What's your favorite app launcher?
August 27, 2008 8:29 AM   Subscribe

What app launchers do you use on the PC? And is there something I'm missing about Enso?

I am a constant user of Launchy and it's one of the first programs I install on a new computer I'm using. I also just started RocketDock, although I'm not totally sold on it being better than the Start Menu/Task Bar, but that may change over time. In addition, I occasionally use scripts in AutoHotKey, but that's slightly more tedious.

I also just installed Ubiquity to use within Firefox.

I always like to find better tools if they're available, as the difference between using Launchy and not using it was like night and day and if there's something better, I want to know.

Enso seems to be beloved by many, but to my eyes it looks like a more complicated Launchy and little more. Instead of "Firefox" I have to type "open Firefox." Is there something I'm missing that makes this worthwhile? I'm happy to use both if using Enso occasionally has advantages over just using Launchy.
posted by abkadefgee to Computers & Internet (16 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
What's wrong with Launchy? I use it and like it, and you do too.
posted by wheat at 8:40 AM on August 27, 2008

Personally I just enable Quick Launch on the standard Task Bar. Does everything I need without adding any bloat.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 8:44 AM on August 27, 2008

I have RocketDock, in which I put my frequently used programs. Recently, I came upon Orbit, which is a circular dock. Pretty useful if you use the mouse often and don't want to go all the way to some corner of the screen just to open an app. It looks like it hasn't been updated in a while, and it does have some display issues, but I found them to be pretty minor.

Alternatively, Circle Dock is open-source and is receiving increasing attention, since the latest version was released a couple of days ago.
posted by curagea at 8:56 AM on August 27, 2008

As someone who eschews mouse use, I think Launchy is fantastic. Don't forget that you can press tab after you select an object to launch to give it command-line arguments.

For example, type notepa TAB C:\myfile.txt.

I've written scripts that expect Launchy with some arguments to be their main entry point.
posted by grouse at 9:44 AM on August 27, 2008

I'm a fan of FARR (Find and Run Robot). I ditched Launchy for it and haven't looked back. Similar at first but I think FARR has a lot more under the hood when you really get into it.
posted by Umhlangan at 10:04 AM on August 27, 2008

I read about Executor last week on Lifehacker and so far it seems very good
posted by fjom at 10:28 AM on August 27, 2008

posted by tom_g at 11:11 AM on August 27, 2008

I go for the minimalist versions of win-r on XP, win-(pause) on Vista, and command-space on a Mac. I don't need to append to text files or anything particularly special.
posted by that girl at 11:23 AM on August 27, 2008

May I hijack and ask what utility there is in app launchers in the first place? I'm not dissing them -- it's just I've tried Quicksilver on my Mac at work and a few of 'em on my PC at home, and nothing seems more efficient than the start menu (split between mousing over the menu, and hitting "Start" with my thumb and keying down a few times to get to the app in question).

I have the feeling there's something awesome about app launchers that I'm just not getting.

On-topic justification: defining what is awesome about app launchers will help the OP realize what he values most in an app launcher, and hence help answer this question!
posted by Shepherd at 11:25 AM on August 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestions all.

I do LOVE Launchy. It's amazing. However, I know someone else will figure out something new that blows my mind in a similar way, and I don't want to miss the boat. It's amazing how many people don't know about it but are blown away when they see it and use it.

I love the look on their faces when a friend or co-worker sees me do something in Launchy like simply using it as a calculator.

So on the topic of FARR and Executor, what makes them so exciting? Executor seemed like it would take some getting to used to in order to realize the potential, whereas Launchy has been extremely intuitive.
posted by abkadefgee at 11:56 AM on August 27, 2008

nothing seems more efficient than the start menu (split between mousing over the menu, and hitting "Start" with my thumb and keying down a few times to get to the app in question).

I can start up Microsoft Excel, or any other application, with only a few keystrokes, and without having to find the application in a series of tiny icons. Searching through stuff visually takes time if you have more than a couple of applications.

