Monday, March 12, 2007

Little App, Big Joy

I can't live without Launchy anymore!

I think I went through a pretty normal evolution to get here. Once upon a time I used the regular Windows Start|Programs to launch applications. Then I graduated to a BAT file to start up the apps I most commonly used. Then I switched to using the Quick Launch toolbar. I've used Start|Run for various things, or even an omni-present cmd.exe console. I've even looked at some other "application launch pad" apps before, but was never impressed enough to continue using them. Now that I've become hooked on Launchy, though, I'm going to give them another look. A good list of them can be found at Scott Hanselman's Computer Zen blog. It was in another one of his posts that I first came across Launchy, I think.

I started using Launchy ( a couple of months ago, and now I feel lost (and slow and frustrated) on the rare occassions when I have to manually find what I'm looking for under Start|Programs!

So, what is Launchy? It's a tiny app that allows you to launch programs or files very quickly, in a keyboard-driven way. Just type Alt-Space, and a text field appears mid-screen. Start typing, and matches appear. If you type enough for a single match, that's all you see.
If you type something with many matches, it will present a likely match first; then, if you don't select that match immediately, a selection list of more matches appears. It seems to remember what you've selected before and puts those items highest in the match list (or maybe that's a result of what I've usually typed, or else it's just my imagination. :-)

A feature I didn't realize it had at first was a form of pattern-matching. I can type 'itx' and it will match Internet Explorer (InTernet eXplorer), for example.

It quickly indexes your Start Menu/Programs, your Desktop, or whatever set of directories you want to match against. The ability to focus on a few places rather than the entire hard drive is nice; otherwise, you'd end up with too many matches, I think (unless other heuristics are involved, which some other similar apps appear to have).

It has some configuration options and alternate skins, accessible by right-clicking on the border of the text field. Disappointingly, most of the techniques described at don't work for me. Hitting Tab only selects the text I've entered so far, which doesn't seem like what I expect should be happening.

There are other programs much like Launchy that I've come across since, but I've stuck with Launchy (version 1) so far. Once in a while it crashes on my laptop (running Windows XP SP2) and I have to (GASP!) go to Start|Programs to re-start it. I'll probably check out one or two alternative apps, then donate to support the one I end up using. I'll try to remember to post a comment or update this post with my final selection.


At 15:06, Anonymous Scott Scites said...

I too use Launchy and supplement it with Enso Launcher from Humanized. It's a nice combination because Launchy can be quicker at routine things but doesn't have the functionality of Enso Launcher.

I too understand your disorientation when these tools are missing. They are very nice!


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