I switched to a Mac over a year ago, and a number of my practices around the computer have had to change as well. How do I manage files? Which web browser to use? What email program to use? Do I buy Microsoft Office for Mac? etc. etc. All of these questions relate to the basic one: How do I make it as easy as possible to get things done?
One of these things is a "keyboard launcher" - a tool that lets me find and do things from the keyboard, instead of having to use the mouse to search through folders or the dock at the bottom of the screen. On Windows, ActiveWords is far and away the best tool for this. It gets you to files and applications and so much more: web sites, sequences of actions (filling in forms), etc, etc. The Mac comes with a serviceable tool in Spotlight, which gets you to most files and applications through the Command-Space shortcut. But it is missing a lot of the flexibility that I found with ActiveWords. I've heard of many keyboard launchers for the Mac, but I wasn't sure which way to go (and the time / learning issue).
Some of the things I've been using it for:
- quick access to files and programs (just like Spotlight: open the launcher and type the name of the thing you are looking for). I like that it remembers your last pick for a given letter sequence, whereas Spotlight did not do that.
- setup an abbreviation for files / programs where I don't think of their official name when I want to open them. (This is the big win in ActiveWords - it even watches your usage and suggests adding a "word" for commonly-used items.)
- LaunchBar keeps track of the last ten items copied to the clipboard, and lets you grab any of them.
Hrmm… that doesn't seem like much, but a keyboard launcher is incredibly handy. No more switching over to finder and browsing through folders. No more mousing down to the Dock to find the right icon for the program - and then discovering that it isn't pinned to the dock. Just Command-Space and a few characters of what I'm looking for. There there is a rather long list of features that I haven't begun to explore.