Head to head
When you need to up your efficiency, where do you turn? Theo Nicolaou compares two productivity-boosting apps
Alfred versus Quicksilver
Alfred ( www.alfredapp.com) is a popular alternative for Mac OS X’s Spotlight search app. It can boost your productivity by enabling you to use hotkeys, keywords and more to search your Mac and trigger repetitive tasks. It is free to install, but many advanced features are only available in the Powerpack (see below).
INSTALLATION and PRICING Quicksilver
Quicksilver ( www.qsapp.com) is an open-source alternative to Spotlight, working very much in the same way as Alfred to improve your productivity. It has a wealth of preferences and options for you to configure and offers a large plugin repository you can use to extend Quicksilver’s functions. Alfred is free to install and use, but most advanced features require a Powerpack licence (starting from £17). Also available to buy is the Alfred Remote, which enables you to control Alfred from your iOS device. Quicksilver is open source, meaning it is completely free to install and use. You can find more information about the project on the website and make a donation if you wish.
EASE OF USE
Alfred is very easy to set up and use. As mentioned, a lot of features are not available for free but the basic functionality is more than adequate if you just want to search your Mac or the web quickly. Quicksilver is relatively easy to set up, but takes quite a bit of configuration to get it working how you want it. Little quirks, such as searches resetting if they contain more than one word, can be adjusted in the settings.
When using Alfred 3.1 on OS X El Capitan, I found it very quick compared with Spotlight. It doesn’t appear to use up much memory and I haven’t experienced any performance issues to date. Quicksilver 1.3.4 on OS X El Capitan is also much quicker than Spotlight, but I have noticed that it does stop responding quite regularly – this can be rectified by force-quitting the app and starting it up again.
If you purchase a Powerpack, you will enjoy a number of cool features, including integration with Terminal and your favourite apps. You can also set up workflows and create themes to share with the community. Quicksilver has an extensive library of plugins for you to download and install. With a bit of searching and experimenting you may well be able to configure it so that it can match Alfred’s capabilities.
Both Alfred and Quicksilver are faster and worthy alternatives to Spotlight. Alfred requires payment for many of its advanced features, but if you’re happy with the basic search functionality the free version is fine. Quicksilver appears to be a little bit more complicated to configure properly, but that shows how powerful it can be – and it is open source.