Mac snippet solution: Quicksilver Shelf

I’ve been looking around for something that I can store little bits of text in and then easily grab them when I need them. There are a few note-taking solutions for Mac out there that would suit, but I tend to use TextMate for notes – its templates and snippets are great for the majority of what I do – fairly big chunks of predefined text. Then I stumbled across an item on Lifehacker about Quicksilver’s Shelf. I use Quicksilver for other things anyway, so I gave it a whirl.

Using Quicksilver’s Shelf

Quicksilver’s Shelf is fairly basic for text, but it suits my needs fine. To use it, you’ll need to make sure the Shelf is installed.

The notes below will guide you through setting up the Shelf. If you’d prefer a visual guide, Sherwin Techico has recorded a useful screencast showing you how to set things up.

  1. Open up Quicksilver’s plug-ins preferences and find the Shelf Module under All Plug-ins.
  2. Make sure the box next to it is ticked.
  1. Once it is installed, you may need to restart Quicksilver.

To save an item to the Shelf:

  1. Invoke Quicksilver (I use Control+Space Bar).
  2. Press the . key (period) to enter Quicksilver’s text mode.
  3. Type or paste in some text that you want to save on the Shelf.
  4. Hit the Tab key and as you begin to type “shelf” you should see the “Put on Shelf” action come up.
  1. Hit Enter and your text is saved.

To recall items from the Shelf:

  1. Invoke Quicksilver.
  2. Type “shelf” and you should see the Shelf item appear – not the Shelf & Clipboard (Catalog) entry.
  3. Press the Right Arrow key to see the items on your Shelf.
  4. Press the Tab key to select an action. for some reason Large Type tends to be the default, but as you begin to type “copy” you should see the “Copy to Clipboard” action appear.
  1. Hit Enter and the item is in your clipboard ready to be pasted out.

If you’re a Quicksilver freak, it’s definitely worth checking out some of the Shelf’s other capabilities though. Check out the item on Lifehacker about Quicksilver’s Shelf for more on that.

Deleting Quicksilver Shelf items

The one thing that I really needed to do as I was testing it out was to delete a Shelf item once I’d put it in. There’s no option to delete a Shelf item in the command window or the catalog. According to one source, you used to be able to drag your saved Shelf items off to Trash. Nope, don’t work for me. Actually, if you invoke Quicksilver, bring up the Shelf, hit Tab and select the “Open” action, the Shelf window will pop open. You can drag items from this Shelf window to Trash.

Update: Thanks to a comment from Michael, I now know that the easier way to bring up the Shelf window is by invoking Quicksilver and then using Command+Option+S. From there you can select the item you want to delete and then hit Delete or Backspace.

Code monkeys will be fine with this approach though: Find your Quicksilver Shelves in your home directory, typically in /Users/[you]/Library/Application Support/Quicksilver/Shelves. Open up the Shelf file in your favourite text editor and remove the offending dict item from the XML.

Get more from the Shelf

I might be wrong, but I get the feeling the Shelf feature has been neglected of late. It seems you used to be able to dock the Shelf to the side of your screen, which might be useful, but I can’t get that to work in the latest version. Mind you, I’m quite happy invoking Quicksilver whenever I need something.

One thing you can do to help is set up a custom trigger (keyboard shortcut) that opens up the Shelf window. To do this:

  1. Open up the Triggers preferences in Quicksilver.
  2. Hit the plus icon at the bottom to add a new trigger; select HotKey.
  3. Bring Shelf up by typing “shelf” in the “Select an item” box.
  4. In the “Action” box, select Show by typing “show”.
  5. Save that and then double click on the HotKey symbol to the right to edit the action’s keyboard shortcut.
  6. Select the “Edit” button and set your chosen shortcut; I use Control+Option+Command+Space Bar.
  1. You can then close the window and try it out.