Making the Mouse Redundant


Update: Due to the popularity of this topic (and the brand new Quicksilver version and plugins released on January 2), I reformatted this post and added more detailed information.

If you thought the Quicksilver radial menus were neat, you kind of missed my original point - I found them while loading the new User Interface Access plugin, which allows you to navigate the current application's menus using QS.

Yes, the current application. I can now invoke just about any menu option directly from Quicksilver, pretty much as Gus's input manager hack, and it is every bit as good as it seems.

If you don't know what Quicksilver is, check out my Humane Mac post from nearly a year back - it turns the Mac into a truly amazing environment, with no equivalent on any other platform - and this plugin makes it even better.

Cédric made a very nice graphical summary of how to go about enabling the new goodies, but if you don't particularly care for the radial menus (which are not navigable via the keyboard) and only want the menu navigation bit, it can be simplified into:

  1. Enable Access For Assistive Devices in Universal Access (System Preferences).

  2. Update to the latest bleeding edge QS and enable beta features. I am using Quicksilver Beta 47 (Rottweller), Build 3713.

  3. Grab the User Interface Access plugin (select "all plugins" to have it appear on the list). I am using version 85.

  4. Enable proxy objects in the catalog (go to the catalog, expand Quicksilver and enable the blue box labeled "Proxy Objects").

  5. Create a new custom trigger. Choose the "Current Application" item (hence you having enabled proxy objects) and the "Show Menu Items" action.

    Note: "Menu Bar..." and "Menu Bar Items..." are not what you need for keyboard searching - they're the menu tree structure, not the leaves.

I bound the new trigger to Alt+Space, which is a nice compromise between Ctrl+Space (which I use to activate QS), and Cmd+Space, which I still use to activate Spotlight on its own.

Here's a minute screencast of it at work. Yes, yes, I know you can switch tabs with the usual hot keys, but this is just to show how you can navigate the current application's menus.

The previous plugin version had a little trouble with too many menu levels, but the one released on January 2nd now lets you navigate just about all menus I've tried it with (which means it's now even easier to use than the screencast may make it seem).

A Minor Rant on Spotlight, Just Because

And yes, I still have a key binding for Spotlight, even though I usually do my Spotlight searches via QS. But the Spotlight UI it only useful for very simple searches, and I expect I'll get rid of the key binding pretty soon.

Steve may have the horsepower to have the Spotlight menu live update on every key press, but I personally think it was one of the dumbest UI decisions in Tiger (it slows down searching something horrible, even on my 1.8GHz iMac G5).

I much prefer the Spotlight results window - even though for some reason it doesn't appear on any window listing (not even in Witch), which is a nuisance (and most likely a bug as well).

Last Year's Backup

Ah, the joys of backing up... You may remember that after some exhaustive research I adopted Backup for my last quarterly snapshot, and I'm trying to stick to it (it's mostly a matter of lowered expectations, since I'm happy with it only backing up a few files).

However, it persists in crashing upon startup if the pre-defined destination volume (i.e., the external disk I am backing up to) isn't there, and an incremental backup file is about the same size (i.e., 3GB) as the last full one, which is fishy to say the least.

I'll persevere, but the added value it brings compared to a rsync plus drag-and-burn is a bit debatable...

Odds and Ends

I've taken advantage of my backup (and general tidying up) efforts to put up a Mail.app AppleScript to archive my personal e-mail - which means I can now archive whole conversations in one fell swoop (remember that I created a Conversations smart mailbox a while back, and have found it a great way to manage all my current e-mail). It's nice to kick off a new year with some GTD-fu.

In the meantime, it looks like KDE will support Mac OS X Dashboard widgets. That is, those that don't use any Mac-specific features (which is likely to be a minuscule percentage of the moderately useful ones). Still, it's a good thing.

More as I idle away the time until I get back to work tomorrow...


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