AppRocket and TaskSwitchXP

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Professing to be a nerd, I’m always on the search for new useful and cool tools. Some days ago I found two such tools.

Somehow I’m always looking into application launchers and seem never to find the right one. The start panel of Windows is the most horrible thing. It takes ages to find one’s way through the hierarchies of menus. Organizing them helps a bit, but it is no real solution. Recently I have used OverlayDesktop which is a DesktopX theme I developed. The problem with OverlayDesktop is that you have to put the icons for the applications you want to use on it. As long as you don’t do this, you find yourself returning to the start menu.

AppRocket is different. It takes no screen space and you don’t have to do any extra management to make it work. It comes out when you press Alt+Space – or any other hotkey which you can choose freely. It’s only a thin bar at the top of the screen. As soon as it shows up, you can start typing. As you type something a drop down menu shows up below the bar containing matches in your start menu, Firefox bookmarks, your collection of MP3 files etc.. So when I type “Fire” “Firefox” is the top element in this list. That’s because I have chosen Firefox several times after typing “Fire”. AppRocket puts the mostly used entries at the top of the list. Yeah I know, MacOS freaks will say that AppRocket is an imitation of LaunchBar . That’s right, it is, but LaunchBar is for MacOS and AppRocket is the only implementation I know of for Windows. So in the world of Windows this is something new and cool. I’m using AppRocket for two weeks now and am very satisfied with it. AppRocket probably won’t be for you if you type with one or two fingers and have to look at the keyboard while searching for the next letter, but as long as you are at least somehow proficient in touch typing, it’s a great tool.

The task switcher you see when pressing Alt+Tab is really old. It hasn’t changed since Windows 3.1. The problem with this task switcher is when you have many windows of the same type such as ten browsers, 3 editors and so on. The icons look the same and the window title sometimes also doesn’t help to find the right one. That’s when TaskSwitchXP enters the stage. TaskSwitchXP is a task switcher with previews. While you run through the icons on the right side of it, it shows a miniature preview of the window for the currently selected window on its left side. There are other such tools. One of them is even one of the PowerToys released by Microsoft. Another of those tools is AltSwitch . The tool by Microsoft is said to be slow. I have tested AltSwitch and it is also totally slow. A tool of this kind is useless if it takes it more than a half minute to show the preview. TaskSwitch is reasonably fast. It still has some problems with some Windowblinds skins that use transparency in their start panel, but I’m confident that the developer will get it fixed. It’s open source BTW.