I can also open any folder in my documents folder the same way.
posted by grouse at 12:15 PM on August 27, 2008

You can't top Windows PowerPro for this stuff. It's probably the most configurable program ever invented, and has been around for years. Used to be called Stiletto. I'm not sure there's anything it can't do. Amongst other things, you can configure it with multiple programmable button-bars that either persist on screen or else slide out like an app dock, configure dropdown menus, systray menus, hotkeys, manipulate windows on screen (rollup, minimize anything, center windows), activate programs based on conditions, populate button text with system stats such as free space remaining on C:, list uptime etc, respond in any way to left, right, middle click, hover, mouse location on screen etc, the list goes on and on. It will take a little time to configure, but once it's done you'll wonder how you ever lived without it and I guarantee that every day you play around with it you'll realise one more cool thing that it will help you do. It will replace Rocketdock, Launchy and every other similar tool you currently use. And it's absolutely free.
posted by tra at 12:56 PM on August 27, 2008

Response by poster: As far as what I like about app launchers, I usually use a laptop and either the tiny nub or the touchpad just doesn't seem to be as fast to me as keeping my fingers in place, hitting alt+space, and typing three letters to get to Firefox or almost any other program. I also use Launchy to index all my mp3s, so I never have to look anywhere beyond the keyboard.

I'm not completely sold on RocketDock, to be honest, but I'm giving it a try to see if it's faster for me than the start menu. If I put my most frequently used apps there, I think it will be, and the stacks docklet helps with that as well.

What I also like about Launchy is that it requires zero configuration for the most basic uses. Indexing more folders only takes a few more seconds and it's very intuitive. That's something I don't get from most other app launchers. It's not that I'm not willing to customize other programs and take some time to do so, but I hate taking that much time just to figure out if something is even worth using.
posted by abkadefgee at 2:25 PM on August 27, 2008

Response by poster: PowerPro sounds really interesting, but is it intuitive? Or are there resources available that will explain the configuration easily?
posted by abkadefgee at 5:15 PM on August 27, 2008

Intuitive? I would say it's about half and half. The configuration can be manually edited, but PP has a very comprehensive configuration GUI which allows you to build functionality and immediately test and fiddle with it. The config gui is actually quite cool because although there are hundreds of knobs and sliders, hovering over any one of them pops up a help tooltip which is usually VERY comprehensive. For example: "unchecked=no border, checked=thick border, grey check=sunken border" when hovering over a checkbox for a particular feature. Plus it also has other help bits embedded precisely in places where you need them. For example, there are some fields where you enter a PowerPro command, such as *Shutdown PowerPro noconfirm. There are many command types, and many parameters for each command. If you're a Mac user you'll still struggle with it because it definitely takes advantage of mice with more than one button (Easter Island statue-like expression), but there's also a Yahoo group dedicated to it's usage. One of the great things about the app is that it's contained in a single dir, so to use it on another machine just zip that dir, copy to other hard drive and run. Blammo. I wouldn't expect my grandma to be able to configure it herself, though. One of the other reasons for this is the fact that she died about twenty five years ago. Anyway..

Here's my main Powerpro dock/bar. The screenshot shows my floating dock which is always-on-top and located at the upper right of my desktop. I use 16x16 icons (can set this to any size). Each of those mini-icons serves a triple purpose, depending on whether I click left, middle or right button on it - the icon itself depicts the left-click function. I also have self-edited tooltips for each of the icons, so when I hover over the Foobar icon my tooltip shows L: Foobar2000 | M: MP3Tag | R: WinAMP in case I forget. The first three numeric values represent realtime freespace from my three main storage drives. The fourth value shows my system uptime. MANY more values can be populated - into a button or menu or whatever. The screenshot doesn't show my gamebar, which is a 32x32 iconbar at the bottom of my screen which is hidden until I nudge the lower edge with my mouse, it then slides into view. The gamebar will launch a lame game (like Bejeweled) and optionally will exit out of PowerPro at the same time (for games which use the mouse or keys in ways I have trapped in PowerPro). I can create several other bars for different purposes if I wanted, hidden or visible, arranged anywhere on the screen. Hang one on the right for Microsoft Office programs. One on the left for graphic editors/tools. Move mouse to the bottom left of the screen to automatically trigger the screensaver.. oh wait, I actually set that feature up already *8-)

Oh, and as well as hotkeys and mouse location/action events it also has a scheduler, timer system, configurable media events (==sounds) that can trigger based on things PP actuates in your system, and it supports multiple desktops.
posted by tra at 3:47 PM on August 28, 2008

Response by poster: thanks tra. I'm definitely gonna take a look into that. I'll look into the others as well after PP
posted by abkadefgee at 2:16 PM on August 29, 2008

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