Weekly Poll: Do You Use an Application Launcher?

Launching applications is a functional, necessary action that you take every day. Rather than being an exciting process, when it comes to opening an app, the less friction and interaction required the better.

For a long time, Mac users have favoured a dedicated application launcher for doing just this. Although you can store plenty of handy application shortcuts in your Dock, it soon becomes cluttered and difficult to navigate (and it requires the use of your mouse).

For speedy application launching, few options are better than a piece of software such as Quicksilver, LaunchBar or Alfred. For the purists among you, OS X’s built-in search tool – Spotlight – is perfectly adept at this. Just invoke it using Cmd-Space and type the name of the application you’d like to start!

But which do you prefer to use on a daily basis? Or are you perfectly happy with the OS X Dock? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.


Add Yours
  • I can’t live without Alfred :)

    • +1

    • Ditto. Alfred’s amazing if you get the PowerPack.

    • +1 !!


    • Alfred is awesome!
      I still misses some things from Quicksilver, but overall Alfred is the winner.

    • ayyy to that

    • im impressed with alfred’s speed to index something. quicksilver? way too classic for me.

  • Spotlight is good enough for me..

    • Spotlight is more than enough for me.

  • Alfred with it’s powerpack it’s a must!!

  • Spotlight and the dock is good enough for me.

  • Quicksilver every day! Tried Alfred, has some nice features but still not close to QS IMO…

  • I use both Alfred and QS.

  • I have tried Alfred and Quicksilver but after a while I end up forgetting they’re even installed… in other words, I’m accustomed to Spotlight, have been using it since Tiger.

    • you could remap the shortcut to be the spotlight short cut. No harm done really. Then each time you go to get spotlight, you get alfred or QS whatever launcher you want.

  • I really like using Alfred, simple and quick.

    I would like to know of a launcher that will open multiple apps at once. Like setting a category of apps for “Web Development” and then click “launch apps.”

    • You can do that with Alfred! :D
      Just assign the same Spotlight comment to each of the apps:

      • What can’t Alfred do? (pay my taxes)

    • I use DragThing for that. (http://www.dragthing.com/) I put all the apps I want to launch at once in one dock. Then, I just assign the same keystroke for all of them. I can also just drag-select everything and click, or hit Command-A and Command-O as well. You could also do something similar for hotkey launching with Keyboard Maestro. (http://www.keyboardmaestro.com/main/)

      I also use Command + click to select random multiple items in DragThing dock and click to open them at once.

      I use a combination of DragThing, LaunchBar and Keyboard Maestro. A lot of people seem to be stuck with “either or” thinking, but such approach has never worked well for me. I use LaunchBar a lot but there are more than a few instances DragThing style launching is far quicker. Each also offer many features the others don’t. And sometimes I want to automate some tasks as I launch things. So for me I find combining a few tools have worked has given me the best workflow.

      • DragThing rocks. Have been using it for the last 5 years – the only launcher I’ve ever needed. Press a function key and voila all my apps and folders appear categorized into tabs. Funny how it’s hardly ever mentioned in launcher roundup reviews.

      • I agree. There are many DragThing users out there but they don’t seem to be quite as vocal and visible. I also think people are more drawn to the idea of typing key commands to make something happen on their computer regardless of the actual relative speed/efficiency. I don’t know, I guess it just looks and feels cooler or something.

        To me, I found that access speed always depends on what I’m doing in what context. I use LaunchBar a lot especially when my hands are already on my keyboard but I also use DragThing just as much because in some (many) contexts/situations simply “throwing” my mouse to DragThing and clicking something is far quicker. DragThing is also good at catching keystroke while dragging icons, so I often bring DragThing to front with key combination while dragging some icons to it.

        Ultimately, having both types of launcher has always worked best for me. They offer different features, they complement each other and help me go much faster with my Mac operation.

  • Spotlight is great to find a file or email quick.

    I used Quicksilver as a launcher, Alfred seems popular though so I might check that out

  • Al about Quicksilver. I’ve been using it for years now, and what I love about it is that it’s free and supports many applications (iTunes, Safari, Address Book, Things), including most of the extras that you have to pay for with Alfred.

  • Just installed Alfred. Never heard of it before now, but it seems to be popular, and upon my first two minutes, it seems pretty solid. Was using Spotlight until just now. Quicksilver years ago (before Spotlight became viable as a CMD-Space launcher)

  • Used Launchbar for a long period, after Quicksilver stop being developed. Recently changed back to Quicksilver and despite some quirks im really liking it, and i’ve did missed it.

  • I use alfred having switched from quicksilver but I’m thinking of switching back until alfred catches up with quicksilver’s attentions to the little details..

    Also, quicksilver *feels* slicker with it’s animations and polish – alfred is very fast but doesn’t seem as slickly designed.

  • I’ve been using Butler for years. Might give Alfred a go though…

  • I love the Dock + Spotlight, but I have Alfred installed and I use it for web searches, I have a couple of custom web searches for documentation, it’s useful.

