LaunchEver wish you could open up any file on your computer with just one key press? Well, if you have, you can store every file you have on your desktop. Instant access!

That was a joke, or course. If you’re an OS X user wanting a more elegant solution for getting to your stuff, LaunchBar proves to be the productivity-booster you’re looking for. LaunchBar is a ridiculously useful program program launcher for OS X that’s operated entirely with the keyboard. I’ve been using it on my Macbook Pro for several months now, and I honestly miss it whenever I switch to my Windows machine.

Now, you might think that LaunchBar is useless because you’ve already got Spotlight. In truth, Spotlight works pretty well as a program launcher, and it’s free. However, LaunchBar is so much more robust and useful than Spotlight. Plus, the program gives you a 30-day period to evaluate it before buying – and you can still use it free after that period if you’re willing to deal with a purchase reminder.

LaunchBar takes keyboard shortcuts to the next level. With Spotlight, you search for the program you want and then hit enter. LaunchBar actually lets you launch a program by holding down the last letter you type. As a result, you can launch certain programs in one keystroke after opening the program (which you can do however you like; I’ve got mine bound to command+L). For example, you can launch Safari just by opening LaunchBar and holding “s” for a second, or launch Firefox by holding “f”. When I’m working on a lot of projects and am constantly switching to new spaces with other keyboard shortcuts, it’s really nice to be able to just launch the programs I need in this lightening-fast manner.

Launching Safari

Launching Safari

Launching a different application from the list simply requires typing a few more characters to drill down to it, or using the arrow key to scroll down to it.

“Hi, Billy Mays Here for LaunchBar…”

Finding and launching applications is really just the tip of the iceberg, however. LaunchBar’s real usefulness comes from its many other built-in functions. The amount of things the program can do is pretty staggering, actually. Here are just a few:

  • Find songs and play them in iTunes
  • Create events in iCal
  • Perform mathematical calculations
  • View contacts from your Address Book
  • Search through your internet browsing history, and open specific web pages
  • Browse through your file structure just like Finder
  • Search Google
  • Perform file operations such as moving or renaming

An additional (awesome) feature is the ability to show a preview of your selection when you hit the space bar. I really like using this for pictures. In fact, if you have a folder with many pictures, using this feature turns LaunchBar into a pretty nice photo viewer. Just use the arrow keys to scroll through pictures.

Launching a song in iTunes from LaunchBar

Launching a song in iTunes from LaunchBar

Though I’m pretty objective when I review programs, the only real fault I could find with LaunchBar is the fact that it costs money. People who just want a quick way to launch applications and browse for files will be absolutely fine using Spotlight. However, for the power users out there, LaunchBar is a productivity-boosting powerhouse of an app.

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