Head to head

When you need to up your ef­fi­ciency, where do you turn? Theo Nicolaou com­pares two pro­duc­tiv­ity-boost­ing apps

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Al­fred ver­sus Quick­sil­ver

Al­fred

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.

PER­FOR­MANCE

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.

CUSTOMISATIONS

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.

Ver­dict

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.

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