These are handy utilities which speed things up for those who, while appreciating Mac OS X, don’t necessarily want to reach for the mouse, click on the Finder, go to Applications and then Utilities to find what we want. It’s not really any worse than Windows, but hey, we Mac users are used to a somewhat higher standard than Windows.
So these utilities both allow you to type a keystoke – typically Command-Space or Ctrl-Space – and then type a few letters, such as ‘PP’ to select PowerPoint, then hit return. They can also find entries in the address book, open a new mail message to a friend, play a track in iTunes, and so on. The best thing is that they present a list of options for any set of keystrokes and they learn as you go along, so if your instinct is to type POW to launch PowerPoint, and PP to bring up the phone number of your friend Peter Pan, you only have to select the desired action once and the utility remembers it. I’ve got so used to bringing up my To-Do list by typing Ctrl-Space T D Return that I don’t even remember which folder it’s in.
Butler is clever and has everything including the kitchen sink, but that rather puts me off. Its facilities for controlling iTunes are good, but otherwise I had to spend too much time deselecting options. My world is cluttered enough as it is.
LaunchBar has a long history and is many devotees, but I started to miss the quick keystrokes I’d had in Butler to pause my music when the phone rang. Utilities like X-Tunes do it even better, though, so for a little while, I’ve gone back to using that with LaunchBar in place of Butler.
But my latest discovery is Quicksilver; similar concepts, but very pretty and very much snappier than LaunchBar or Butler on my system. That was my main complaint with the other programs: too long a pause after the Ctrl-Space. Quicksilver seems very speedy, and with X-Tunes to control my music, I’m singing…