Quicksilver vs. Spotlight

I’m no stranger to Macs—both my parents are long-time users. My mother still has a candy green G3 tower sitting around somewhere. I, however, bounced between various versions of Windows and Linux until last December, when I picked up a shiny new Macbook.

Quicksilver was one of “those” apps I was told to get—the list that included wonders like TextMate and Adium X—and I had it installed literally minutes after I first saw Leopard’s desktop.

I learned pretty quickly that Spotlight is a pretty decent application launcher itself. This is a change from the Tiger days, when there were little nags that prevented it from being a truly functional launcher. Now, I can type, see my result and tap Enter. I can type a word into it and wait for an in-line Dictionary.app definition to show up.

Quicksilver isn’t afraid of functionality; it’s known for it’s vast library of plugins and “power-user” functionality. Spotlight definitely pales in comparison to Quicksilver’s functionality, despite the overhauls that Leopard brought. But I use Quicksilver exclusively as an application launcher. When I want to Google/Wikipedia/Internet something, I do it in Firefox—it’s almost always open anyway. When I want to control iTunes, I use the dedicated buttons the newer Macbooks (mine included) have to play/pause and skip songs. Other crazy stuff like compose new emails inline, or send text to various applications is far beyond what I want my application launcher to do.

Logic would dictate that since the core functionality that I want is inherent in both and is performed exactly the same in both, I should be using Spotlight—after all, there isn’t an extra application running in the background eating RAM by indexing on top of what the operating system is already doing. So I did: I ditched Quicksilver for a week. I re-mapped Spotlight back to its default Command-Space, and Quicksilver back to it’s default of Control-Space. I then took Quicksilver off my startup items and rebooted.

The week went well—in fact, too well. I was almost sold. I didn’t really notice any improvements from the fact that Quicksilver wasn’t running, and so I decided to, as control, go back to Quicksilver for a week.

The first moment I hit Command-Space after getting Quicksilver running again had me sold. I find Quicksilver more responsive; I love how it is in my face instead of far in the corner; I like how it indexes new applications faster; and most of all, I find I prefer how it guesses what application I want better.

Believe me, if you’ve been sold on Spotlight for application launching already, give Quicksilver a shot.

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