November 07, 2007

Leopard: Quicksilver for the rest of us?

In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts: they come
back to us with a certain alienated majesty.
— Ralph Waldo Emerson

I believe that when you get to a certain number of objects, search trumps categorization, and as I’ve detailed previously, a number of Adobe apps (InDesign, After Effects, Illustrator) feature built-in methods for searching the interface (applying commands, finding help).  We haven’t quite gotten to the point of rolling out a unified, cross-product way to drive the applications via search, however.

To meet the need, many Mac power users dig Quicksilver–a powerful little utility that enables searching, app launching, car-waxing, and more.  Try as I might, though, I’ve never gotten into QS.  It’s not that it doesn’t do enough; it’s that it can do so much, and I get totally bewildered by setting a 747 cockpit’s worth of switches.

That’s why I’m intrigued by Leopard’s Spotlight-style searching of application menus (a weirdly unheralded feature, I think).  As you type, related terms pop up, and as you arrow through the list of results, Leopard highlights the results.  Here’s an animated screenshot of the feature running in Photoshop.

I’ve found that by assigning a global keyboard shortcut ("Cmd-?") to Help->Search via system preferences, I can now drive any Mac app’s menus via the keyboard.  That’s pretty powerful: instead of having to memorize (or assign) lots of keyboard shortcuts, or having to hunt and peck through rarely-used apps’ menus, it’s now possible just to hit Cmd-?, then start typing.

Yes, I know that Quicksilver can do much more, and there’s all kinds of room to improve on the Leopard feature.  That said, the latter’s simplicity makes it really appealing.  I’ll be curious to see how much I (and others) end up using it day-to-day. [Update: Apparently I’m not alone: I see in the notes of this podcast that Leo Laporte has ditched Quicksilver in favor of Leopard menu search.]

* Side note: I love that it’s now possible to browse Safari’s history via the search feature.  I’ve been using search in Safari 2, but the new UI exposes the capability much more readily.  On a further side note, apparently the extension Safari Stand will bring Cover Flow viewing to your history.

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