What’s the best way to launch programs on your Mac?

“Love it or hate, Mac OS X’s Dock comes with every Mac. It’s where we go to open an application or utility, find a document, and get lost,” Bambi Hambi writes for Mac360.

Hambi writes, “The Dock has limitations which have spawned plenty of application launchers; some good, some not so. Ready for another? Try Overflow.”

“QuickSilver has set the tone for a different paradigm for application launchers. The keyboard. DragThing is my current and long running favorite. Simple, elegant, powerful, always there without a click. Application launchers are not a dime a dozen. Once we get used to one, switching to another is a challenge,” Hambi writes.

Hambi writes, “Challenge yourself to a few hours with Overflow. Elegant, quick, simple, effective, easy to learn and set up and use.”

More info and links to all of the apps Hambi covers in the full article here.


  1. The Dock Rocks! I have every app that I use on a regular basis in my Dock. Works wonderfully. Also have my disks, my Apps folder and my Docs folder. If I need an app that is not in the dock, I probably don’t use it often but I know that I can easily find it in the Apps folder.

  2. I have a few apps set to open automatically when I log in since I run them pretty much 24/7 so they’re in my dock bey default. I have about 5 other apps that I also use pretty much 24/7 so I keep them in the dock since it’s quicker to just do one click to open them. For anything that I don’t use everyday I use quicksilver and it takes a couple of keystrokes to get something running.

  3. I use modifiers and the scroll ball click feature to access many different things.
    I can have up to fifteen different shortcuts programmed to that center button just by changing which modifier keys (Shift, Control, Option, Command) combination I’m holding down when I click. For instance, clicking the center button gives me exposé (I can’t stand having to reach for the F keys each time I need it) and with Shift key, it gives me Application Exposé, Option gives me Desktop and Control gives me Dashboard.

  4. i know a lot of people who don’t like the dock for one reason or another, but i’ve always liked it. i suppose it could stand to be a little more customizable but i really think it’s great as-is, so i don’t feel the need to try third-party solutions. in fact, i like the dock enough that for the longest time i went looking for a dock-like solution for my mac os 9 computers. can’t remember what the name of that proggy was but it was about 1/10th as elegant (like the rest of os 9).

    mw: middle. garageband is the icon in the middle of my dock. what about yours?

  5. I use DragThing and the Dock pretty much exclusively.

    The Dock has my most-used programs in it that I start up each morning, keep it on the right-hand side of the screen. Then I have five Drag-Thing tabs in a single drawer on the left-hand side of the screen that contain all my apps, games, internet tools, etc., along with some weblinks, file folder links, and network drives. Very handy to get to instantly.

    Not sure I could operate as effectively without either one.

  6. Some applications I open first, then open (or create new) the document I want to work on. Those applications that I use with any frequncy applications are in the Dock. Examples are editors and office apps. Also Mail and Safari.

    Other applications I open by opening a document. These applications are not in the Dock. Examples are Preview and the QuickTime player.

    And some applciations I just don’t use often enough to warrant keeping in the Dock. In my case, that’s most of iLife – your situation may be different.

    I alos have multiple accounts – work vs. personal. Each has a Dock configured to what I do in that account.

  7. I don’t like two things about the Dock.

    1) When I put my mouse pointer over there to get the Dock to come out of hiding, it doesn’t pop out fast enough. No big deal, but I wish it was faster.

    2) The thing that bothers me more is that when you click-hold on an icon and its options or contents are presented, if you then try to slide the cursor to other Dock icons, it won’t move. You have to release the cursor hold first, and then re-click on the next thing. This is how the main menu at the top used to work a long time ago in system 7.6 and before. And also, when you do click to reveal the contents of a folder or options of an application, again it takes too long for that window to pop open.

  8. i don’t think there’s any one right or best way tolaunch applications, but for me, it’s LaunchBar.

    For years I used DragThing and a few other drawer/floater type launchers, but they were a pain in the butt to build and maintain. Hunting for the application icon I wanted… which floater, which tab, etc. got slower and slower.

    In comparison, LaunchBar was a revelation. Hit Command-Space and type a letter or two (S for Safari, M for Mail, PS for Photoshop, VW for VectorWorks, IT for iTunes, etc.) then Return or Enter and it’s done!

    QuickSilver works about the same and is free, but I just got used to using LaunchBar, had paid and that’s it.

    I rarely use the Dock and use mostly for printer icons mostly… I have various clients with different printers… Laserjet, inkjet, plotters, etc…. so using the Dock makes it easy to manage print jobs.

  9. But to add, I also don’t understand why special launchers are needed. I just make aliases of all the programs I use on a fairly regular basis and put those aliases in a folder. Then I place that folder in my Dock. With one click of the folder I have instant access to launching any of those programs.

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