After having lived primarily in the world of Windows for over 15 years, you get accustomed (“programmed”?) to the Windows way of doing things. Of course that is the way with us humans, and we really don’t like to change. So when you enter the world of Macs you discover instantly that there are other ways of doing things, such as starting your favorite application.
One of the first things you miss is the Start Menu. I say “miss” because it’s how you’ve grown used to launching applications, unless like myself you also had other taskbar helpers and desktop icons for the same thing. You can still have those trusted desktop icons to launch your applications in a Mac, but there is after all only so much real estate on the desktop. The curren Mac operating system (OS X) also features it’s Dock, where the most commonly used application icons live, either permanently or only when the application is running (your choice). Think of this as somewhat similar to the Windows task bar. It’s also limited in space so you can’t possibly fit the icons of every application there that you might have. The previous Mac OS (OS 9) featured a menu in the upper left hand corner that you could get to your applications with, much like the Windows Start menu, but it was replaced in OS X with an option to select from the most recent used applications or files. The search was on.
Anyone that knows me well knows I’m a huge fan of open source applications and freeware. So when I search for this sort of thing that’s where I start first.
I quickly turned up an application called Quicksilver. It can be used not only to launch applications but also to open files, start playing an album in iTunes, and many other useful tasks. It functions as a sort of search tool where you call it and start typing what you’re looking for. Admittedly this is the most I can tell you about it as I have yet to test it for myself, but I plan to. It seems to be a freeware release even though there is mention of a license. This isn’t exactly what I was wanting, not a Start menu replacement, so I kept looking.
Eventually I found aLaunch. aLaunch is the perfect solution for my needs. It sits in the the OS X menu bar (at the top of the screen) and offers a drop-down menu of the applications you use, much like the old OS 9 menu, or like the Windows Start menu. You have complete control not only over which applications you place in this menu, but in how it’s arranged such as with categories. After using this for at least 8-10 months it’s become an important part of my Mac productivity and seems to do it’s job flawlessly. aLaunch is freeware though the author does ask for donations.