An application launcher is something that a lot of Mac users won’t really worry about. After all, Apple was nice enough to include a handy little launcher (the Dock) with their OS. It’s pretty flexible and fairly feature rich. Why even look for an alternative? Because there are a lot of better alternatives out there. Let’s take a look at one.
Jump aims to solve some problems you probably didn’t know you even had. I have to say I thought I’d just grab the free version, check it out for a few days and be done with it in a week. That’s actually quite the opposite of what happened. Read on for the scoop.
So what is Jump all about? It’s a good question, and one I was asking up until I started to actually use the software. Jump is a launcher in its simplest form. It allows you to launch applications, folders, documents, etc. very quickly.
Download and Install
The installation of Jump is quick and simple. A download of the trial version right from the product page is about as easy as it gets. It’s a fairly light piece of software so from download to using it was literally a matter of seconds. The trial version does restrict the application to 3 categories and 10 applications/folders/documents. It’s plenty to get a taste of Jump.
Jump can be activated by a shortcut key (set by you) or a quick launch button (placed where you want it) or both. These can be easily changed in the preferences. I found it best have both options active, although after a few days I found myself using the shortcut method a lot more. It’s far quicker.
User Interface and App Usage
Jump has a simple, clean design. This works well given what the tool is designed to do. The application icons are brought to the front of the design making them easy to pick out and quick to launch.
A common “X” button in the upper left hand corner closes Jumper (can also press the shortcut key again). A small button in the lower right hand corner brings up a series of options. Here all of the applications of a category can be launched, categories can be edited, and the preferences can be opened.
The categories are pinned along the left hand side of the main palette in a slightly smaller box. It is possible to turn these off if you chose to not use categories and just have one large group. There is also a small, familiar looking search box at the top of the palette.
The size of the actual palette and the size of the icons is down to user preference as well. Available configurations are icons sized 64×64 px, 128×128 px, or 256×256 px with either 8, 16, 32, or 64 icons per page. As you can see the layout is pretty flexible, but keep in mind that some combinations may not be available depending on your screen resolution.
All the while you’re trying out different configurations, an example of the current settings will display right within the preferences window.
The Dock is a part of Mac OS X and is nice application launcher, but very limited in its organization (there isn’t any). With Jump you are able to organize an unlimited number of applications in an unlimited number of categories and essentially launch them in a similar fashion as you would with the Dock. This is really the essence of the software.
Let’s think about the possibilities here for a second. Say you’re a web developer. You’ve got a core set of tools that you use on almost every project. Those could be organized into say a “Web Workspace” category. With Jump open and that category selected you’ll see only those applications.
It is even possible to launch all applications in a category all at once. It requires a couple clicks of the mouse, but overall isn’t too tough. It’s a handy little feature and hopefully it will become quicker (maybe via a shortcut key preference setting) in future releases.
The preferences in a utility type application are a very important feature. Jump is a fairly basic application, but it does offer a pretty wide array of preference options to allow you to fine tune the tool to fit your needs.
To be honest, some settings seem rather pointless, but others could certainly be very useful depending on how you want to use the tool. Let’s take a closer look:
First of all, the preferences can always be reached via a small button on the bottom right-hand corner of the interface at all times.
Enable the option to launch Jump after login and to always display Jump in front of other windows. Then set your Dock preference to hide. Now Jump is ready to be your primary application launcher and the Dock is still down there if you ever need it
The background of the Jump palette can be changed in the preferences as well. I went through all of the available options and will just tell you to not waste your time. This is purely my opinion, but I think the default Slate background is by far the best.
They’re not all horrible – and I suppose a lot of it has to do with personal taste – but some of them did remind me of desktop background options on my parent’s Packard Bell PC (rocking Windows 95).
Peformance and Functionality
Jump loads quickly. If it isn’t set to load on log in, you may notice it open a little slower the first time it is launched each session. After that it is very snappy to open and close.
Adding applications/folders/documents/etc. to the palette is as easy as clicking anywhere within the palette. A finder window opens for you to chose what you’d like to add. Hovering you cursor over an application on the palette will display a small “X” next to the application. This will remove it from the launcher. A right click option is also available if you so chose.
Using a keyboard shortcut to launch Jump is easy to slide right into your normal Mac use. After so much time using the Dock or another launcher it may take some getting used to Jump, but I will say that a transition to a more visual launcher (like Jump) will be easier to handle than a move to something like QuickSilver. You’ll have Jump mastered in a matter of minutes.
There are other application launchers out there, although I’m not sure there are any that are quite like Jump. Jump differentiates itself from most others in that it is a point and click launcher. It’s a visual experience, and relies on a mouse click to launch an application (like the Dock).
QuickSilver is a different well known application launcher for Mac. Though it does launch applications, it is a lot more complicated and does many other things as well. This can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on exactly what you’re looking to get out of it.
A full version Jump license will run you $24.14 (19.00€). Multiple license discounts are available as well. With some viable options in the application launcher field being free, the cost may seem a bit steep. It does come with updates for life and free technical support.
Though it is a simple piece of software, if you think about how integral it could become to your normal everyday usage the cost seems pretty justifiable. If you’re curious about it, try out the trial version. It will give you enough of a feel to see if it is something that will work for you.
Jump is not a sexy piece of software. It’s a utility and a very useful one at that. There are so many good applications available, it’s often easy to get overloaded. A launcher with the ability to organize as Jump does becomes incredibly helpful.
Simplicity makes the application more efficient while the preferences offer just enough room for customization. Some would say that it isn’t robust enough, or that it is too mouse dependent. I’m an organizational nerd who loves minimalist style and remembers icons better than names – so Jump suites me quite well.
The application succeeds exactly where it intends. A better way to launch applications.