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.
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.
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
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.
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?