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.
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.
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
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.
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.