The old days of Mac OS 8 and 9 are now far behind us, but there are certain features I — and many of my fellow veteran Mac users — still miss. Besides the fabled WindowShade, and Finder windows that behaved predictably, I long for the flexibility and power of the Control Strip, Launcher, and Application Menu. These have all been replicated in OS X to some degree, but sometimes the Dock and the new Apple Menu just don’t cut it.
Speedy resembles the old Control Strip, with a narrow bar of icons that each contain a separate menu, but it functions more like a Launcher and Application Menu combined. It offers a list of all running apps and open windows, quick access to your favorite files, folders, or recent/favorite web pages, clipboard snippets, workflows handling, and more. I’ve fallen in love with it. Allow me to explain why.
It’s right there in the name: Speedy. The app is for fast and easy access to files, folders, apps, windows, and other areas of your workflow. You can use it as either a menubar item or a small bar that floats over other windows. I use the bar, so this review will refer to it in that form. There are nine icons, each bearing a drop-down menu. From left to right, there’s Settings/About, Files, Folders, Apps, Shortcuts, Web Pages, Clipboard, Workflows, Open Apps/Windows.
The magic is that you have both recent and favorite choices, and where applicable these get sorted into groups. Files are grouped according to the app that would open them by default; web pages get moved within a submenu for the website that they are on; clipboard items get split into plain text, rich text, images, and links. It’s the most elegant mouse-based system I can recall seeing.
I use copy and paste a lot. Links, email addresses, images, tweets, quotes, names, articles — I’m such a serial copy/paster that I make routine use of Briksoftware’s CuteClips to keep multiple things in the clipboard. But Speedy’s implementation of clipboard support has weaselled its way in as the backup tool.
It remembers the most recent ten clips (switchable to five or 15) in each category, along with any commonly-used favorites that you set, making it the perfect go-to for when you want to use an old clip. To bring up the contextual menu of clips with the keyboard, press Command-Option-Control-v (you can change this shortcut in the Settings).
By default, Speedy lists your ten most recently-used folders, apps, websites, and file types. I say file types and websites — not files and web pages — because it actually hangs onto more than ten altogether. Suppose you’ve been creating and editing a lot of images in Photoshop, then exporting them to Preview, while also coding HTML or writing documents. Altogether you’ve got some 20-or-so files across the three or four apps. Speedy will list the recent files for each of these apps, sorted into submenus.
The same principle is true for web pages. Up to ten recent web pages will show up in a sub menu on each of the ten most recent websites, allowing potentially faster traversal through recent history than in the web browser itself. This functionality will integrate with your default browser, whatever that is — you don’t have to be a Safari user for the recent history to show up.
You can customize the order of your favorites list in each category, while recent lists get sorted according to time last used.
The second icon from the right unlocks one of Speedy’s most powerful features. You can add Automator and AppleScript workflows that make life easier, with five included by default (Create a New Folder, Eject Disks, GoWeb!, Hide All Applications, and Quit All Applications). This is incredibly useful once you get used to it, with powerful shortcuts available with just a couple of clicks. I use it to open my “work” apps — the apps that I currently need to do the majority of my writing work.
Bringing Back the Application Menu
I’ve saved what I see as the killer feature for last. Mission Control is handy for seeing every open window and app, but I already know what they look like, and if I have many things open I can’t just glance to find what I want — I instead have to laboriously scan across and down the screen. For this, it’s much easier if you do away with thumbnails and just give me a drop-down menu listing the names of every open window. That’s how it used to be done, before OS X, and that’s how Speedy does it.
With a single click, I can see at a glance what’s open — with the list for apps separated from the list for windows. These are sorted according to most recent use, however, which may be consistent with the rest of Speedy but is more of a burden than a boon for this function. I know what my apps and folders are called, so I want to easily glance at the alphabetical point in the list; instead I have to keep track of extra information or accept the extra second it’ll take to skim through the list. I hope a toggle option appears in the Settings of a future update.
Not for Keyboard Lovers
If you like to keep both hands on the keyboard, or you’re set on using keyboard shortcuts to speed around your workflow, Speedy probably isn’t for you. It has keyboard shortcuts, but you need to use the mouse to unlock its full potential. For the keyboard and macro worshipping, Spotlight replacements like Alfred, Quicksilver, and LaunchBar can handle most of Speedy’s features with gusto (and a whole lot more).
For the rest of us, Speedy quickly establishes itself as an essential system add-on — with touches of the old Mac OS packaged in a slick OS X shell. I wholeheartedly recommend giving it a shot.