Command Palette Interfaces

The command palette seems to be making a resurgence. I couldn't be happier. It's one of my favorite UI patterns.

Command palettes allow you to create a friendly and fast way to interact with an application. They are more user friendly than traditional command line interfaces, but offer many of the same ergonomic advantages. They can be used with just your keyboard, but are often usable with mouse or trackpad inputs. You see command palettes often in text editors, and often used for Search. Spotlight is a great examples of a widely used command palette.

This interface pattern is especially helpful in professional tools. It allows people to navigate and perform actions quickly. If you want to add lots of functionality without a bloated interface, a command palette may be able to help.

Here are four command palette's that don't fit the normal Search use case.

Quick Entry

Things 3 Quick Entry

The Quick Entry in Things 3 is a great example of how you can use prompts to stay focused. The entry appears via Keyboard Shortcut over whatever app you are in. These help you file away your idea into the correct place, and then let you get back to work. Command palettes can be extremely effective at helping you stay focused. They show up immediately, and hide themselves to get out of the way when not needed.

Contextual Insert

Notion's Quick Insert

Another quick action that is very effective is Notion's block options. Hitting the / command brings up a popover than shows next to your cursor. Here the input is the document which shows that you don't need to create an interruptible overlay, but can inline these prompts.

Grouping and Nesting

Framer's Component Picker

Framer's component picker allows for more advanced navigation. Components are grouped and nested. You can move up and down the navigation hierarchy using both mouse and keyboard.

Palettes in Palettes

Raycast Prompt

Raycast is a powerful general use command palette that has a smaller command palette within it! This is especially useful because of the third party integrations like Github and Asana. You could have multiple actions you may want to take on an item.

Command palette's becoming more mainstream is one of my favorite trends in modern applications. There are lots more good examples that I've enjoyed using. Linear, Alfred, Fig, Xcode, VSCode, Sketch Runner, and CtrlP.