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apple launchpadI have a confession to make. I haven’t used a Mac since the 90s. It’s true. Growing up in an Apple-crazed home, I had a mouse connected to my computer when all my friends still used DOS. But those days are long gone, and for the past 15 years I’ve barely touched an Apple machine that wasn’t an iPhone, iPod or iPad.

Despite this, I have heard about Launchpad. Launchpad is a Mac OSX feature which makes launching applications easier and (of course) more stylish. I know it’s pretty darn easy to launch applications on my iPad, and I’ve been searching for something similar for my Windows machine.

If you’re also looking to tweak your Windows’ look and feel and make it somewhat more Mac-ish, you’re going to love WinLaunch.

Getting Started With WinLaunch

WinLaunch is an application launcher for Windows XP, Vista and 7, which aims to look like Apple’s Launchpad. To start, download WinLaunch, open the zip file and extract the suitable folder for your operating system (x86 or x64). When you’re done, launch WinLaunch.exe.

As you will see, nothing much happens. The first time you run it, you’ll get a “heads up” window telling you about known issues with WinLaunch, which is still in beta. After that, there’s nothing. To start WinLaunch for the first time, hit Shift+Tab.

apple launchpad

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The screen will blur and this message will appear. WinLaunch doesn’t crawl your system for your applications; you need to add those manually. Hit ‘F’ and start dragging in applications.

launchpad for apple

As basics go, this is pretty much it. You can drag as many applications as you want, and when the screen is full, WinLaunch will create more pages. You can flip through these pages by left clicking your mouse and sliding it on the screen, much like you would with a touch screen.

Now let’s see how what else you can do with WinLaunch.

Creating Folders And Renaming

WinLaunch allows you to create folders in a way that’s very similar to what you get on Apple’s machines. After dragging in your applications, click on an app with your mouse and drag it over another application. This will create a folder, which you can continue to add to.

launchpad for apple

If you want to rename the folder (“New Folder” is not very informative), or if you want to rename an app, click on the plus sign on the bottom left corner, and then click the “Rename” button at the bottom of the screen, and then click on the icon you want to rename.

launchpad for apple

This way, you can easily rename folders to more descriptive titles, and also change any name if you don’t like the one its been given by WinLaunch.

apple launchpad tutorial

You can open a folder by clicking on it, and then launch any application in the folder by clicking on the icon.

Playing With The Settings

WinLaunch is rather configurable, and you tweak many things to suit your needs and desires. To access the settings, click on the “Settings” button at the bottom of the screen.

apple launchpad tutorial

In the settings, you can enable and disable hotkeys and HotCorners. With these you can decide how WinLaunch will be activated. What you set here will be the only way to activate the program, so remember these settings. I found the a hot corner worked very well for me, and you can use it to both enable and disable the app. If you choose the “Show desktop when activated” option, WinLaunch will not be maximized; otherwise, it will be launched on the entire screen.

apple launchpad tutorial

Among other things, you can also change the icons’ size and text size, and all the colors. It’s a bit hard to understand which color is which at first, but playing around with it makes everything clearer. There are some ready-made themes to choose from, and you can even upload photos for the launcher’s background if you wish.

There are more things you can tweak, such as adjusting WinLaunch for multiple monitors (choosing which one it will appear on). Playing with the colors is the best part, though, and as you can see from the above screenshots, you can create lots of different styles and backgrounds. It can look like this:

And even like this (or better, if you actually have talent).

apple launchpad

The options are pretty much endless. One downside of WinLaunch is that it’s a bit heavy on the RAM. On my computer, it was using up to 50MB of RAM, just when lying in the background. That’s a bit steep, but the developer does intend to fix this issue. Other than that, WinLaunch runs very smoothly, especially considering it’s still in beta, and toggling it on and off to launch applications quickly becomes a second nature. So if you’re on the hunt for better ways to launch your Windows apps, give it a try!

Know of more Launchpad emulators, or other original ways to launch apps in Windows 7? Share in the comments!

  1. casanova anteem
    December 28, 2014 at 9:49 am

    winlaunch should have recycle pin icon.

  2. Opa
    February 7, 2012 at 1:00 am

    RocketDock, also called LeopardDock, seems much nicer.

    • Yaara
      February 7, 2012 at 7:20 am

      RocketDock looks awesome! Thanks for the recommendation!

      • Harry
        February 20, 2012 at 9:16 pm

        ObjectDock is better.  Less RAM use

  3. Chris Wyld
    February 6, 2012 at 8:32 pm

    how is this different, or better, than pinning items to the taskbar?

    • Kelly
      February 7, 2012 at 12:08 am

       it's not, it's for hipsters that are forced to use windows because their macs suck

    • ditaccio
      February 7, 2012 at 12:50 am

      let me rephrase your question:
      how is it different from the desktop shortcuts and folder?

      • jhpot
        February 7, 2012 at 2:59 am

        Mac users are asking similar questions. 

      • Yaara
        February 7, 2012 at 7:16 am

        Again, different interface. What's fun about the versatility of apps out there is that you can many times have things look and feel exactly like you want them to.

        If you're happy with the default, that's great, but if you feel like having something different, this is one option to try.

    • Yaara
      February 7, 2012 at 7:14 am

      Hi Chris,

      This is very different from pinning items to the taskbar, the whole interface is different. It does answer a similar need, that is true.

      You certainly don't have to use it if you're happy with you current setup. :)

  4. Rod
    February 6, 2012 at 8:21 pm

    I use launchy but this one really looks promising

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