Be more productive with an application launcher

Lately I have been trying to find ways to make myself more productive while I’m programming. One of the great ways to improve your speed at repetitive tasks is to avoid the use of the mouse as much as possible. For a while I’ve been trying to become more proficient with Visual Studio and r# keyboard shortcuts to increase my development speed in Visual Studio.

Along these lines I came across a set of tools known as launchers. These apps allow you to use a hotkey to activate a search dialog which provide quick searching and launching of all applications installed on your workstation.

Many of you probably already use an application launcher on a day-to-day basis, but previously I had not taken much interest in these types of tools. I thought I already had a very fast and efficient system of icons on my desktop that allowed me to quickly launch my most frequently used applications, but I was wrong. The launcher allows me to much more quickly perform frequent repetitive tasks and launch applications.

I took a look at several different launchers that are available (most are also available for Lion as well). LifeHacker has a good article with an overview of several good launchers on their site: http://lifehacker.com/392569/best-application-launchers

I decided to use Launchy (http://launchy.net) and I really like it so far. It’s made a big difference in speeding up many of my frequent tasks. It’s really easy to use as well and comes with some nice extensions (they call them plug-ins). The Runner plug in allows you to create custom aliases for frequent tasks. Combine this with batch or powershell scripts and it becomes a fairly powerful way of quickly running frequent tasks. As an example, I set up aliases for frequent Hg source control commands on my most frequently used repositories. So I can use commands like pushreponame, pullreponame, commitreponame, and workbenchreponame to quickly perform these tasks without ever taking my hands from the keyboard or even opening a command prompt window. It uses predictive text in this field so it usually finds the right command well before I finish typing it:

I like to use hg from the command line for most of my source control interaction because I think it’s a lot quicker and I feel like I have more control. However, I also like the way Tortoise allows you to quickly see all of your code changes graphically before you commit. The down side to using Tortoise in this way is that I was having to use the mouse to launch Tortoise’s commit functionality. With Launchy I just created an alias that launches the Tortoise commit functionality:

It also has a very nice web plugin that allows you to define aliases for your frequently used websites. We use jira to track our work, so I can quickly launch jira from Launchy:

I’ve been using Launchy for about a week now and it’s made a big difference in how quickly I can navigate my applications. I think it’s well worth investigating for anyone who uses their computer heavily.

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