The new Google Quick Search Box (QSB) for Mac is designed to make things easier.

Summon it with a quick key combination and you can use it to find and launch applications, track down elusive files, dig up contacts or search the web.

It sounds very familiar, with good reason: apps such as Quicksilver have been doing much the same for years. So is QSB a Quicksilver killer? The short answer is probably - but not quite yet.

Getting started

For all its joys, Quicksilver is a pain in the neck to get to grips with. Installing it doesn't work properly - there's a permissions issue on OS X 10.5 that means plugins won't install - and the minimalist interface isn't exactly helpful.

Quicksilver

SPLIT VISION: Quicksilver's interface is in two parts. The first panel shows what you searched for; the second enables you to manipulate or do something with the data

Quicksilver

FULL CONTROL: Quicksilver plugins enable you to control almost anything, although actually installing them is a pain in OS X 10.5

Online documentation is patchy, and if you want to get the best from the program you'll need to do a lot of running around the web.

Google's effort, on the other hand, couldn't be easier. Download it, install it, hit the cmd key twice and you've got a Google box.

Google qsb

IT'S GOOGLE: As you can see, Google's Quick Search Box is a plain old Google box. It looks for files and folders, and gives you the option of a web search, too

Google qsb

CLUTTERED: Although Google's interface is fairly straightforward, we found it a little bit confusing and cluttered with some search results

What they do

Both programs are designed to do more than find things on your computer, although of course you can use them for that. Want to search Wikipedia? Start typing Wikipedia - both programs guess what you're up to before you finish typing - and then hit tab.

With Google, you'd type your criteria, hit Enter and see the appropriate page; with Quicksilver, you'd tab twice and do the same (if you've enabled the web search plugin).

Google qsb

DRILL DOWN: Refining your Google search is easy enough: type W, tab and then your criteria to see what's on Wikipedia, or You and tab for YouTube

Where the programs become truly handy, however, is the way you can make things happen from a search. For example, if you search using Google QSB for "Paul", it'll return a list of Pauls in your address book; choose one, hit the right arrow and you'll see their contact information. Hit the right arrow when a phone number's selected and Google will give you the option to call that number in Skype; do it with an email address and you'll be able to launch Mail or Google Mail.

Who's got the power?

Google QSB is very like Quicksilver, but the older program has more tricks up its sleeve.

By enabling plug ins you can do all kinds of things with your search results: open and add text to a file, keep track of the clipboard, queue tracks in your iTunes playlist, upload an image to Flickr, compress a file… if your Mac can do it, Quicksilver can trigger it - and you can create custom keyboard shortcuts for commonly used tasks.

This is one of the main reasons why Quicksilver fans are so passionate about the program, and so lost without it.

Quicksilver

DO IT ALL: You can create complex chains of actions in Quicksilver - for example, opening files and appending text - and create shortcuts for future use

Google QSB isn't Quicksilver yet, but it's entirely likely that it will attract a range of Quicksilver-style plug-ins.

For now, if you just want a file finder, application launcher and search tool in a single box then QSB is the one for you, but if you're a patient power user then Quicksilver is by far the more powerful program - provided you've got time to get to grips with it.

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