Getting away from the "Start" mindset

I've never been a big fan of lots of icons sitting on my Windows desktop; I have a few key ones, then use a highly organized Start menu to gain access to my applications. So when I started working with my Mac I adopted the same mindset: Push some key applications that I access frequently into the Dock, then hit the Finder and switch to Applications for everything else.

I mentioned this to my friend Dylan and he said "Why are you doing that? Just use the Spotlight to open your applications". Spotlight? If you're a Mac user you're probably aware of the feature - hitting Command-Space gives immediate access.  Once pointed out to me I find myself using it for more and more.

Dylan's rather astute observation was "Why would you need to organize everything? It's a computer - shouldn't it do that work for you?".  Yeah, I guess it should!

So now when I need to grab an application that isn't sitting in my Dock I just hit Command-Space and type in what I need.

I also found some really cool little tips of things that you can do with Spotlight - it's actually a pretty decent calculator and will quickly load words into the dictionary. You can find out more from this page on the Apple web site.


Nicholas said...

Ever since upgrading to 10.5 and it's faster Spotlight implementation, I've used Spotlight for app launching too. So convenient.

This tip for adding a recent things item to your dock is useful too. I keep it set on "Recent Applications" and it works well.

David said...

If you like using Spotlight to launch apps then you'll probably like LaunchBar even more - it's amazingly fast and does other cool things like letting you perform web searches using the same Cmd-Space shortcut.

Aaron M said...

Another good application is "QuickSilver" -- although I'd recommend *not* using QuickSilver or LaunchBar if you haven't already started using it. Spotlight does almost exactly the same thing that these applications do. I personally like the UI of Quicksilver better then spotlight but everytime I boot up my computer I have to wait for Quicksilver to load. Although it barely takes up any CPU/Memory, it is sitting there running. If you're happy with Spotlight, I wouldn't use anything else

Michael said...

Hi David, I've found your blog via a post...and am enjoying reading every single post!

I too love Spotlight...and found another easy way to launch apps. I opened my home folder, and dragged the folder for my Applications right down into the Dock, next to my Downloads folder (next to the Trash...I don't need my Documents folder down there, I removed it).

This way, if I'm not using the keyboard at the moment to launch Spotlight, I mouse over to the Applications folder alias in the Dock, and depending your "Stacks" settings, access any/all your Apps there. It's been a nice time saver for me...and just thought I'd suggest it to you.

BTW...used Apple Computers/Macs for schooling, then solely Windows for 13+ years in my former career until I got an iBook in 2004...and am now an IT Manager in a Windows world, using a Mac mini at work (with Parallels running XP SP2), and have the exact same MacBook as you. Glad you're loving your Mac...I love mine, but actually still like using Windows too.

Tom said...

Quicksilver is a bit more powerful then Spotlight even in 10.5. While both launch apps, Quicksilver can extend the workflow a bit more. For example, lets say I have a file in my Documents folder named "Bill.doc" I want to e-mail to Bob Smith who is in my address book. With Quicksilver, you can do this all from the keyboard, with none of the apps open ahead of time.

1. Activate quicksilver, usually control-space.
2. Start typing the name "Bill.doc" till quicksilver picks it. Usually you only need a few letters.
3. Hit Tab, then start typing "email to"
4. Hit Tab again and start typing "Bob Smith", then hit enter

Mail will launch, start a new message to Bob, and attach the file.

Douglas said...

Hey David,

I'm reading your blog with interest and if you don't know about launchy, you're missing out of the same functionality on windows. I've been using it since it was beta and it does much of what quicksilver/spotlight does with one key difference. It runs on Windows... Check it out...

David Alison said...

@Tom: I really appreciate your comments on many of my posts and hope you continue to contribute as you have. Really great stuff man!

@David, Aaron_m & Michael: thanks for reading this stuff and making the recommendations!

@Douglas: Dude, I really needed something like that for Windows - thanks for the tip! I actually debated dusting off Delphi to build a little Spotlight clone for myself I like it so much.

Nicholas said...

If you are looking for a similar app for windows, you could try the cusomisable "Find and Run Robot" from Mouser at Donation Coder



Chris Howard said...

Dave, I setup a folder where I dump aliases (shortcuts) to my applications. I then dropped that folder onto my Dock where it opens as a stack.

The advantage of this way is you only get the applications you want, and no other files or folders

The downside though is it is a manual process. But it looks cool!

To create the aliases, drag and drop while holding Command-Option. (Although, don't press them until after you click. That's a quirk of OS X.))