LaunchBar 5 Review

With LaunchBar 5, you can avoid using a mouse in 95% of the cases and speed up your daily routine by a an order of magnitude. LaunchBar is one of the most respected, longest-in-service application launchers for Mac OS X. Version 5 has Snow Leopard compatibility, a clipboard history and ClipMerge, Quick Look support, and much more.In essence, LaunchBar 5 still is a common application launcher. You tap command-spacebar (or another key conbination) and a couple of characters and you’ll get a list of possible files that you can open. It’s pretty much the same as when you call up Spotlight and tap your way through to find what you want to launch or open.

The big difference is that LaunchBar 5 is much more responsive than Spotlight—by more than a small margin—and that it intelligently learns from your key combinations to offer you choices based on your input. Spotlight doesn’t do that—you’ll always have to remember the first few characters of a file’s name at least to get instant result.
If you don’t like one of the key combinations LaunchBar 5 offers as a default, you can re-train the application to learn your own preferred ones—another thing Spotlight can’t do. Except for those two features, LaunchBar 5 delivers full navigation through folders, through categories, your iTunes library, etc. It also supports QuickLook in place—i.e. you can tap a key combination in LaunchBar 5 and immediately hit the spacebar to activate QuickLook and see what’s inside the file.

One of the most interesting features of LaunchBar 5 is that it has a clipboard history and a ClipMerge feature. The history is simple: after tapping some shortcut key combinations, LaunchBar 5 will show you a list of the 10 to 40 most recent items that you’ve dumped into the clipboard. Not just that, the history preferences allow you to copy and paste (into the front most application; with an option to specify applications where you don’t want this to happen) a selected clipboard item with one tap on the keyboard.

ClipMerge is a second new feature in LaunchBar 5 that is a great time saver. It also wraps several other applications into one (my favourite iClip comes to mind). ClipMerge allows you to copy several items in a row and then paste them all at once by using a non-customisable key combination (Command-C-C).
LaunchBar 5 can help you prevent RSIIt worked great on my Power Mac, neatly depositing the items with a carriage return in-between them in the editor that I was working in. Every time a ClipMerge has succeeded, you’ll hear a stapler sound so you get feedback, which is very useful. The feature even worked in Microsoft Word 2008, although I did have to try twice on some text snippets, a problem that occurred randomly.

In iCal, LaunchBar 5 lets you set appointments and events right from the LaunchBar entry bar. The way it works is simple: you enter the key combination for iCal, browse the calendars with the arrow keys until you found the right one, and then hit space. The bar will now become an entry field where you can enter an event in the form “Event @ Date”.

I tried this and got mixed results. When iCal wasn’t open, it didn’t work. When iCal was open it would work splendidly. Perhaps this behaviour is what the developer intended but I for one would like to see the entry added even when iCal isn’t running. A nice additional feature is that you can tap command-return for the entry to become open for edit in iCal itself.
With LaunchBar 5’s calculator module, you can quickly calculate simple to complex maths. A good example of how efficient LaunchBar 5 really is, is that you can select a number of figures, “Instant Send” them to LaunchBar 5 and have them automatically summed. Instant Send and Instant Open add to the efficiency by saving you an extra tap (you just keep pressing the last character of the invoked item on your keyboard instead of hitting the extra Return key).

There’s much more to LaunchBar 5. In fact, there is so much, it takes a considerable time to master all LaunchBar 5’s features and functionality. But it pays off big time to learn the application’s many capabilities. It will save you time, but it may also save you from RSI!

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J.D. – Copywriter – Tech. Writer – Editor at Visuals Producer – Contributor at Photoshop User, Studio Daily, POST Magazine – Sub-editor at RedShark News