Keep a More Organized Dock with TabLauncher

There are plenty of ways to open and switch apps. There are app launchers, the dock, Spotlight, Mission Control, the Launchpad, and the Cmd+Tab app switcher. We all use a different method, all of which have their own strengths and weaknesses. For the most part, I simply use the dock, but one thing that I’ve never liked about it is that it’s very difficult to organize.

What if the dock could get some sort of feature that would make it more organized? Say, something like tabs that divide your apps into categories? Well, today we’re reviewing an app called Tab Launcher that does just that. Let’s take a look.

Getting Started

Getting Started

Getting Started

The first time you run the app, you’ll be greeted with a “Welcome” screen describing what the app does and how you should use it. Because of the nature of the app, I expected the installation process to be tedious, but it almost seems to be non-existent. You just buy it and open it.

Now, basically this app works as a dock, but organized in tabs. You could pretty much get the same effect by using folders on your dock, but Tab Launcher makes it much easier and more intuitive to organize your apps.

The Interface

Interface

Interface

By default, the app will show a few tabs peeking out of your right side of the screen, and if you hover your mouse over them, the “dock” will appear, allowing you to browse through your current tabs, one at a time. You can also arrange the apps and launch them, of course.

The dock and tabs are by default in different tones of purple, but you can change them as we’ll see later. As for the look of the app, it is pretty much identical to the dock, although you can change the transparency through the settings, and it’s a bit more colorful.

Working with Tabs

Tabs

Tabs

The Welcome screen will teach you that you can drag-and-drop tabs to arrange them in the order that you want. You can keep them together, or spread them over the screen. This also works with the apps, and even with the dock itself, which you can change between the right, left, and bottom side of the screen.

By right clicking inside of a tab is where you get technical. There you have all the configuration settings: adding new tabs, renaming old ones, changing colors, adding separators, even changing the font color of tabs.

Adding New Apps

The most effective way of adding new apps to the Launch bar is by opening your Apps folder and dragging and dropping apps into your preferred tab. You can have as many tabs as you want, so you can also go into as deep of a categorization as you want to.

You can also switch any app from tab to tab, but what you can’t do is have one app repeated in two different tabs. You can delete any app from the dock by right clicking it and selecting to delete it, or by simply dragging it to the desktop.

How Was It?

I admittedly expected this to run quite slowly and to severely affect my productivity (I have a white Macbook, speed isn’t its strong suit). But it actually runs surprisingly smooth and fast, even more than the normal dock. There aren’t many things to complain about with this app. It’s cheap, and it does exactly what it advertises. It works fast and doesn’t seem to have any noticeable glitches. It’s biggest downfall is that the problem it solves isn’t exactly a problem that most people have.

It would be nice to be able to completely hide the app, although I guess the main concept is that the tabs are always visible, making it easier and faster to select any app without having to hover over the dock to open and read the categories.

Don’t expect it to be very different from your dock. If you are happy with your dock, then keep it, you don’t really need this app. All it does is bring a different sense of categorization and order to the apps in your dock, but in some ways it could even be perceived as slower for your productivity, since you don’t really ever have a full quick view of all your open apps.

I’m not quite sure how you are supposed to use this app. Do you use it as a complement to the dock, or do you use it as a replacement for the dock? I guess it’s a matter of choice, and if you are interested in Launch Bar, I would suggest you try it for a few days in conjunction with the normal dock, just to see how much you really need it.

Conclusion

I thought this app would be overshadowed by Lion’s Launchpad, but it actually works very differently. Yes, the Launchpad is probably prettier and gives you more of a modern mobile feel, but the Tab Launcher is easer to set up and faster to browse and bring up.

The idea for this app is good, in fact, it’s great. But I don’t think the developers got the timing right by releasing this app just a few days after we got Launchpad with Mac OS Lion, which pretty much fills the same purpose as this one. Just like always, this is a matter of opinion and seeing what works best for you and your needs.


