Launchbar Review

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I'll admit I'm just a little bit crazy about Quicksilver. I've used it, tweaked it, and even produced screencasts about it. But as much as I like Quicksilver, I also like things that are new and shiny. So a few months ago, when the latest version of LaunchBar was released in beta, I decided to do an experiment and use it exclusively for a few months. Now that I've thoroughly kicked the tires, it is time to report in.

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LaunchBar begins as an application launcher. In this respect, it is no different from Spotlight or Quicksilver. The process of launching applications is painless with LaunchBar. You start typing and the application appears. You can hit return to launch it or, better yet, hit the space bar and it gives you a list of the most recent documents opened with the application. Using this tweak you can get your file open quickly.

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LaunchBar offers a great deal more however. You can access your address book and quickly start an email or display a contact's phone number on your screen. One nice touch is that it actually lists the person's name along with the number. This is an improvement over Quicksilver.

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You can also easily search and play iTunes by genre, album, or composer. You can also search Safari history or dig straight into the file system.

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Using the dot command you can enter a web site directly into LaunchBar and open it with one keystroke. You can also do a Google search simply by typing "goo", hiting the space bar, typing your search term and then enter. Once you get it, you will be working much quicker. This same method is used to search other sites like Wikipedia, Google Images, and iTunes.

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You can also manipulate, move, and rename files. You can even create and name folders. It has a nifty clipboard that allows you to keep a running log of clipped links, text, and other assets. There is also a simple way to add new iCal events direct from the LaunchBar command line. If you use iCal to-dos you can program those as well.

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So how does all this fancy gadgetry stack up against my beloved Quicksilver? Actually pretty well. Using LaunchBar you are trading in some of the high end Quicksilver commands for stability. I've had troubles keeping Quicksilver running as of late and in the two months I've ran LaunchBar (mostly in beta), it has never crashed on me.

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While the LaunchBar command line is very functional, I wish it was customizable like the interface in Quicksilver. I miss my cubes. Also, LaunchBar is a paid applicaiton, 24 Euros ($32 as of this writing). While I do miss some functions from Quicksilver, I think some of the features improve upon Quicksilver and it is definitely more stable. I know Quicksilver is open source now and it may get new life but for the time being. I'm sticking with LaunchBar. You can get a 30 day trial of LaunchBar from Obective Development at www.obdev.at.

You can listen to this review on MacReviewCast #209