Of all the GUI features on the Mac operating system, perhaps the most iconic is the Dock. It offers users a quick place to launch commonly used apps, as well as switch between those which are currently open. However, with the explosion of available apps for the Mac, the utility of the Dock has come into question among a growing number of users. For anyone who commonly opens dozens of different apps on a daily basis, it just isn’t feasible to look around looking for what you need.
Fortunately, a number of options have emerged to help us launch apps without ever needing to look at the Dock. OS X Lion introduced Launchpad, which quickly displays all of your applications. Power-users have long found options like Quicksilver to be faster and more powerful. Bevy, from Berg Design, was designed to be fast like Quicksilver while still having a more tangible interface like Launchpad. Let’s check it out.
Keeping all of your applications in the Dock can defeat the purpose of having it at all if it takes a long time to find what you are looking for. Additionally, every extra app placed on the Dock makes the other icons shrink, so you could potentially make icons frustratingly miniscule. All of this means that most of us only place a few of the most common apps on the dock. Bevy helps you find your un-docked apps quickly, as well as drop files into them.
Bevy came out long before Lion brought us Launchpad, but in many ways, it would seem Apple was copying this app’s concept. You can activate Bevy either from the menubar icon or the dock, (and you can hide either one in the preferences pane if you choose). Additionally, you can set up a custom keyboard shortcut to launch it.
Once Bevy is opened, you’ll see all the apps you have installed on your system. If you have any subfolders within your Applications folder, those will be shown in separate columns automatically. I never bothered to organize my apps in any particular way, so when I first launched Bevy I only saw one additional column, which was the Utilities folder.
From the main window, you can simply click on an icon to launch that app. While Lion’s Launchpad does allow you some basic control over organizing your apps, it can be very tedious (just like on your iOS device). You also might have to scroll through multiple pages, since there is a set number of apps that can fit on a single screen. Launchpad doesn’t let you hide anything, as clicking the X that appears after holding down on an app will delete it rather than remove it from Launchpad.
Bevy is sure to squeeze all of your apps into its single window. I have about 200 apps and I use a 15 inch MacBook Pro, and I never had trouble seeing everything. But if you are using an 11 inch Air and have a few hundred apps, this might mean your icons are indecipherably small.
Bevy does a fantastic job of letting you control what it shows. If you want to organize apps into folders, Bevy will display them as separate columns. You probably have a more than a few apps that you never use and would prefer Bevy didn’t even bother displaying. You can either manually hide these apps by right-clicking on them, or you can automate this process. This feature tells Bevy to look for certain keywords like “update” and “remove” and automatically hides these apps. This is particularly useful for apps that install those annoying extra “updater” files, (I’m looking at you, Adobe).
You can also create a list of favorite apps and show them when you activate Bevy. This is an interesting feature, but somewhat redundant when you consider that a list of favorite apps is the entire purpose of your Dock.
While organizing your apps goes a long way towards making Bevy a quick and intuitive launcher, you still may want refine the process of finding what you are looking for. Rather than scanning the potentially cluttered window, Bevy allows you to use both your trackpad and keyboard to filter the window.
With a two finger scrolling motion, Bevy will highlight apps by letter. For instance, if you were looking for Garage Band, you would scroll down until the app showed you “G”, at which point apps that begin with that letter are highlighted. Alternatively, you could simply type “G”.
The Dock gives you a small light underneath icons of apps that are currently running. It’s a nice way to keep track of what you have open. Launchpad, (as well as the iPad, for that matter), lacks this feature. Fortunately, Bevy will highlight all the apps you have running.
My favorite feature is the ability to drag a file onto an app in Bevy to open it. For example, you could drag a picture on your desktop into Bevy, whose window can be moved around on your screen, and then drop it onto your mail client to send the file as an attachment. Once you select a file, Bevy will highlight apps that can accept it.
I have very mixed feelings about Bevy. When looking at Bevy on its own, it is a fantastic app launcher. I’ve never liked Launchpad for a number of reasons, and Bevy addresses just about all of them with flying colors. You can organize apps, see all of them in one window, hide unnecessary ones, drop files onto them, and keep the window open while viewing other windows (rather than have Launchpad take over fullscreen). All of these are great features.
However, Launchpad was never a great solution to launching apps for anyone with even slightest proficiency with a Mac. You could always just use Spotlight to quickly find an application (or file). Simplistic app launchers like Alfred also have a ton of other functions that they can do, all of which don’t require you to bother organizing your apps to begin with.
This leads me to wonder if Bevy, which was designed before Lion, is relevant anymore. I think that if you use Launchpad, you may have come across the same complaints that I’ve expressed. Or maybe you use Launchpad and just never noticed these flaws. Either way, if you use Launchpad as your preferred method of opening apps, I highly recommend you try Bevy. It’s a much better solution, but at 10 dollars, you may need to ask yourself just how much better. On the other hand, if you feel comfortable using even the most basic of keyboard shortcuts, I recommend you move to the big kid table and try out a real app launcher that is exponentially faster.