Best Application Launchers

Your Start menu and Applications folder are growing larger and harder to navigate every day, but with a solid application launcher at your side, you'll never notice. On Tuesday we put a call out for your favourite application launchers, and over 400 spirited comments later, we've pulled out the five most popular. Take a look at the time-saving app launchers that made the list, and then cast your vote for the one app launcher to rule them all.

Launchy (Windows)

Launchy is best known for its lightning-fast indexing and searching. In its youth it was an application and document launcher only, but it now sports more interesting features and plug-ins, integrating with your bookmarks, the command line, and more. Some users still prefer Launchy 1.25's lighter footprint, but it doesn't seem to throw off their love of Launchy. If you're a dedicated Launchy fan but you're only using it for app launching, check out how you can take Launchy beyond application launching.

Quicksilver (Mac OS X)

Mac OS X-only Quicksilver is the original application launcher and-then-some, with a huge repository of plug-ins designed to take Quicksilver well beyond traditional launching. Its impressive feature-set has inspired numerous features on this site along with a handful of wannabes. Although Quicksilver's future may be bleak, countless users are still keeping their hands firmly planted on the keyboard with Quicksilver every day.

Find and Run Robot (Windows)

Despite a very small memory footprint, the Windows-only Find and Run Robot (aka FARR) is probably the most customisable Windows app launcher available. FARR features a fast, responsive live search and is extensible through a handful of open-source plug-ins (including a clipboard monitor, live calculator, and application manager by default and many others available). Some first-time users may find FARR's more advanced features difficult to grasp, but finding and launching files and applications with FARR is a breeze. (read more)

GNOME Do (Linux)

Inspired by Quicksilver (as you can tell from its looks), GNOME Do brings application launching to Linux like none other. GNOME Do can launch apps, manipulate text, integrate with your music player, and oh so much more. It's relatively young, but GNOME Do has quickly developed a robust set of features and found an integral place in many a Linux toolbox. (original post)

RocketDock (Windows)

The Windows-only RocketDock is the only non-keyboard-based application launcher to make this Hive Five. In essence RocketDock is very much like the Mac OS X Dock; you can minimise applications as thumbnails, launch or close apps, and entirely replace your traditional Start menu and taskbar workflow. What you see above is the out-of-the-box configuration, but RocketDock has pages of user-submitted skins and add-ons. (original post)

Now that you've seen the five most popular application launchers, it's time to crown a best:

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spotlight.pngHonourable mention goes out to Spotlight in Leopard and the new Vista Start menu. Improved search speed has many users abandoning Quicksilver in favour of Spotlight, while Vista's Instant Search finally integrates desktop search directly into Windows.

Whether or not your favourite app made the list, let's hear more about the launcher you love in the comments.


    Spotlight on OSX, Google desktop on Windows XP.

    I see no need to use anything other than the built in Instant Search in Vista (honourable mention above). It works just fine for me. I'm trying to install less apps on my system, not more :)

    As I make this comment there are 81 comments to this post available on the US site. These are not available through the Oz site. That and the fact that moderation here is slow compared to (no?) moderation on the US site and the fact I can't join in the conversation at the US site is hardly a pleasant lifehack! Swapping back and forth between the sites is a pain.
    Other than that I use and love an old Launchy on my XP machine - the latest just grumbles and crashes. But its interesting that some teens and uni students I know hate it and don't grasp why I use launchy! Is this generational?

    I'm always annoyed that the vista search bar seems to require you to type a full word in a term to match. For example, typing 'note' gives me no results, yet 'notepad' returns me notepad.exe

    SuperLauncher is the best launcher ever! SuperLauncher launches applications with hotkeys or one click of the mouse but the twist about it is that you add new shortcuts by drag and drop. You simlpy drag and drop applications, websites, files, or folders, and wizards guide you through adding hotkeys or one-click shortcuts. You can even schedule shortcuts.

    I use it and I totally recommend it.

    You can find SuperLauncher here:


    I think you forgot the best of all launchers:

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