Using Quicksilver Triggers to Create Instant Web Searches: Google, YouTube, Wikipedia, IMDB

It’s been about 2 years since I started using Quicksilver, and I’m ashamed to say that it’s still mostly a glorified app-launching program for me.

That said, Quicksilver has become a core part of my daily workflow. My ability to switch from app to app is near instantaneous (and more importantly… nearly thoughtless). I no longer click on icons in my dock to move from program to program.

Granted, they’re all just three-finger salutes… but it works for me.

Email: Control+Option+Command+E
Safari: Control+Option+Command+S
Instant Messenger: Control+Option+Command+M

I’ve got a ton of these triggers, set up for the apps I use most… and it’s pretty fantastic. In fact, I’m so used to this approach that whenever I’m on someone else’s Mac, I feel slowed down. I find it frustrating, actually, whenever I’m on Liz’s Mac, and feel like I’m moving at about 50% of my regular speed.

Though I use Quicksilver primarily for switching apps, I know that there’s a TON more that it can do. I know I’m probably not even getting 1% out of the app, and my hope is that writing a bit more about it will help me explore more and try out new approaches.

A few non-app triggers I use center around certain websites (YouTube, Google and Wikipedia in particular). I found a tutorial a while back on how to automatically send search strings to these sites… all activated by Quicksilver.

Before we begin, the one caveat I’ll mention is that you may have to have the “Web Search Module” plug-in installed in Quicksilver.

OK – let’s get to it. One of the more useful ones is Google. In setting up the trigger, paste this command in:


Then, as your action, select “Search For…”

Then hit save. Set a hot key for this trigger (I use Control+G).

And that’s it – you now have your own, always-accessible Google search function, regardless of what application you’re in. Simply hit your trigger (in my case, Control+G) and you should see this:

Then just type in your search term, hit “return,” and your Google Search results will show up in a browser window.

And just today, I saw a link to some great examples of how to improve your Google Searches. Lots of great options there that I didn’t realize existed (thanks to Merlin at 43 Folders Clips).

Interested in getting some additional search-anywhere triggers? Try adding these commands to search YouTube, Wikipedia and IMDB:

YouTube (Control+Y):

Wikipedia (Control+W):

IMDB (Control+D):

Pretty nifty stuff! Like I said, I still think I’m a huge noob when it comes to Quicksilver, and I know there’s just so much more out there for me to explore and learn yet. Hopefully this post will be the first in a series, and give me incentive to go out and tinker a bit more… and report back on what I’ve learned, on what works… and what doesn’t.

And for the record – I’ve used a gazillion triggers in the writing of this post: BBEdit, Photoshop, Transmit. There’s definitely a bit of an adjustment curve, but I’d highly recommend playing around with Quicksilver. Your workflow will thank you for it.

This Post Has 15 Comments

  1. I’m glad you wrote this up, I definitely have to thank you for making my Quicksilver experience less application launcher as well. I also feel the same way on other computers that don’t have the app, I do seem to work much slower. Very often my first reaction is Control+Space and when nothing happens I groan at the fact that I actually have to seek out the application in a directory. This is why I try and share the application with everyone so I don’t have to run into this issue! :)

    Justin Reply

  2. As a total aside… your comment was comment #1000 on this blog. :)

    avoision Reply

  3. Wahoo! Should I write an acceptance speech?

    Justin Reply

  4. Does this do something more than just Alt+Tab to flip between apps?

    juliet Reply

  5. It does quite a bit more. It’s hard for me to explain the draw of Quicksilver, partly because it’s a difficult thing to do… and mostly because I still feel like I haven’t quite scratched the surface of all that can be done with it.To get a sense of what it’s all about, maybe check out this great AskMetaFilter question, specifically on that subject.In terms of it doing more than Alt+Tab – absolutely. I use QS to trigger applications directly, so while it’s similar to the alt-tab approach… there’s no searching around until you get to the right app you’re after. Depending on which apps you open (and the order you open them), it’s always a different sequence of steps if you use alt-tab.With the QS trigger approach, if I need to switch to another application it just happens. It’s fairly instantaneous and (this is the key thing here I think) it’s mindless. I’m not having to break my train of thought to dig around for something, I just switch effortlessly to the app I’m after.In reading over this description, it’s hard for me to convey just how powerful and great this actually is. It’s not so much about saving milliseconds as it is about having a smooth and effortless workflow. And it’s totally amplified whenever I get on someone’s Mac without QS installed, and I can’t move as nimbly or as quickly I want.

    avoision Reply

  6. aiight so this tutorial doesn’t work. Im currently using Mac OS 10.6 with quicksilver Œ?56a7, maybe the code or scripts has changed since u did this. Have u updated and is it still working? and do u have any idea of what the fault can be? right now the trigger just doesn’t work, whatever combination i give it!

