March 21st, 2007
I had this moment of absolute hilarity just a few minutes ago. I was playing with Quicksilver and tossing tasks into my inbox for Actiontastic, when I discovered that if I jump the gun and execute a command before giving an action to it, it would do the default action “Large Type”. Basically it just splashes the text on the screen. After a couple of fumbles, I thought I would mock myself for a moment. Little did I realize how well I would mock myself – or how much it would make me laugh. I still chuckle every time I look at the screen shot.
I just had to blog about this funny moment. At the same time, I’m going to explain how I took this screenshot, renamed it and converted it to 200×200 pixels in a few seconds and without touching my mouse! All thanks to Quicksilver.
What is Quicksilver anyway?
Quicksilver is an application for Mac OS X (ten) that allows you to do stuff on your computer without reaching for your mouse. You type in a few commands, it shows you visually what is going on and you hit ‘enter’ to execute the command. An example is resizing an image. To do that, you can type in this sequence of characters:
ctrl+space, yarad, resiz, 200x200, enter that is effectively 19 characters. If you can type 50 WPM, then you can execute a command like that in about 2 seconds – which is about how long it would take just to reach for your mouse.
Why not to reach for your mouse.
If you are a decent typist, then there is good reason not to reach for your mouse. As I explained in the last paragraph, you can execute a resize command in the same amount of time it takes to remove your fingers from the keyboard and reach for the mouse. Never-mind clicking through folders to find the image, launch a program, find the appropriate menu item, resize and then save.
When I settled into my first job as a programmer, I was faced for the first time with the idea of programming in UNIX with an command line editor. It was a fairly daunting task to initially grasp how to do that, but it really wasn’t very long before I came to LOVE being unchained from my mouse. I was using VI – I still like VI. I could move around the document and jump to key sections with a couple of keystrokes – less than a second, compared to how many seconds of scrolling and searching were I to use a mouse?
Why reach for your mouse?
What’s the right word for using your mouse? I’m going to call it mousing. Mousing is great for exploring and learning. It’s very tactile and allows us to use complicated computer programs immediately that might take days to learn if we had to memorize all the keyboard commands. In that sense it frees us from the necessity of keeping loads of info about each program in memory. Instead we remember the locations of the things we need and ignore all the functions we don’t need.
If you are really serious about being a computer professional and a master of your machine, I think you have to ditch your mouse at some point and embrace the old-school concept of mastery. The goal is to never explore to find the commands you need. Learn them and execute them with a few keystrokes. You can shave hours of wasted time from your weeks, months and years.
Edit: It occurred to me after writing this that one of the great things about Quicksilver is that you can both explore the commands, and stay at your keyboard, thereby learning mastery while you explore.
Resizing and renaming an image with Quicksilver
I promised that I would explain how I took this screenshot, renamed it and resized it without touching the mouse. Here’s what I did.
- Pressed the OS X keyboard command to take a screenshot:
- Invoked Quicksilver:
- Found the file on the desktop by typing:
Desk<space>picturethen I used the arrow keys to pic the latest picture. When you create a screenshot, it is created as
picture 1.png, then the next is create as
picture 2.pngand so on. In my case, it was
picture 10.pngI need to clean up my desktop.
- Once I locked on the picture I wanted, I hit
tabto choose my command then
renwhich searches and finds the “Rename…” action.
- Then I hit
taband typed in the new name
Voila! File renamed. This may seem complicated by reading all of those steps, but really it isn’t. It took just a few seconds, and would be faster if I was more familiar with Quicksilver and didn’t have so many screenshots on my desktop.
*It occurs to me I could have done this faster by not first going to the desktop in step 3. I could just type
picture and picked “picture 10.png”
Now to resize the picture? I did just as I said in the first paragraph.
ctrl+space, yarad, resiz, 200x200, enter. This automatically creates a file
yaradork 1.png with the new dimensions. I then proceeded to my blog to write up this article.
Boy this is exciting stuff. I’m already starting eye my mouse with more distain. It’s not unimaginable that I’ll move it waay across the desk so I’m less likely to reach for it and more inclined practice on a new Quicksilver skill to do the same thing in less time.