Why QuickSilver Sucks

I’ve always loved keyboard shortcuts. Using the mouse for me is a last resort in most cases. To that end, I’ve used two “small” utilities that help me navigate the huge number of files and applications that I use on a daily basis. I started by using LaunchBar v3, a commercial application that you can call up with a HotKey (usually Command-Space) and enter an abbreviated name, hit Enter and launch or switch to an app, open a document, Finder folder, etc. Cost me $20, but it worked great.

Along comes the new kid on the block: Quicksilver. It has a lot going for it, including some great graphical stylings, a very nice plugin architecture, and best of all: it is free. It works pretty much like LaunchBar, except it includes some new tricks. Use an abbreviation to find a document, right arrow and select mail and it dumps it in as an attachment to your favorite mailer. Nice. It has tons of stuff like this built in. So I switched. And I used it for months. Slowly, however, I discovered it’s dark side: Slow and a memory pig.

I was getting irritated: My machine was running slower, I was swapping: I wanted to launch Activity Monitor to see what craptastic app was killing me. I hit Command-Space, and after a slight pause, up popped QuickSilver, and I started typing actm, my custom shortcut for the aforementioned Activity Monitor. Unfortunately, QS was responding so freaking slowly searching for what I wanted, the pause between the t and m resulted in yet another search for something starting with an “m”, which gave me some random Word document and a whole instance of MS Word running. This is the first of the two failings with QS: searching, even under ideal conditions (on a 1.67GHz PowerBook) is ridiculously slow. I found that I was adapting my typing speed to accommodate the poor performance of QS.

When I finally did get Activity Monitor running, I discovered the second of QS’s failings: It was using more memory than ANYTHING ELSE IN THE SYSTEM, INCLUDING PHOTOSHOP. It had over 160MB of resident RAM tied up. Not shared – this is specific to this app. That was 16% of my system RAM dedicated to slowly searching for documents. This pissed me off even more.

I went and downloaded the newest version of LaunchBar, 4.01. Installed it, and indexed everything. It searches instantly. When you type, it reacts. No lag, even under severe conditions. Yes, it doesn’t do everything that QS does – but who the fuck cares? After running for a whole day, memory usage was a reasonable resident 40MB. It still finds what I need right when I type, and I don’t have to screw around waiting for a “utility” to respond to my keystrokes. Yes – I paid the $9.95 upgrade fee.

The author of QS would do well to spend a little time optimizing the search functions of his app. Something is slowing it to a crawl (I even removed all the plugins to see if it helped) and get rid of the massive memory leaks. Spend time doing this instead of adding new incremental near-useless features. If I have to baby-sit a utility, it isn’t a utility.