If I had to pick one favorite feature from Windows Vista that made it over to 7, it’s the omni-search bar from the Start Menu. It’s also the number one feature I miss from Windows 8, because the “metro” search takes up the entire screen, and well, that just isn’t groovy. Launchy is a free desktop app that brings in the omnisearch bar to any version of Windows, and if you ask me, it does it better than Microsoft. It works in all versions from Windows 8 to Windows XP, but it doesn’t stop there. Launchy is also available for Mac OS X and Linux (no RT support yet).
The way it works is you press a keyboard combination to open the search bar. The default is Alt + Space but you can customize the hotkey to almost anything. Once open, just type in the name of the app you want to open and press enter. BAM! The app is open, simple as that.
Like Windows search, Launchy goes a little bit further if you have multiple apps that match your search query. Each app will be displayed from a drop-down list below the search bar allowing you to easily click the one you want.
One thing I noticed is that by default Launchy isn’t set to index much of the computer. In fact the only thing it will pull results from is the Start Menu, unless you add more directories.
If you want a catch all, just add your entire hard drive to the Catalog list from Launchy’s options. It also might be a good idea to check the “Include executables” options and enter any additional file types you want to show up in searches. Once you have all of this ready, click the “Rescan Catalog” button and Launchy will rebuild it’s search database. This might take a few minutes if you selected the entire hard drive like I did.
The default look is well enough, but if you don’t like it, you can further customize it by applying a skin to Launchy. The default installation includes six skins, but you can download hundreds more from deviantart.
Other settings include nearly everything you could ask for in terms of UI customization, and this is covered in the General tab of Launchy’s options. The first thing to change on the general tab however may be the Auto Update interval, as if you selected to index an entire hard drive it may put a significant strain on your system having it rescan every 10 minutes.
Launchy also has a lot of plugins that add more functionality, and it supports the development of even more plugins through its API. Other plugins can be found on the corresponding tab of the app’s official website http://www.launchy.net/.
Launchy is a great utility to have for Windows 8 on a traditional non-touch computer. But it’s also great for any version of Windows. There’s a lot of power in this free app launcher. Once you dig into it and add plugins, you’ll find it’s much more powerful and versatile than the Windows Start Menu. It has the ability to do virtually anything you want it to.
You can launch programs, documents and folders, web pages, give favorite apps keywords, launch Dropbox folders, run batch files and scripts, and even launch portable apps. Not to mention, it’s blazing fast compared to using the Start Menu.
While it is free, they do welcome donations, and once you realize the incredible amount of power Launchy offers, you’ll be happy to donate.
So how does it look? Have you used Launchy or another keystroke application launcher? I’d love to hear about any tips or tricks you’ve used to get things done on your system. Leave a comment and tell us about it!