  • What sold Alfred to me over QS was the development cycle. Alfred has amazingly active developers who listen to advice, comments, concerns, and take them into consideration. QS is a beautiful launcher, and I used it for a number of years, but Alfred passed it (and can do math, and some other tiny useful things).

    I have to recognize QS as the first launcher of it’s type with the customization that was allowed with it.

    I wouldn’t be able to get through a day without Alfred – I’m using it ~15 times a day on average.

  • I’m surprised Alfred has such a strong showing. It’s not customizable enough for me, at least from what I saw of it. Launchbar lets me have a custom HTML file with only the twenty or so URLs I want to have access to, not my entire bookmarks collection. It also gives me far more control over iTunes.

    Plus, it’s just less obnoxious looking, IMO.

    • You can turn off showing bookmarks and add just the ones you like as custom searches if you don’t want your entire bookmarks collection showing.

      Also, have you seen the iTunes Mini Player, which is part of the Powerpack? :)

  • I use MoApps’ myAppLauncher. It’s basic, with a minimalist UI, and does nothing but lauchn apps, i.e. all I want and need it to do.

  • Alfred + Powerpack, simple as that :).

  • Alfred, for its convenience, speed, and simple yet beautiful design. I can’t wait to be able to afford the Powerpack! :D

  • DragThing and LaunchBar are a fantastic combination, largely making up for the Finder’s long-standing deficiencies.

  • I use our product Essentials (http://habitatus.net/essentials) along the Alfred, as Alfred seems less cluttered than QS, and Essentials is just more modern than DragThing and offers some additional functionality, like creating droplets from Terminal commands, can do copy/paste, can hold text clippings, emails, etc…

  • Definitely Quicksilver, when you give it a try, you won’t use a computer without it.

  • for those of you who use spotlight.. try ‘namely’, its ultra light weight and blazin fast, cos it searches only the application folder and remembers the apps you use often.
    totally love it!

  • QS for sure! It’s in my log in items … most of the time I forget it’s not built into the OS.

    It’s also way beyond just being an app launcher, there’s a myriad things it can do.

  • I really like the dock. There are icons there. I click them.
    I find it hard to imagine how this process could be made faster or simpler.

  • For free, Spotlight probably is the best ‘app launcher’. For free, Quicksilver is the best way to browse websites, store colors, scale images, search websites, move files, add text to text files, run AppleScripts with text or file input, paste text snippets, find Keychain passwords, make iCal events, click menubar items…

  • Quicksilver FTW.

    • +1

  • Spotlight and the Dock are already there, all the time, and no other software can do anything better or faster or new than the existing duo.

    It’s easy to setup folders of aliases and drag them to the Dock for sorted sets of clickable icons for any file or app. You can duplicate them, too. You can use your own images for icons (copy/paste or drag/drop to the icon in any file’s Get Info window to replace whatever is there).

    • “no other software can do anything better or faster”

      You are kidding, right?

  • I’ve used QS for a while now, wish it was updated more. I’ve tried Alfred but found it a bit difficult to get used to over QS, especially missed not being able to navigate folders as easily.

  • i really love overflow.. quite simple for my workflow, though i tried QS and Alfred… i guess overflow is more suited for me. http://stuntsoftware.com/overflow/

  • (If you learn how to use your OS, you don’t need anything extra for indexing or searching purposes)

  • My theory is “keep it simple.” Don’t clutter up your life and computer with apps. That, if you remember, is why many of us first bought the Apple computers, eh?

  • I’ve been using Berokyo for a while and I just love it!

  • I don’t understand the people who say you can get everything with Spotlight and the Dock. You simply cannot. There is a ton of extra functionality these apps expose (I have experience with LaunchBar and with Alfred) that’s not there with Spotlight. Believe me, I know: I’ve been using them since 2002 and I’ve tried a number of times to get by with just Spotlight. I’ve never made it more than a day because I find 2 or 3 things that are just plain showstoppers that I can’t get with Spotlight. And this is still true today, even on [REDACTED] Mac OS X versions.

    One trivial example: How fast can you open a web page that’s in your history, or how fast can you web search on a specific term? With a launcher it takes me about 1/2 second to fire open a new tab with a Google search, as that’s built in. SO MUCH FASTER than switching to Safari, opening a new tab, tabbing to the search box, and typing. ARGH!

    If you don’t like them, or don’t want to pay, that’s cool. But to say they offer no real functionality is a joke.

  • Spotlight is more than enough for me.

  • What a hotfire question! I love quicksilver but use Alfred. QS just doesn’t work well enough or reliably enough under snow leopard for me to rely on it. But, when it does work, it thrashes Alfred. It finds individual files miles better than Alfred does. They’re equal as app launchers (after all, that’s an easy thing to do), and Alfred is probably easier to use for bespoke online searches. But for finding files, QS still has it. I’ve bought the power pack for Alfred but if the current developers of QS get it to reliably work under SL (ie to stop opening BEHIND windows when invoked would be a start! :-) ) then I would drop Alfred in an instant and be back to QS.

  • i prefer sapiens. really dont understand why nobody ever mentions it… =(