Tools We Use: LaunchBar

For the uninitiated LaunchBar is a an indispensable tool that allows you to launch any program or find any contact with just your keyboard. You can set your own keyboard shortcut to activate it, you type a few characters and then LaunchBar figures out what you want. You can customize those activating words but for the most part it does a really good job figuring it out on its own. For example if I want to launch “Remote Desktop Connection” I can just type “rdc”. I set my keyboard shortcut to command-space to replace the delivered Spotlight function. This way when I go to someone else’s computer and hit that key command I can still access a similar function in the OS.

Objective Development LaunchBar 5.1.2 $35 http://www.obdev.at/products/launchbar

The latest version (5.1.2 July 1, 2011) is Mac OS 10.7 Lion -compatible although this is probably just a formality. I have had no trouble with it through the beta cycle of the new OS.

There are other launchers out there. I have tried and used QuickSilver in the past. At one point back in the System 6 days I used a program extension called On Cue. It was followed by On Cue II that worked through Mac OS 9. This was developed at a time when Apple expected you to navigate to the Applications folder to launch a program. Later Apple came out with the Launcher. In Mac OS X we have the Dock. In Lion we now have Launchpad. So the question is, ‘do we still need Launchbar?’. The truth is that Launchpad works really well if you only have a few apps and curate it. It is unusable for me. I have too many applications. The Launchpad is too much like the Start Menu from Windows for my taste. I can organize items into folders and nothing changes in the applications folder but if I delete a program from the Launchpad it is deleted? The metaphor does not translate directly from iPad. I’m sure Launchpad 2 will be genius.

For the mean time I will continue to use LaunchBar. When I need to look up a phone number from my address book I know that it is just a few keystrokes away.

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