Taking Shortcuts with Google Quick Search Box

Google Quick Search Box is the next step in the evolution of Google Desktop: it goes a step beyond simply letting you search the files on your computer to provide an integrated tool that lets you take a variety of actions from a launch bar. It’s designed in part by Nicholas Jitkoff, one of the original developers of Quicksilver.

The biggest advancement with Google Quick Search Box is the ability to perform actions on your search results. Where once you could only find files from Google Desktop, you can now launch files, email them as attachments, and move them to the trash just as easily.

Setting Up Google Quick Search Box

Downloading Google Quick Search Box and installing it is a relatively simple matter. On a Mac, though, set up can take a few minutes as you decide which applications to give the tool access to, as well as adding your various accounts.

Within Preferences, you can choose what files Google Quick Search Box can search. Unlike Google Desktop, Google Quick Search Box does not need to index the files it searches. Instead, it makes use of Spotlight’s index in order to save hard drive space and speed up your searches.

If you choose to make every possible item searchable on your computer, you don’t have to worry about a slow indexing process. Among the files you can make accessible are your Address Book contacts, Dictionary and other files on your computer.

Setting up GQSB

Setting up GQSB

You can also access information saved in various Google tools online by adding your Google account information in your preferences. Once you’ve set up your account, you can access Google Bookmarks, Picasa Web Albums and Google Docs just as easily as you can launch an application installed on your computer. You can also run Google searches just by typing your keywords into Google Quick Search Box.

Google Quick Search Box in Action


Not only can you launch Calculator with Google Quick Search Box, but you can also complete calculations in the search box itself — no other application needed. Want to do some quick arithmetic? You can simply type your math problem into the search box and you’ll get an answer as one of your search results.




The integration with iTunes is similarly useful. If you want to listen to a particular song, you can search for it and queue it up in iTunes. You can also search for playlists and quickly change up what you’re listening to. You can also control your computer’s volume by typing the word ‘volume’ and selecting the level you need. If you’ve already built a few playlists from your music, you can control all of your music from your keyboard.



Address Book & Mail

The integration with the Address Book and Mail is particularly useful. You can search for your contacts with the Google Quick Search Box: you’ll immediately see their email addresses, but you can also use the launch bar to create a new email to that contact or open the address book entry. You can eliminate several steps in opening applications, searching for particular contacts and composing new messages, letting you speed up your workflow significantly.

Address Book

Address Book

Google Docs

As long as you’ve allowed Google Quick Search Box access to your Google account, it can search through your Google Docs and display matching search results alongside results from your computer. If you select a document that is saved to your Google Docs account, Google Quick Search Box will launch it as a new tab in your browser.

Google Docs

Google Docs


You can open websites from the search box, just by typing in the address. You can also search for sites you’ve bookmarked — Google Quick Search Box can automatically handle Camino, Safari and Google Bookmarks. With the right plugins, you can also open Firefox and Delicious bookmarks.




One of the options always available in your search results is the ability to look up any search terms you enter in Google. Selecting that option will open your search in your browser, letting you look through the results.



Site Searches

If you need to search within a particular website, Google Quick Search Box allows you to quickly do so: type in the address of the site you want to search within and hit ‘Tab’. Just type your search right after the website you’re searching and the results will appear below the search box. Selecting one will launch it just like any other website.

Site Searches

Site Searches

Finder Integration

Google Quick Search Box can handle many of the tasks you might previously handled with Finder. You can access the Clipboard (and the last 25 items you copied to it), just by typing Clipboard in the search box and hitting ‘Tab’. You can drag and drop icons to the desktop, access the Dashboard, eject disk images and move files. For each of these tasks, it’s just a matter of typing the file name into Google Quick Search Box and checking the options for interacting with them by hitting ‘Tab’. You can also use keyboard shortcuts, such as ‘ej’ for ejecting a disk image that you’ve already selected.

You can access the menus within various programs, allowing you to take steps like opening recent documents: type the name of the application and hit ‘Tab’. The menus will appear among your search results, allowing you to easily access options like ‘Open Recent Document’ even when the application isn’t even open.

Finder Integration

Finder Integration

You can also control your computer on a broader level than just interacting with files: you can access the ‘restart’, ‘shutdown’ and ‘sleep’ options for your Mac, just by typing the appropriate word and clicking the icon that appears in your search results. The same technique works with locking your screen and logging out.

Customizing Google Quick Search Box

Google specifically built Google Quick Search Box so that users could add on new tools to the existing framework. One of the first plugins to be created for Google Quick Search Box was a Twitter tool: you can tweet by typing your message into the search box and selecting the ‘Send Twitter Status’ action, provided you’ve added your Twitter account already.

Customizing GQSB

Customizing GQSB

A number of other plugins are are already available, such as a plugin for managing task lists with Things. The code for Google Quick Search Box is open source and available on Google Code. Download the application and give it a try – you might find that it becomes a real time saver!

  • Oskar

    Just need Quicksilver’s proxy feature to move files and folders around and I’ll be one happy QSB user.

  • lockwesmonster

    Has anyone used this and quicksilver? I’ve always used quicksilver and I’ve heard that it is more robust than its predecessor, but I don’t exactly know how or why.

    Any comparison would be appreciated.

  • Guario

    I’m a quicksilver user and I have been using Google QuickSearchBox for about a week and a half now. I really like the speed and stability (both things that QuickSilver is lacking). But There are some things that make it impossible for me to fully drop QuickSilver in favor of Google QuickSearchBox. In QuickSearchBox you can only move files to the trash, at least I have not found a way to move a file to another location like you could do in QuickSilver. QuickSearchBox is also missing “copy to”, “Rename” and the ability to select multiple files and perform the same action. I use QuickSilver to move or copy multiple files at the same time. Saves a lot of time.

