Goin’ back to Windows: Launchy

This is part of a series on moving from desktop Linux back to Windows.

The first post is here. The previous post is here.

A very long time ago, before I had ever used Mac or Linux for personal computing, someone had convinced me of the value of a “launcher”: a program, usually invoked via alt-space, that would pop up a box and help you find stuff on your computer, launch programs / scripts, do quickie things like calculations, and otherwise keep your hands on the keyboard and off of the mouse.

At that time, the only game in town for Windows was Launchy.

When I started using a Mac for work, I tried out Spotlight, which is the default Mac launcher, and it felt OK but not even on par with Launchy. I quickly discovered Quicksilver and have stuck with it.

When I moved to Linux a few years ago, I started using Kupfer, though I don’t recall why. It worked just fine, but I was a n00b and had I known about GNOME-Do, I probably would have used that.

When I moved back to Windows, one of the first things I did was look for the current state of launchers on Windows. And, to my surprise, it seems that Launchy is still a favorite. Here’s what it looks like, exactly the same as it did in 2009:

Why not just the win key?

The win key is fine as an application launcher. It’s easy, fast, and just works.

What I like about Launchy, though, is that it also makes it easier to navigate the file system quickly. For example, let’s say I keep all my code in c:\dev\projects. If I want to navigate to that natively, I could hit the win key and then type c:\dev\projects. Or I could open up explorer and point-and-click to it.

But with Launchy, it’s as easy as

This is possible because Launchy lets you configure where it looks for stuff. In the case above, I can configure launch to catalog files or folders in a certain location:

Finally, Launchy includes a catalog of plugins and comes with some useful defaults. For example, I often need to so simple-ish calculations, and Launchy makes that really easy thanks to the Calc plugin:


This is all certainly not life-changing, earth-shattering stuff. But I spend a lot of time on a computer, and pointing-and-clicking all day long is inefficient and unenjoyable. I like tiny time-saving, joy-boosting things, and a launcher like Launchy serves nicely.

Next post: Multiple terminal windows with ConEmu


2 thoughts on “Goin’ back to Windows: Launchy

  1. if that’s all it did, well and good, useful. I combine it with lots of shortcuts, scripts, Web fu and command line stuff (Runner plugin) and it does a lot for me without lifting my hands from the keyboard. I feel about this use of Launchy the way some feel about the command line itself–so enthusiastic it sometimes comes across as preachy.

    For example, I have a plain text file called scratchpad that I use like a physical scratchpad, to scrawl down quick thoughts or phone numbers or whatever. I have a launchy scratchpad command (which invokes a pretty simple script) so that I can type ALT-SPACE (invokes Launchy), scratchpad TAB RETURN. Launchy disappears, and I have just prepended to my scratchpad.txt file, along with a time and date stamp.
    Same thing for a journal.txt file, for recording what I’m doing with my time.

    I use Outlook to manage my calendar and contacts,tasks, and meeting notes (using the Outlook Journal feature), as well as email. For each of the 5 categories (calendar, contacts, tasks, notes, email) I have scripts that:
    1. creates a new item
    2. opens the respective window
    3. searches within that catgory, e.g.
    FindContact (this one takes a search term as an argument after the TAB)


    I’ve been using Launchy for 10 years and keep finding new ways to make it useful

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