananh.us Tuan Anh Tran

      it’s not just about launching apps. Alfred (or others app launchers) could do so much more.

    • Jean Ravin

      Typical reaction of people who don’t get it. Spotlight is not even a good launcher.

  • Nathan

    I know that the Alfred powerpack costs money, but Alfred works best for me. I’d like to think I’m a power user and use it for everything I do. I gave Quicksilver a try, but found myself sticking with Alfred. It has a great interface, easy to set up and is efficient for my workflow.

  • http://www.miller-interactive.com Jonathan

    Quicksilver was cool, but its too little too late for me now. I’ve moved on to Launcher, and regardless of what they do, QS won’t be getting me back.

    • Joe

      Launchbar. Powerful and un-intrusive.

      Been using it for years and IMHO, it’s the best launcher for OS X.

  • http://adamawilliams.com Adam Williams

    A recent experience with the Quicksilver team reinforced my preference for it over the alternatives:

    I was fixing up an old iBook Clamshell a while back and I only had the discs for an older OS X – I think it was Panther, but I may be mistaken. Anyway, I thought I could use Quicksilver and increase my productivity on this little iBook no end.

    Unfortunately, though Quicksilver worked mostly well and added a lot of usefulness to the iBook, each time you powered up the machine, QS would bug you about the beta running out and direct you to update, which was impossible as that was the last ever compatible version.

    After contacting the Quicksilver team and detailing my issue, they quickly updated the beta so that it now worked flawlessly on the iBook with no nagging prompt and thus made me even more of a fan than I already was beforehand. After all, this is pretty old PowerPC hardware and from past experience I know that few developers would have bothered with the hassle.

    I’ve tried all the alternatives but something about the passion of the people behind the open source project keeps me firmly in the Quicksilver userbase.

  • Alexander Kludt

    Made the move to alfred, running their pro version now – happy and will not turn back. Sorry QS !

  • http://www.tylerlucas.ca Tyler Lucas

    This post read exactly how I went. Hardcore Quicksilver user then jumped ship to Alfred once it sunk. I too tried out the new Quicksilver but Alfred has won me over for good. Now my most used app.

  • Dinesh

    Quicksilver… I missed you so so much…
    Every time I used Alfred, I wished I had QS.

  • Melvin

    Already in a serious relationship with Alfred now… sorry QS, maybe some other time.

  • Pingback: Best of AppStorm in November | Mac.AppStorm

  • Pingback: Best of AppStorm in November | Apple World

  • Pingback: Best of AppStorm in November | iPad.AppStorm

  • Pingback: Best of AppStorm in November | Design City

  • Pingback: Best of AppStorm in November | Windows.AppStorm

  • Pingback: Best of AppStorm in November | iPhone.AppStorm

  • Pingback: Best of AppStorm in November

  • Pingback: Best of AppStorm in November | Android.AppStorm

  • Pingback: Best of AppStorm in November | androide.rs

  • murray

    For the power user there is no comparison between QS and the free version of Alfred – Alfred is like the Fischer-Price toy of launchers… pretty, simple, and for the kids. Even the power pack version cannot match QS for power. I do however agree that for the Mac newbie, Alfred is a simpler entry point. Still there is no justification for paying for Alfred when free software of QS’s quality is out there – it is quite simply a waste of money.

  • Darla B.

    Was a hardcore QS user back in the days, but it started slowing down and actually impeding my workflow. Looked for alternatives and found, fell in love with and now I swear by Alfred. Made the jump to Powerpack a few days ago. It costs money, but for something you use everyday, it’s money well spent!

theatre-aglow
theatre-aglow
theatre-aglow
theatre-aglow