Put simply, Blast is a menu bar applet that tracks what files you have recently opened, modified or touched. So if you opened up an image file in Preview, or an iWork document, Blast will keep track of it.
Main User Interface
After losing track of a document or media file, just click the little exploding “B” icon in the menu bar. A floating window organizes the recent files and applications opened.
Across the top bar, there are several icons that allow you to filter down the results. For example, you might just want to see the recent photos, folders, or media files opened. When you select a filter, you get a view of all the recent files that match that type.
You can also see recently opened programs – acting as a simple application launcher.
Blast supports keyboard shortcuts too. Use the left and right arrow keys to switch between the different filter panes, or tab to switch between recent list, the sidebar and the menu. You can also hit spacebar to reveal the item in the Finder and Control B to show/hide the application.
Beyond the ability to see recently viewed files, it also has a sidebar as well (a type of “folder springboard”). Initially the application shows both the Applications and Documents folders. However, users can drag recently opened files and folders onto this bar. I have found this extremely handy to have, so I can access folders normally hidden away in the Finder.
Blast can also be opened with a customizable shortcut key and can automatically launch at login – similar to most menu bar applets.
Along with listing a number of recent files, Blast can exclude certain files or folders based on select rules. These rules are already set up to ignore system files and the like, but could be also used to hide specific files you don’t want to appear in Blast.
A main competitor to Blast is a popular piece of software called Fresh. It’s developed by Ironic Software; the makers of other one word apps like Yep, Deep and Leap. Fresh sits like a regular app in the dock, and unlike Blast which resides in the menu bar, opening Fresh brings up a semi-transparent overlay.
Blast does a great job of showing you recent files, and allowing you to sort between their types. Fresh does not allow these filtering features. Alternately, Fresh dedicates half of the user interface for ‘The Cooler.’ This ice blue portion of the heads-up-display allows you to store files for longer terms.
In the same manner as Blast’s sidebar, dragging a file into the cooler means that it would remain easily accessible even if you haven’t accessed in in a while. Fresh is available for $9.
Another option for viewing recently opened documents is already set up with every new Mac. In Finder, under the Search divider, are three preset Smart Folders. One is for recently opened documents, the next pictures, and the third shows all documents opened or modified today.
While lacking a snappy interface, hot keys, or a fun name, these Smart Folders are free and easily customizable.
My Nominal ComplaintsOne minor complaint: the Blast menu bar icon seems slightly unrelated to the application’s icon. Maybe a smaller, two dimensional version of the real icon would be better suited. The icon also becomes difficult to see when selected, filling with the highlighted color instead of changing to white like other applets.
A final note about Blast is less to do about this program and more to do with Mac application trends. I am quickly filling my menu bar with applets from every single program I have installed. While I’m sure I can turn most of these off, I find that my menu bar is becoming an increasing competitive place for applications.
Similar to my iPhone’s home screen, these applications must prove their real use to be at the top of the screen at all times. It would be challenging to find a better implementation for Blast other than a menu bar applet, but I thought it was necessary to note my growing frustration with every application I use having something in the holy-white-bar at the top of my screen.
Blast is a very inexpensive piece of software, clocking in at under $10. However, much of what Blast does can be accomplished through Smart Folders in the Finder. Those who have used Windows will remember the ability to open recent documents from the Start menu; Blast provides this feature in a more polished, full-service way.
Granted, Blast does offer a very slick interface for launching the document you just accidentally closed, but for many, Spotlight and the Finder can preform the same actions. In the end, I’m not sure Blast will end up living in my menu bar on a day-to-day basis.
What do you think of this little applet? Will you add it to your arsenal?
Blast gives you quick access to recently opened documents, folders, media files, and applications in a slick, easy to use interface. For $10, this simple add on is a great option for the forgetful or those wishing to easily hop across documents and applications. However, much of what Blast does can be done through Smart Folders and Spotlight in the Finder.8
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