    Right now I’m using QuickSearchBox for most of my workflow with the exception of File type actions. But I’m really excited about the direction it is taking. It’s super fast and has not crashed on my once. I forsee me going fully QuickSearchBox sooner rather than later.

  • Joshua Johnson

    Great article! I love QSB. I would make the switch from QuickSilver if they would only include triggers!

  • Waldemar Axdorph

    haha, nice job covering up the email-address. You can see it in the lower left corner of the window. ^^

    • http://davidappleyard.net David Appleyard

      :-) – I’m sure it’s nothing confidential!

  • http://twitter.com/sulcalibur Sulcalibur

    I love Googles QSB I did try Quicksilver a while back but for some reason just couldn’t get along with it. This just ‘works’ for me. I even added a quick add plugin for The Hit List and a search through Delicious too.

    I think the quality and stability of the plugins will make or break this app.

  • http://www.wasabiburger.com Ken Kurosawa

    I’ve found that QSB is a good bit slower than QuickSilver on my Mac Pro 2×2.8QuadCore. It’s also the same story on my MacBook Pro. (One running Leopard and the other is running Snow Leopard)
    In either case, I’ve been leaning toward QSB because it gives me an option to sleep/restart/shutdown the computer which is something that really comes in handy for me.

    • http://soyek.pl Soyek

      Hey Ken! You can sleep/restart/shutdown Your Mac in Quicksilver too! Just find and enable the Extra Script plugin.

      BTW. How to make some item a default search for a letter in GQSB? It feels for me like Google’s app can’t do well for me the main thing I need, which is apps lunching, so I don’t see it replacing QS on my Mac.

    • http://twitter.com/geshem_audio Elad Gariany

      I use QuickSilver to Sleep/Restart/Shutdown my Mac Pro, look for the Extra Scripts plugin which should do the work.

      Anyway, I’m upgrading soon to SL and since QuickSilver development stopped (forever I guess) I will probably become a new QSB user. The above article convinced me for sure!

  • http://flickr.com/fiz FiZ

    I’ve used both for at least half a year and right now, both are lacking in one area or another. I’ve actually had more problems with GQSB hanging and crashing than QS, believe it or not.

    While I love that what I’m typing in GQSB can become an instant web search, I miss all the hackety scripting capabilities of good ol’ QS. Another area in which quicksilver shines over GQSB is that quicksilver seemed to actually ‘learn’ what I was looking for when I kept selecting the 3rd result from a commonly typed word. GQSB still doesn’t get it or at least it forgets often enough to make it tiresome to always hit another couple of keys to get to my fluid app named Gmail, not the website for regular Gmail.

  • http://www.guidorossi.com.ar Guido

    I was using Quicksilver, then I take a look at QSB and really like it…used QSB for a while but now I’m back with Quicksilver…
    QSB is great but it has a way to cross…some bugs, some times get very slow and some crashes too….

    I will keep an eye on QSB, but for now I still with Quicksilver

  • Nathan Lunsford

    I was using Quicksilver for a long time, and had tried QSB for the stability and speed (and just to try something different), but the functionality of Quicksilver kept me coming back. It was only after I upgraded to SL that I abandoned QS (for Launchbar, since SL prevented me from using QS–it kept crashing & in order to keep it from crashing I had to lose too much functionality. I’m fast becoming a fan of Launchbar.

  • http://trishussey.com/ Tris Hussey

    I think the guy who wrote QS was scooped up by Google for QSB. I tried QSB for a bit and stopped using it, but I think there is a better chance that QSB will be updated vs QS. Time to dust it off again I think.

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  • Ken in Nashville

    The one thing I loved in Quicksilver that I can’t find in Google Quick Search Box was being able to set up Quick searches for different websites – like say eBay, Versiontracker, or NPR. Then I could search that site from QS and be taken to the results immediately. Admittedly it wasn”t easy to set up, requiring you to first get a search results page on a particular site, then bookmark it and modify the URL a little. But it worked great.

    • http://twitter.com/sulcalibur Sulcalibur

      This is super easy. Just type the url, say ‘ebay.co.uk’ then hit tab then the search term, then you will get a Google page of searches for that term on that site – TAA DAA!

      • Ken in Nashville

        Yes I tried that, but I was talking about a search results page from the originating site, not Google, which is a little better to me.

  • ScottNYC

    I don’t even wanna hear about QuickSilver anymore, that shit is dead. I used it for years and tried my hardest to salvage it, but I moved on. Haven’t tried google’s quick search, but I can tell you Launchbar is pretty good and getting better. The majority of QS users have switched over to launchbar as far as all my co workers and everyone else I’ve talked to. The thing with QS is their trying to just get it back to where it was, its evolution is over. It will never be more polished then it was at its peak, thats why I left it. I wanna know the application Im using will get better with every update and not just get back a feature it used to have. Best case scenario for QS is that it will have 1/2 the functionality it used to possess. Other then that the open source projects focus is to keep it from crashing.

  • http://thedrawer.tumblr.com Eugene

    I found that it was slow and unresponsive on my Mac. I typed in an app’s name and it took ten seconds to find something near it, yet no the one I was looking for. QuickSilver was nice and quick, Spotlight even quicker.

    Until this gets up to speed, I’m gonna have to use Spotlight.

  • Perumula

    Ok, maybe I’m totally lost, but I can find NO way to make QSB search MY computer!! No results appear even when I’m looking at files with the search name in them. What am I missing?

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  • http://minimalisten.tumblr.com/ Robin Lundgren

    Umh, Alfred anyone?

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