The Mac app launcher that most of us use and love to hate is the venerable Dock; alive on the Mac since the turn of the century, yet with roots that date back to Steve Jobs other company. Not the one that made movies.
App launchers come and go, most are inexpensive because they compete with the Dock, which is built-in to OS X, but the good ones flourish even with a price tag. Here’s a look at some Mac app launchers, well, worth looking at.
Click, Ye Shall Receive
What got me started on a look at Mac launchers is my favorite. Drag Thing. It’s still a favorite. It’s still packed with features that make it compete with anything else, including the Dock. It’s so 1999 and hasn’t been updated since 2013 and that does not bode well for the future.
Drag Thing is so old and neglected it doesn’t even pick up the new buttons in OS X Yosemite and El Capitan. But it works.
What you get in Drag Thing is a floating, highly customizable palette of apps, folders, volumes, and almost anything else, instantly available without a click, and access to any Mac file with a single click. That’s powerful.
Life moves on and while Drag Thing was great in its day, that was then and this is now. What else is out there? What got me started on my Dock replacement-enhancement parade today is a nifty utility called Mini Launcher X. Think pop down Dock with a click to the Mac Menubar.
There’s not much to Mini LauncherX but that’s the point. It’s another way to access apps that may take up too much room in the ever shrinking icon parade known as the Dock.
The Mac isn’t very customizable thanks to Apple’s desire to make everything work the same, but adding apps that do what the Mac already does is customizing in and of itself. Here’s a missive on the Dock and Launchers worth a read.
Another Mac Dock-like launcher utility of note is Tab Launcher. It looks like floating Docks, each of which is more customizable than the Dock itself.
Of all the Dock-like app launchers that’s the one I prefer. It’s familiar, yet highly customizable.
Mac power users prefer keyboard drive launchers and that’s makes LaunchBar very popular. It’s fast but requires a change in how you think about launching apps and finding files. Keep your hands on the keyboard and you’ll work faster, more efficiently, and have more time at the end of the day to play with your new Oculus Rift, which, as everyone knows or will soon find out, is the new Google Glass.
App launchers of one kind or another are close to a dime a dozen; some useful and familiar, some for keyboard-driven power users only, some with more customization options than the Kardashians have selfies.
My preference through the years has been to reduce the number of keystrokes or the number of clicks to find a file, navigate to open a folder, or launch an app. The Dock is simple but limited and as apps grow in number the Dock becomes less helpful. XMenu is free and harkens back to the old Mac Classic OS with the Apple icon menu, but sometimes free also means won’t work next year.