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program launcher windowsAs a user interface freak, I’ve tested a lot of the good windows program launchers out there.  I love being able to access anything on my computer with only a few artfully placed keystrokes. At the moment, I’m using Launchy How To Be More Productive with Launchy Program Launcher How To Be More Productive with Launchy Program Launcher Read More and Enso Launcher Enso Launcher: It Will Make You Feel Like a Hacker Enso Launcher: It Will Make You Feel Like a Hacker Read More , both sound launchers that I choose between, depending on my mood.

Last week, I discovered that I had fallen behind on my launcher-reviewing quest because I overlooked Executor.  It looks, at first glance, like a Launchy clone, but after reviewing the available settings, options, and utilities, Executor is nothing of the sort.

As a brief summary before we get into the features, Executor is by far the most customizable windows program launcher I have yet seen. There are probably more advanced ones out there, but it also remains within the grasp of the average MakeUseOf reader (read: power-user who doesn’t necessarily want to write up custom scripts).

Now with all of the options, I’m going to run down my favorite features that I think are generally the most useful.

Quick Find

If you’ve never used a launcher before, this is the most basic and important function.  Most launchers automatically scan the areas where your program file names are usually stored.  For this reason, when you begin typing the name of a program into Executor, it will usually automatically figure out the program you want to launch.

executor - program launcher freeware

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As you can see above, I only had to type “pic” in order for Executor to guess my desired program, Picasa 3.  Executor is a little more tricky than most that I’ve seen because the first time you launch a program with it, it needs a little bit of help.

program launcher vista

If it doesn’t automatically guess your query, hold down the ALT key and press the down arrow.  This will drop down a list of candidate programs from which you can choose.  As time goes on, Executor will learn what keystrokes mean what programs and eventually you won’t need to do this that much.

Usage Options

executor launcher menuWhen you open up the “Settings” menu, you will see that it is vast and tabbed.  Let me break down some of the more useful options, so you don’t have to hunt through the whole thing.

First, under “General,” there is a Program Settings box.  Here you will find “Start on Windows Startup” (always good for a launcher), hotkey controls (Win+Z is default and doesn’t conflict with other launchers you may be trying out), and the option to use the Win+R hotkey that is usually bound to the Run command.  This last one is useful because you can actually use Executor as a Run box (it will even recognize common commands).  There is a final box on the “General” tab that controls how your search box will act as a window and among other windows.

The next two tabs control the way your input works as well as the way the drop-down list is organized.  Between these tabs you can change the priority that programs, user history, and items in your file system take.  While these options let you get very specific about how everything reads out, I’d stick with the defaults and wait to see if anything needs to be changed.

The “Visual/skin” tab lets you change the appearance of Executor. I suggest choosing the “Alpha” setting and choosing the preloaded “alpha_fancy” skin.  You can choose it by clicking browse, as it should already be pointed at your skin repository.

The last tab is the indexing tab. This one is already pointing at where most of your files should be located, but if you have anything that doesn’t show up in the control panel or start-menu, you can manually pick an index location. To make a new location, click “Add” and double click the new line that pops up.

I went ahead and made a new entry that points at the Program Files folder. The “$D$” simply means “on the drive that Executor is stored on” to the path. I store stand-alone executables there, so it’s a good addition.

Advanced Keywords

Executor has many more features, but the last one I want to discuss is the keywords menu.  Here you can make all the custom keywords you want. You can see all the pre-loaded keywords in the “Keywords” supertab under Settings. There are a lot of neat little actions like “view text from the keyboard” and “empty recycle bin” already there.

The simplest command you can create is for a search engine query. I made a little command to search Ask.com, since it wasn’t one of the ones already on there. Check out this screencap below:

I made the keyword “Ask.” I made the command the same as the regular search query URL, but replaced the keyword with “$U$,” which indicates a blank space for your new query.  It’s really that simple!

This is a very new application to me, so if you discover any little hidden gems, add them below in the comments. I’ll do the same!

If you’re aware of any other good freeware program launcher for Windows please share it below.

  1. Alex
    March 27, 2009 at 8:55 am

    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:
    pcwinsoft.com/superlauncher/

    Best,
    Alex

  2. Zander
    December 28, 2008 at 10:46 am

    Thanks for the great post - I'm going to substitute Executor for Launchy as a result of your write up. Many thanks for all the awesome posts on makeuseof...after reading your description of the "average MakeUseOf reader" I know why I enjoy this site so much...it fits me to a T! Thanks again.

  3. GalSz
    December 23, 2008 at 12:57 am

    It sounds a bit like DonationCoder's FARR (Fast And Run Robot) a Highly extensible keyboard based launcher which has a large community behind it.

    Amazing software - I'd be glad to read a review from you comparing it to the other apps you already tested/reviewed,

    Thanks for the great reviews on the site, and I'll be sure to test this app myself too.

  4. Alexander
    December 22, 2008 at 3:17 pm

    Long ago I replaced Launchy with Executor - I'm very happy with it and never regretted it :-)

  5. MK
    December 22, 2008 at 2:34 pm

    How about Launchy in portable mode?

    • alfred westerveld
      December 23, 2008 at 11:15 am

      Launchy in portable mode will achieve the same thing I guess. Another plus which I discovered recently about launchy is that you can run it on linux.

  6. alfredwesterveld
    December 22, 2008 at 12:38 pm

    Yup read about this launcher on lifehacker and like this one. Mainly because it is portable and does not make a mess of your computer in places like register etc.

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