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If you know someone who uses Apple’s Mac OS X, you may know how Apple users always brag about the Quicksilver functionality they have to launch any file, application or directory with just a tap of a few keys. Isn’t it kind of annoying to hear Apple users brag on and on about the many cool functions of the Mac OS and how they are going to rule the world one day. You probably just stand there and sigh, right? Well, someone else must have felt the same way and hence, they spent their days programming Launchy, which is your friendly hidden launching tool.

What is it, you’re asking?

Launchy is a little tool that indexes your Start menu and lets you launch different applications, files, bookmarks and directories with just a few keystrokes. It basically helps to make all of your regular tasks faster for you. First off, let me tell you that Launchy currently works efficiently only on Windows XP. Now that I am done with the disclaimer, you can go ahead and download Launchy right from this link to get started.

It’s a very small download and once it’s done, the Launchy installation shouldn’t take a long time. Launchy works in the background, meaning you won’t see it around your screen or on the taskbar. Instead, every time you want to use it to launch a file or an application, you will need to invoke it. To do that, you just need to press Alt + Space. To make it disappear, you can simply hit Escape.

After you hit the Alt + Spacebar keys, the little Launchy window should appear. Now, this is the toughest part of the whole exercise. Start typing the name of the application, file or folder you want to launch. Yes, mighty tough, isn’t it?! In fact, you don’t even need to enter the correct spelling of the object you want to launch. For example, if you have a file named “Firefoxing,” it will show up even if you type just “fire.” In fact, if you have a file or folder name in all caps, that doesn’t matter either. You just need to start typing up the first few characters of an item for it to show up.

As you can see in the image above, simply typing in “fire” brings up the Mozilla Firefox logo. To launch it, you just need to press Enter. If the text you have entered doesn’t bring up the result you were expecting, wait for a few seconds and a list will drop down allowing you to choose from other options.

Now, the beauty of Launchy is that the more you use it, the better it functions. Every time you use the drop down menu to select an alternate option, it will associate that option with the set of words that you typed in. For instance, say you typed in “word” with an intention to run Microsoft Word. However, Launchy always brings up WordPad as the default option, so what do you do? Well, after the first couple of times that you type in “word” and scroll down the list to select MS Word, Launchy will automatically associate the tag “word” with MS Word. This means that it would be listed as the first option. Launchy learns the way you function as you keep working with it. The more you use it, the more intuitive it becomes.

As I said in the beginning, Launchy only indexes items in your Start menu, which means that anything that isn’t present in your Start menu would simply not show up when you search for it with Launchy. There are a few things you can do to fix this. First, you can add other folders outside of the Start menu to the Launchy index or you could simply create a new folder under the Program, Start menu folder. This will contain the shortcuts to the folders you want to index. This is something that is very important if you want all your files and folders to show up. If you are happy launching only the applications you have listed in your Start menu, then the default Launchy index should work just fine for you.

Launchy is extremely helpful if you have a trillion applications sitting in your Start menu and you don’t want to scroll through the long menu before being able to find something. The only problem I faced while using it was forgetting that I installed it. Whenever I had to start an application, the default thing to do was to click on the Start button. But, once I got myself into the habit of launching everything through Launchy, the time I was saving was unbelievable. So, the steps are simple. Install Launchy and just index any additional folders apart from the Start menu items that Launchy indexes by default. Remember to use Launchy when you have to launch something and use it as frequently as you can to tune it up. Now, finally, you have an answer to give to your Mac using neighbor the next time he threatens you with world domination!

~ Yogesh Bakshi