Many fans of productivity would have no doubt come across the utility Quicksilver by now.
I first heard of it in 2006 and was suitably impressed by its speed as a launcher.
A number of competitors have risen in its wake, notably LaunchBar and Alfred. However since OS X’s earliest days there has been a way to setup a similar launcher. That’s right, its nearly been there all along. No, I’m not talking about Spotlight. That can be a bit, shall we say, wacky with the search results. At least until recently, at the moment you had found what you wanted it would substitute some random result and you’d be launching a half-buried text file. This is much more stable and by that I mean predictable.
Want to give it a try? You already have everything you need. No need to install anything. This is for people who don’t like installing any utilities on their macs.
First, get all the applications you’d like to be able to launch quickly into your Dock.
Now, visit System Preferences ➔ Keyboard ➔ Keyboard Shortcuts ➔ Keyboard & Text Input
Have a look at Move Focus to the Dock. What’s “Focus”? Is that that crazy Swedish prog rock band? No, it’s just what receives input from the user— you.
It should be enabled, but by default the keyboard shortcut is set to control-something. Who the heck wants to use that? Too awkward.
Make it Command- or control- space if you like that sort of thing. Mind that you don’t clash with Spotlight. In my example I’m using “F1” because I like a single keystroke. Maybe you’d like to employ the services of the Caps Lock key, as you don’t do much SHOUTING. For that you’d need Keyboard Maestro or KeyRemap4MacBook which is beyond the scope of this post.
Now try it. Hit F1 ,or whatever you set — the Dock appears if hidden, or is ready to act if you have it showing.
Don’t touch the mouse!
Start typing a few letters of the app’s name. Boom*! It’s selected. Who knew, all this time? Press return or space. Boom! It’s launched or brought to the front if it’s already running. Not quite the app you wanted? Tab through all the Dock items. Shift-tab to go backwards. Or use the left and right arrow keys. To me, this is hardly different from using the down arrow key to advance through the Quicksilver search results.
Press the up arrow to see the contextual menu— you would have normally right-clicked with the mouse.
What about the documents? I like keeping my favourite documents in the Dock too. I know, it’s weird.
No problem. Control-Tab jumps you over to the Dock’s document section, where you can type a few letters of the document you wish to launch.
So what about the folders I have in this Documents section? OK, once you have a folder selected, press the up arrow key to invoke the contextual menu. Start typing the first few letters of the item you wish to select. Press return or space to launch it. Unless it’s a folder, in which case space doesn’t do anything. Pressing return or command-down arrow gets you into the folder, the same as the standard Finder shortcut. Pressing Command-up arrow lifts you up one level.
Not the folder you were after? Press escape to dismiss the menu.
When finished with all this Dock goodness, press escape to dismiss and return the focus to whatever app you were in.
OK, so it doesn’t do everything that Quicksilver can. It won’t learn, so you’ll have to do the learning for it. Rearrange the apps in the Dock so the favourites are on the left or top if you use the Dock vertically.
*- I originally had “bang” here, but then I remembered that “boom” was more Jobsian.