TechSutra

Google Quick Search Box Guide

Google has finally released Quick Search Box(QSB) which has been in development for quite some time. The lead developer of QSB is Nicholas Jitkoff who was the developer of Quicksilver. Quicksilver was abandoned by Nicholas citing an unwieldy source code and architecture. So QSB which was written from scratch would have benefited from the shortfalls of Quicksilver. The download page didn't work for me, so here is a direct download link. So what all can QSB do ? Quite a lot actually. You can control itunes, launch applications, search the web,  search specific websites, search google docs,tweet!, search contacts, search safari bookmarks, search files  etc.

Invoking QSB

Launch the QSB application. This should bring up the QSB search box. Just like google it is a simple search box. If the search box doesn't come up hit the default keyboard shortcut: double tap the command key.

Google Quick Search Box

The arrow points to a drop down menu which will give you various options (and keyboard shortcuts) to filter the search to something more specific. To dismiss the search box you can either press the keyboard shortcut once more or if the search box is empty press the Escape key.

In the preferences, you can set whether to show the dock icon, open QSB at login and add/delete/disable keyboard shortcuts. You can also add google and twitter accounts and select which type of items should QSB search or not search. There is also an "Under The Hood" tab which is aimed at advanced users. Here you can disable/enable plugins and tweak some other settings.

Basic Usage

QSB is much easier to understand than quicksilver and much more intuitive but almost as powerful. Application launches are dime a dozen on mac. Spotlight can also be used as an application launcher. So how does QSB handle application launching?  Launch the search box and type the application name. Results for that query appear in the result are with the first result already selected.

Launcing Applications Using Google Quick Search Box (QSB)

At this point, pressing enter will open Numbers. The small arrow next to the result mean that some action can be taken further on that result. To see the action associated with a result, press the TAB key or the right arrow key. That will give a view like this Recent Docs in QSB: Google Quick Search Box

"Numbers" is now shown as a block which means the results shown are filtered in that context. In this case QSB shows the recently opened Numbers spreadsheets. To open one of the docs shown in the result, just press Enter key. The spreadsheets results also have arrow keys next to them indicating further actions. Selecting a result and pressing TAB will get you to this view.

Actions on Documents in QSB: Google Quick Search Box

Finally we get a result screen which consist of just actions. Enter will select an action. To go back to the previous result screen, press the left arrow key. To start a new search press the delete key.

Searching the Web and Website Specific Search

Entering the keywords into the search box will bring up the "Google Search" action. It will also show suggested searches at the bottom. (You can turn this off in the preferences) picture-6 The nifty feature of QSB is site specific search. Say you wanted to go to the IMDB page for UP. Normally that involves either googling for UP or opening imdb.com and searching for UP. With QSB you can do that without opening a browser at all. Bring uo the search box and type imdb, QSB should bring up imdb.com as the first result. Press TAB, and then type UP. That should populate the results pane with results from imdb.com.

Site specific search in QSB: Google Quick Search Box

Site specific search will also work with other large sites like amazon.com, cnn.com etc

Controlling iTunes

Typing itunes in to the search box and TAB will list a whole lot of actions. Going through them inorder to find what you want is cumbersome and defeats the purpose of QSB. So once you are in the itunes filtered view and you want to play the next track just start typing next and QSB will try to autocomplete for you and bring up the "Next iTunes Track" action. picture-23

If you do this enough times QSB will learn it and this action will be available to you when you just type itunes. This is also how quicksilver behaved. The more you used an action, the easier it became to access it.  Once you are in the itunes context in QSB you can type the name of any action or drill down through the list of actions presented by default

Tweeting Using QSB

First you need to set up your twitter account. Preferences -> Accounts. After the account has been successfully added you need to create a text item in QSB. Text items begin with a space. So in the search box hit a space and then type your tweet. The first result should be branded "text". After finishing the tweet hit TAB. If you have setup your twitter account you should see an action named "Send Twitter Status {username}" where username is your twitter username. picture-31 Once you select the action, QSB will try to update your status in the background.Growl notifications are sent informing the user whether the update was successful or not.

Searching Google Docs

Once you set up your Google account in QSB (Preferences->Accounts), it is necessary to enable the Google Docs option for that account in Preferences-> Searchable Items. Once this is done, searching for the titles of the google docs  will bring up the relevant results. Unlike the docs.google.com search, QSB searches only the titles of the docs and not the content

Finding Files

QSB is supposed to find the files stored in the computer. In my testing it failed quite badly at this. Probably because the indexing is not complete. So in a few days, I expect it to work well. But QSB only searches files by filenames unlike spotlight which indexes the content of the files also. If that functionality is important to you then you can turn on spotlight results. (Preferences -> Searchable Items -> Spotlight results)

Contacts, Emails, Dictionary, Weather and Calculations

Searching for a contact name in your Address Book will give you an option to email the contact and will also show other details like phone numbers.

If you want the definition of a word, say hype, type "define hype" in the search box. Definition of words will also come up during other searches if QSB finds a relevant entry in the dictionary.

If you want the weather, type "Weather place name" or "Weather zipcode". For example "weather new york"

The search box can also be used to find out the result of calculations. I was able to get results for pi * 3, tan(45),  100/3.3 etc

Conclusion

QSB is a solid release from google and considering the pedigree of the developers it can only become better. Quicksilver is still being developed but the pace of development has slowed down considerably and there are reports of it not working on Snow Leopard. Since QSB is a young and clean codebase, feature additions would likely take place at a good pace.  If you are a Quicksilver addict it might be time to jump ship.

Update: Plugins for QSB have already started coming out. Plugins are available for searching firefox bookmarks, launching shellscripts and applescripts.

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