    Will Schaad Reply

  7. Hi Will – I’m running Mac OS 10.4 here, and an older version of Quicksilver (B54). I’m not familiar with the newer version and don’t know if things may have changed.The triggers should still work the same way is my guess. Aside from the tutorial I wrote, are you able to create triggers at all for any app?It’s hard for me to know what your issue is, given your description. Maybe try setting up a basic trigger first, and see how that goes. Here’s a walkthrough to try out:

    avoision Reply

  8. aiight well regular triggers work fine. After some readin around last night I managed to get the google one to work. The trick is that when u add a trigger the third panel has to be completely blank, if not it will not work it will just search for what it says in that panel every time. To get the third panel blank one has to click cmd-x that will clear it and the trigger should work just fine.

    Will Reply

  9. Thanks for returning here, and taking the time to post a follow-up. I’m glad to hear that the trigger is now working, and I’m sure your comments will be useful for someone who may run into the same thing in the future.I really do like these triggers, particularly the YouTube one. As fast as I can think it, I’m off searching for a video clip. I hope you end up using these triggers, and they become a part of your daily workflow (as they have mine).

    avoision Reply

  10. First, thanks for the tip.Second, I’ve tried using control+(key) for other triggers since nothing is tied to just the control key, but they never worked when I assigned them to launching applications or running scripts, I had to use the option key. When I set up this trigger I had the exact opposite problem, I couldn’t use the option key which I had assumed from past experience I had to use, but control works perfectly.Do you know of any reason this is so?Some of the triggers I have are for iTunes, Firefox, and Finder (sometimes you just need a damn window) and for an AppleScript I have for toggling shuffle in iTunes. (I just checked and I noticed my AppleScript also uses control)So anyway, this has perplexed me for quite a time so maybe you could enlighten me.

    alexjesusdolan Reply

  11. Hi Alex – I don’t have a good answer for you. I still feel very much like a noob with Quicksilver, so I don’t have a lot of experience to draw from.The only thing I can think of is that with the triggers I mentioned, they’re Quicksilver commands (and not direct applications). For all my triggers that target specific apps, I use all three-finger salutes (which includes control + option + command). I’m betting there are some Quicksilver gurus out there who would be able to tell you definitively what the difference is.Glad you got the triggers to work, and I hope they come in helpful. Your comment to this older post of mine has me thinking again about Quicksilver, and how I need to noodle around a bit more and explore a bit more.

    avoision Reply

  12. Also, did you ever have trouble with QS forgetting parts of this or other triggers? I’ll go to use the Google search one, and when nothing happens I open up the triggers to find it says (null) (search for…) instead of HTML something or other.

    Alex Reply

  13. thats exactly what happened to me as well, everytime i set up the trigger it worked just fine but when i quit qs and restart it just shown (null) (search for…) instead of the pasted item there.. anyone solved this problem? some hints will be appreciated :D

    yoseph Reply

  14. Hi yoseph -I hadn’t experienced this when Alex first posted his comment, but did a few weeks ago. There were a few tricks that might help this issue. There’s a specific post on LoveQuicksilver that talks about Trigger Issues, and there’s also a lengthier discussion in the Quicksilver Google Group.I ended up blowing everything out, re-installing Quicksilver and that eventually fixed my problem. Kind of a hassle, but it was all that really seemed to consistently work.FYI there’s a new version of QS out, with a new team of developers maintaining the code. You should grab the latest version of Quicksilver at, and can keep updated on news at

    avoision Reply

  15. thanks for the directions, now let the not-so-tech-savvy new mac user head into a giant whirlpool of gibberish, hey-ho!

    yoseph Reply

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