I won’t belabor (you can use this tip to find out what ‘belabor’ means) you with more Quicksilver fanboyism… We already know how awesome it is. What I will do though, is share with you a little tip that I’ve found really helpful when reading, writing and blogging. I know there are many great ways to look-up a word in the dictionary on the fly in Mac OS X, but unfortunately my favorite method–selecting text and then pressing Command-Control-D–only lets me view one definition at a time. Take a peek at this very simple look-up technique and I think you’ll be pleased to find there is a simple way to use Quicksilver to get definitions and look at multiple words at once.
The Quicksilver Dictionary Plug-in is a bit different from Mac OS X’s standard Dictionary.app, and instant look-up in three ways. The first is the window in which the results are displayed. The plug-in uses it’s own custom low-profile display panel. The second difference is the addition of another source from which the definition can be gleaned. Yet, this other source, www.dict.org, is only queried when the “Define…” action is activated (and we won’t even touch on that in the scope of this tutorial). Otherwise the results mirror Dictionary.app’s New Oxford definitions exactly. Finally, and the reason I think this plug-in is worth using in spite of it’s apparent similarity to Dictionary.app, you can open multiple definition windows concurrently.
Well, let’s get started. First, you will need to ensure that the Dictionary Quicksilver plug-in is installed on your computer. If you have already installed the plug-in or know how you may want to skip ahead to the next paragraph. For the rest of us, let’s through installing the plug-in as a bit of a refresher. Open the Quicksilver preference window from the menu bar or dock contextual menu (if you have either of them enabled) or by activating Quicksilver and pressing Command-” (Command-Shift-Single Quote). Now, if it is not already selected choose the “All Plug-ins” tab on the left hand side of the window. In this window you should notice the Dictionary plug-in. If the plug-in’s associated check box (the little square to the left of it’s icon) is not checked press it and wait briefly while Quicksilver downloads and installs the plug-in for you. Once you’ve seen the cue to relaunch Quicksilver you are ready to go.
Now that the Dictionary plug-in installation is taken care of, looking up a word using Quicksilver will be quick and easy. Activate the Quicksilver window as normal and switch to “Text Mode” by pressing either “.” (Period) or ” ‘ ” (Single Quote). In the resulting text input type or paste the word you desire to look up. Press the “Tab” key to bring up an action modifier. Here you will want to enter “Dictionary” (or as many letters as it takes to reveal the appropriate action). Upon pressing return you will be presented with your definition in a simple panel window. You can also look up synonyms using the same plug-in by typing “Thesaurus” after entering your desired word.
Dictionary Look-up Trigger
Now we can set up a Trigger Hot-Key to let us look up words on the fly in a similar fashion to “Command-Control-D.” If you have been with MacApper a while, and read our ‘How to Control iTunes with Quicksilver’ Tutorial the following will likely appear pretty familiar. Activate Quicksilver and open the Trigger window by pressing Command-’ (Command-Single Quote). Select the “Custom Triggers” tab on the left and add a new trigger by pressing the plus sign in the lower left hand corner.
Double clicking the newly created action will reveal a panel with several text inputs. The commands you add in these inputs will cascade during activation in the same way Quicksilver actions always do. In the first input box type “Current Selection”, obviously this will pass Quicksilver the currently selected text. In the next box down type “Dictionary”. Now Quicksilver will pass the selected text to the dictionary plug-in’s action.
You still need a way to activate the trigger. Do this by pressing the “i” info button in the bottom right-hand side of the window. The drawer that will be revealed lets you do a number of things but we are only concerned with setting a Hot Key and a name for the action. A Hot Key combination I found works pretty well for me is Control-Option-Command-D. Sure it’s a bit hard to push that many keys but it’s similar enough to the default Apple Dictionary look-up hot keys that I won’t likely forget it. Finally name your action what ever you like.
If all has gone well you should now be able to do a quick Dictionary look-up of your text selection from almost anywhere with multiple look-up instances at once. Remember you make this a synonym look-up trigger by just replacing “Dictionary” with “Thesaurus” in the Trigger’s action panel It’s a simple trick that’s been helpful for me and I hope it will be helpful for you too.