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43F Interview: Alcor, Developer of Quicksilver
Merlin Mann | Sep 16 2004
Alcor: Quicksilver started out as a module based applescript for OS 9 using a healthy dose of AKUA Sweets. It basically supported drag and drop and performing of some basic actions and scripts on the dropped items or the finder selection. It launched stuff too, but was an unwieldy dialog of applications you had to sift through. The initial point of it was to speed up day to day tasks like emailing and file manipulation. It sometimes took longer to do stuff using it than by hand, but was mostly a fun toy. The idea behind it was sound, and that is what made it through to the OS X incarnation. The focus has not changed since the beginning, but the implementation has become far more flexible (though perhaps less reliable.)
43 Folders: Were there particular things that weren’t happening with the other launchers that made you want to take a crack at it?
Alcor: The main thing that OS X seemed lacking was OS 9’s ability to drill down into folders with astounding speed by typing portions of the names of each folder and opening them. 9 let you navigate a well organized hierarchy of directories almost completely blind just using keys. The column view in X was nice, but wasn’t nearly as snappy. Dealing with files X was just a lot less fun. LB was a huge help for a while, but back then still didn’t allow sub searching within directory contents and still required the mouse to move files about. In the hopes of bringing back the quick file system drilling and manipulation, Quicksilver was given a Cocoa transfusion and came sputtering back to life.
43 Folders: Have you been pleased with what you’ve seen so far in Tiger, and how much has it affected your thoughts on future development directions for Quicksilver?
Alcor: The new technologies in Tiger will be phenomenally useful. The main thing that QS suffers from now is poor data structures and management. In addition to making solving these problems a whole lot easier, Tiger will provide access to a very well structured data source (Spotlight) and a whole slew of new action possibilities (Automator).
43 Folders: What are the unique challenges of developing for a Mac audience?
Alcor: We are a very outspoken and discerning bunch. Apple has pretty much spoiled us rotten, Half want speed and half want functionality, but everyone seems to want class. The mix of old school mac and unix users has led to very diverse expectations, but despite their fervor the users are tolerant of inconveniences, eager to troubleshoot, and quite innovative. A lot of the better features of QS came from requests.
43 Folders: What’s your favorite productivity tool on OSX (other than Quicksilver)?
Alcor: The problem is that the features of anything useful tend to be assimilated if they can be improved using the QS framework. Now just FuzzyClock remains, with a slew of highly unstable scripts and tools developed to make life on the edge a just a little more comfy.
43 Folders: What is the best power user Quicksilver trick that nobody uses (or knows about)?
Alcor: Hard to say. People seem to keep finding features that were coded at 5 in the morning and promptly forgotten, so the problem is that nobody knows about them. The best new ones are probably the search contents action and the ability to collect multiple items with comma (B30). It is kinda buggy at the moment, but it will become more and more useful as support for that syntax propagates down to all the plugins.
43 Folders: What do you like to listen to when you code?
Alcor: There is no better background noise than cheezy teen dramas on the WB.
43 Folders: You ever going to charge? Where can people donate now?
Alcor: Open sourcing may not happen anytime soon, but over the next couple years it is highly unlikely that payment will ever be required. A donation window and reminder will appear in a future release. There may be unknown perks for benefactors. All proceeds will go to charity.
Thanks a million to the very busy (and usually much more laconic) Alcor for taking the time to chat with us. Quicksilver is a bit of a pet project for the fanboy behind 43 Folders, so please keep dropping by to pick up power user tips, tutorials, and updates on the latest “5 in the morning” features Alcor’s brewing up.
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