Mac OS X Productivity Series: Part One

This is the first in a two part in-depth series on how to get the best out of both the in-built features and the applications available in OS X, to take your productivity to the next level.

Part One gets inside QuickSilver and Spotlight before part two discusses Applications and Spaces.

Why A Mac Is My Greatest Productivity Weapon

Any freelancer will tell you when it comes to working in and on your business, productivity is high on the agenda. Being as efficient as possible is extremely important, to keep within budgets, deadlines and to ensure we are making the most of our time and energy.

Since buying an iMac just over two years ago, It has been far and away the best investment I’ve ever made in regards to my business. Personally I find a Mac makes me more productive and happier at work.

In this article I’m going to briefly show how I use Quicksilver and Spotlight to help stay productive.

QuickSilver – A Mac Owners Best Friend

QuickSilver is so much more than an application launcher. With a few simple triggers I can create lists, launch websites, tag folders and run detailed searches. The more I get used to doing things with Quicksilver, the more things I want to do with it.

I use Command + Space to launch the Quicksilver interface and from there my usual tasks are:

  • Applications – I type in the first few letters, Quicksilver will then show the best matches, from there I just hit return to launch the app I need. Every Quicksilver query I do ‘teaches’ the system a little better about what objects, apps and actions I’m likely to use.
  • Bookmarks – Very often I want to quickly search my bookmarks or launch one without going through Safari or Firefox. I just type a few letters of the title of a bookmark, an icon and name appears for it. I hit return and voila.
  • Browse/Control iTunes – Once iTunes is running (heck it always is with me), I invoke Quicksilver, type browse then an item called Browse Albums comes up along with more iTunes options.
  • Write a text note – I press period to go to text entry mode, this is extremely handy as I often need to write short notes throughout the day.
  • Recent Documents – I type the name of the app I want to open, then press the right arrow to put the most recent document that was opened with that app into focus, with the other most recent docs off to the right.

This is only a taste of how Quicksilver can be used, for further Quicksilver resources check out:

Spotlight – The Mother Of All Searches

Spotlight is no substitute for good file organisation, however it can be extremely useful when searching for certain documents. It’s power can’t be underestimated!

The most regular searches I perform are:

  • Search by Kind – This is easily the most useful search for me personally, It helps to restrict the search to a certain file format, the searches I usually perform are – kind:image, kind:font, kind:pdf and kind:word. For instance if you wanted to find a PDF called Freelance your search query would be – Freelance kind:pdf.You can also limit your search to e-mail messages, music files, System Preferences, applications, and more. For phrases rather than keywords just use quotation marks, for example, “Mac Tips”.
  • Calculations – For quick calculations I often use Spotlight, for instance if I type 2*2, I’ll get 4. There’s a real range of calculation formulas available to use, so don’t be shy in testing it out! Although you should avoid hitting return in Spotlight as this will launch Calculator for you.
  • By Creation Date – This can be extremely useful If you are not sure of the exact file name but know the approximate date it was created. To perform this type of search you can use the following characters [ < > = ], for example, created:>1/11/09 will find files that were created AFTER November, 2009 while created:=1/11/09 will find files created ON 1 November, 2009.
  • Search Filters – Spotlight indexes your entire hard drive and by default searches within everything on Leopard. However to speed up your searches you can decided the exact search filters used by going to System Preferences > Spotlight Preferences > From there you can enable and disable the categories of te spotlight search by ticking and un-ticking boxes.
  • Time Saver – To save a little time I use Command + Return to open the selected file in Finder.

Spotlight Resources

That covers my QuickSilver and Spotlight tips and tricks, but are there any I’m missing or that you personally use? I would love to hear your feedback on this.
Image Credit


  1. Excellent article, cant wait for part two! I absolutely love Quicksilver and I find it really difficult to use another computer that doesn’t have it. Anybody thinking of using it, do! You won’t regret it.

  2. Kenneth says:

    You can do calculations in Quicksilver, too. Make sure the Calculator module is installed, then start your equation with =.

    =2*2 will give you 4 when you hit enter.

  3. Ashley says:

    Never knew about spotlight, will have to check it out. I can’t tell you how many times I would like to search for a certain type of file in plain old finder but can’t. Can’t wait for part II!

  4. Ashley says:

    Oh I feel dumb spotlight is the search for finder…haha. Good to know that you can search for types though.

  5. SaraKate says:

    This is fabulous! I just started using Quicksilver recently to launch apps and I love that feature, but I need to learn more about its other functions. If this is just the start to this series, I really look forward to what comes next! Thanks, Grace, for always helping out and teaching others what you know and find helpful.

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