Summary

The idea for this app is good, in fact, it's great. But the developers didn't get the timing right by releasing this app just a few days after we got the Launchpad.

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  • Marcel

    The price on MAS is $12.00 which is too much expensive.

    • Namhong Kim

      @Marcel Not 12 Dollars, 12 Pesos, Same Symbol.

    • http://www.coroflot.com/joshuajohnson Joshua Johnson

      Thanks for pointing that out, I redirected the link to the U.S. store, where the app is still $0.99.

  • Tim

    DragThing will always be the best launcher ever made. It was also just updated to work better with Lion. I have been using it since OS 8.x and it’s the first 3rd party app I install on a new computer.

  • http://about.me/gianpaj GianPaJ

    let me know when they do free trial.
    i don’t get why theren’t more free+ paid versions.
    i know 99cents is almost free. but for students 99 cent here, 99 cents there, IS ALOT

    also no demo video on their website…

  • Arnout

    As a student you do not really need this, right? It is a nice-to-have application. I also like having demo versions, but your reasoning is a fallacy. Why is it that students (and others who need to make tough choices on what to buy) tend to think that they need to buy all these things nowadays? So, don’t spend 99 cents here and 99 cents there. Go focus on your study and, maybe, one day you’ll have the luxury to afford all those 99 cents (or any other amount) on stuff you do not actually need. But better yet, buy a friend a beer for the money, instead of spending it on the newest app or iPhone or whatever.

    • Paul

      Amen! :)

  • http://www.izm.de Paul

    I got it and have only one thing to say… it is totally worth it. For example i’m an web designer and have about 5 browsers and many tools i start every day. With TabLauncher i can organise my browsers, apps and utilities. In addition the possibility to drag TabLauncher around the screens makes it very handy because i’m working with dual screen (one over another) and the way from the top to the dockbar at the bottom is sometimes really long, TabLauncher at the side of the top screen makes it about 90% shorter. :)
    This will be one of the apps i’ll use every day, so 99 cents are ‘nothing’ in the relation to the time i will save and the confort it gives me. There is really nothing i miss, it works just great.

  • Paul C.

    I dont see the need for another app on my system to control what I need launched.

    Over the years I have tried this type of desktop utilities at various times and even bought a couple only to abandon them after the novelty wore off. The only enhancement for the Mac user interface I ever used consistently is LaunchBar, but only because it’s a safe stand alone app that require very little tinkering and get out of my way when not in use.

    It is my belief that most of these desktop utilities exist because they can, not because they actually bring any great benefits.

    I am a great fan of the Dock and LaunchPad in Lion and this I do feel make all these desktop “enhancements” utterly unnecessary. A couple of folders in the Dock containing aliases as well as judicious use of Spotlight gives you all the launching you might want. Besides, Dock is useful because it’s limited. Anything more than what Apple Dock can hold, and it becomes a meta-filesystem, in which case you might as well just use Spotlight or even Finder. LaunchPad is perfect because I can organize icons by screen and rapidly swipe back and forth. I just put all the unnecessary icons in a few folders and kick them to the last screen. Perfect? No. But it just doesn’t matter that much. Works fine for 99% of the users out there, and 1% can just use Spotlight or LaunchBar.

    So, I suggest that people don’t waste their time with these pointless dock utilities!

    Oh, and another thing is that Lion will be sandboxed and most of these utilities will stop working. It’s time to learn the native OS and make the best use out of it instead of tinkering with this type of utilities.

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  • cole

    I think that this is a great app. I have always liked the dock, except for the fact that it doesn’t have enough space. with this app, I could put all of my apps on it if I wanted to. Plus, if you go under the preferences, you can change it so that it is invisible when hidden. All in all, great app, especially at 99 cents.

  • 0KB

    ok, so now how do you disable the original dock completely? or is the point of tab launcher to leave us with the redundancy of having 2 docks?
    also you can already organize your apps in a hierarchic folder stack and keep the rest of the dock with just running apps.

    tablauncher is cheap and good looking but unless it can replace the original dock, it will only clutter.

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