MAC OS X – Quicksilver: instantly create text files and prepend or append text to them

Suppose you are in the middle of something, reading a post on a blog, or writing a fine article in your editor of choice, or even writing some code for your ground breaking web 2.0 application. And ka-boum: you have an idea! Something so interesting, so juicy and fun to think about crosses your mind, than you feel you can’t live anymore until you actually write down that piece of thought. Somewhere, somehow. So there you go:

  1. leave your current activity/application
  2. open Finder (or some other program menu containing an outliner application shortcut, for instance)
  3. open that outliner application
  4. open a new file in it
  5. start writing the marvelous idea
  6. hit save as menu item
  7. chose location and save
  8. close the outliner application
  9. return to your current activity/application

But here’s how it would look like, if you would use Quicksilver:

  1. type CTRL + spacebar to invoke Quicksilver window (while having the current activity/application still in front of you)
  2. type “.” and start writing your marvelous idea
  3. hit TAB and type “cre..” meaning the first letters of your “Create file” action of Quicksilver, and then enter (this really counts like a single action)
  4. chose location and save
  5. hit escape to hide Quicksilver window

Huh! We are four steps shorter than the original approach. That counts for less physical work, and less time, almost half, right? Nice, isn’t it? But that’s not the only advantage: you actually remain in the flow, while your thoughts are free to fly. Isn’t that really nice?

So, how we actually do that?

We will learn – in less than 5 minutes – how to quickly create files with just a couple of keystrokes. We will then prepend text to them, like in an idea stack, where the last idea must be the first one. And then we will append text to them, like in a journal that we keep while actually working. It’s fun to have all that power of getting things out of your head, while still doing some other stuff.

Let’s start: ignite Quicksilver with your keystroke of choice, mine is CTRL + Spacebar:


Quicksilver bezel interface

Now, if you just type, Quicksilver will act like an application launcher, and start searching for the closest match of your typing, being that an application or a file. If you just want to quickly start typing, just press “.” and start typing.

Quicksilver actions - type text

You see that in the right pane the default selected action is “Large Type”, which does nothing but print your text all over the screen. Preety nifty, to be honest, but we don’t want that for now. We want to instantly create a file from what we wrote, so we hit Tab, and the type “cre…”, meaning the first letters of the action “Create file…”.

Quicksilver actions - type text

Don’t worry, Quicksilver will learn from your behaviour, and in time, the most used action will be presented first, replacing the one you see right now. After we chosed the “Create file…” action, all we have to do is hit Enter and chose a name and destination for our newly created file:

Quicksilver save file

Took you far more less to do that, that it took for me to write it…

Let’s go even further, let’s prepend some text to our newly created file. Ignite Quicksilver again, press “.” and start the most recent idea you had. Now hit Tab and type “pre…” which will bring you the “Prepend to…” action, and, surprise, there’s a third pane, from which you will actually chose the file.

Quicksilver prepend text to file

In the third pane, the one in the picture above, start writing the name of your file, or, even simpler, the name of the folder which contains your file, let’s say “Documents”. Quicksilver will open another window below the third pane, where you will navigate in the folder structure, using arrows keys.

Simple stuff. Really simple and effective stuff. And for the appending operation, the drill is almost the same: ignite Quicksilver, press “.”, start typing, hit Tab, and the type “appe…”, meaning the first letter of the “Append to…” action. In the third pane, start looking for your document, select it and hit Enter.

Quicksilver append text to file

We learned in less than 5 minutes how to quickly create text files from our random thoughts or notes, and then how to append or to prepend text to them. It’s like having a whole new layer of functionality on top of your whole Mac, a layer that you access by simply typing CTRL + Spacebar.

That was for today, thank you for reading and look forward to see you again here for more tips.

[tags]Quicksilver, Mac OS X, productivity[/tags]


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3 Responses to MAC OS X – Quicksilver: instantly create text files and prepend or append text to them

  • [...] One part that really hurts in my GTD effort is the lack of a Quicksilver-ish way to add random data. The Java platform and the whole application architecture of ThinkingRock is not so permissive for that. So, I found myself often stuck with my Quicksilver console opened, and no way to easily translate my thoughts into my system. Then I create small text files with Quicksilver – can have a look here for a small tutorial – and then copy / paste the content into ThinkingRock. [...]

  • hey, I am trying to figure out if there is a similar way to create a folder. I would like to be able to use the text action to create the name of the folder as well as adding spotlight comments to it, like:
    Title of folder>spotlight comments for the info pane.

    Know of anything like that?

  • Making a folder is fairly easy:

    1. Fire Quicksilver and go to the folder where you want the folder to be created

    2. TAB to action pane
    3. Type “new…”
    4. You’ll have a “New folder” action, hit Enter, and you’ll have a chance to write the name of the folder in the third pane.

    As for adding spotlight comments, I’ll digg deeper as I don’t know yet a way. Not a big spotlight fan I guess…

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