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Say you have different keyboard layouts cause you’re bilingual and need access to accents or different alphabets. The normal way to switch between these two keyboards would be to show the keyboard icon on the top Menu bar and simply click on the icon and choose the keyboard layout you wish to use.

Although this works, it’s a bit annoying to mess with the mouse in search of a tiny keyboard layout icon when you just want to hop in to a keyboard layout to get an accented character, then return back to the original that you were just using.

To the rescue: Input Menu, hidden deep within System Preferences => Keyboard & Mouse => Keyboard Shortcuts => Input Menu (greyed out)

The reason Input Menu is disabled by default is that its historic keyboard shortcut has been taken over by Spotlights: Apple Key + Spacebar.

Keyboard and Mouse Preferences - Keyboard Shortcuts - Input Menu

For me, I hardly ever use Spotlight, since I’m on the Quicksilver launcher train, which pretty much circumvents my need of Spotlight, so I’m happy to give up Command + Spacebar to be able to toggle back and forth nearly instantaneously between keyboards (French AZERTY and English QWERTY). (See the great things you can do with Quicksilver here).

If you’re hot on Spotlight, simply choose a different keyboard shortcut for either Spotlight or Input Menu => Select the Previous Input Source. You can do this by double clicking on the shortcut in question and pressing the new keyboard combination to replace it with.

Quicksilver from Blacktree Software is a free Mac OS X program loader / launcher / starter. By launcher, I mean, it’s a way to start or run a program on your computer without using the mouse or trackpad. By setting up your favorites within Firefox or Safari or Camino in a certain way, you can make it extra easy and extremely fast to open your most visited sites.

Why would this be interesting or useful? Why wouldn’t I just click on the site’s bookmark or favorites entry and load the website that way?

Because moving the mouse pointer over the Bookmarks menu and clicking through various Bookmarked sites folders to find the name of the site you want to load is simply slow.

With Quicksilver for Mac, if you know the name of the site you want to visit, you can load it almost instantaneously, not with telepathy, but it feels like it.

This is how it works (full setup instructions for Quicksilver are below):

  1. Add a favorite to your browser’s bookmarks toolbar (the bookmarks that you see near the top of your browser on a toolbar), but name it like an acronym. Example: GMail? Name this favorite “G”. Google Finance? Make this favorite “GF”.
  2. Now restart or reload Quicksilver and test the new favorites shortcut. Hit your Quicksilver hotkey, Ctrl + Spacebar by default, then type the letter or letters of the new favorite you just made, for example: “GF” for Google Finance. The Quicksilver launcher window should now show the favorite you just made and to launch this site, just hit Enter. Once you get used to launching web pages this way, it takes less than a second to hit any of your favorite sites.

Full Instructions

Key to making keyboard shortcuts really fast is using Quicksilver, a launcher application for Mac. To load up my favourite web sites I use Ctrl + Spacebar, then one or two typed letters, then Enter. Firefox will then load the page in a new tab or a new window if it’s not already running. If you’re doing development and constantly loading up reference docs or checking your mail often, checking stock prices every 30 min., checking your Google analytics, then this system makes hitting your favourite pages a lot faster than hunting around with a mouse or trackpad for bookmarks.

Quicksilver - Blacktree Software


Step 1: Get Quicksilver launcher

Install it.

Step 2: Install the Firefox/Mozilla or Safari Plugin Module

Firefox Module - Quicksilver

This allows Quicksilver to scan through your bookmarks to create catalog entries which will create launch items for each bookmark. This is the key to having one or two letter web browser bookmarks available through Quicksilver.

Step 1337: Bezel Interface

Bezel Interface - Quicksilver

To get the Bezel Interface with Quicksilver, go to the Quicksilver Menu -> Preferences -> Appearance and choose: Bezel from the Command Interface and click on Superfluous visual effects and Load Icons for all results (if not already set). Why do this? Cause it looks “leet”.

Step 3: One or two letter bookmarks.

Personal Booksmarks Toolbar - Firefox

By one or two letter bookmarks I mean name your bookmarks with the initials of a website’s name, rather than the entire name of the website which is provided by default. For example, hit Command + D which is the make a bookmark shortcut in Firefox. The name that comes up is super long: Mac OS X Leopard & Tiger blah blah blah. You don’t need all that. Change the name to LT and save it in your Personal Bookmarks Toolbar, which is just enough letters to help you remember what this shortcut is for. More examples: Gmail.com I use the letter ‘G’. For Google Analytics I use ‘GA’.

Step 4: Rescan your bookmarks in Quicksilver.

From the Quicksilver menu, choose Rescan Catalog or hit Command + R if you have the Quicksilver application open and running in front of you. This will pick up any changes you’ve made to Firefox / Safari bookmarks.

To test out your shortcut, hit your Quicksilver activation hotkey (for me it’s Ctrl + Spacebar), then type the initials of your new bookmark. Within Quicksilver you should see an Earth graphic + Open URL (if you got leet in Step 1337).

Keyboard Shortcuts Launcher - Quicksilver

Smack enter and Firefox will load up that web page in a new tab or a new window if it’s not already running.

Rinse and Repeat with more web pages that you constantly hit and leave behind your mouse jockeying ways.

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Here’s a bizarre problem: All of a sudden I couldn’t hit the Ctrl F2 keyboard shortcut to set focus to the menu bar. It wasn’t because the shortcut was disabled through Ctrl F1 (by default the functions for keys F2 to F6 are disabled by default), it was due to some bizarre problem with Quicksilver – keyboard navigation voodoo. For some reason ^ F2 would only work after I had Command Tab’d to Quicksilver, hit Ctrl F2 (which worked, focus was set to the menu bar), afterwards, the shortcut worked as normal with all other open applications.

Bizarre.

Quicksilver is the bomb, btw, in case you didn’t know. Dock? What Dock?