Do you remember back before web browsers had tabs? I do. In fact I remember when my Dad first put a tabbed browser called NetCaptor on the family computer after reading a Walt Mossberg column in the Wall Street Journal in 2004. Since that time NetCaptor development has stopped, but haven’t stopped using browsers with tabs. I can’t imagine life without tabbed browsing.

That last line isn’t strictly accurate, because the computers at the store where I work still have Internet Explorer 5 installed. I do know what life without tabbed browsing is like, and it’s painful. The benefit of tabbed browsing is that it allows you to pursue multiple internet pathways at the same time without losing the place you started from. It also allows you to reference many web pages at the same time without filling your taskbar up with a dozen Internet Explorer windows.

I routinely hold the Ctrl key while I click links on web pages to open them in new windows so I can finish reading the page I’m on and remember to read the links later on. Using browsers without tabs forces you to focus on one page at a time and navigate in a forwards and backwards manner. Tabs open up a whole new world. In effect you can go sideways.

This post is the second in a series on using technology to work quickly.

Generation Y works differently. It’s obvious in the different things we want from work, and it’s also obvious from the way we work. We’re used to computers and the internet and we’re used to customizing our machines by installing different applications that help us work better and faster. One things that means is that large companies are going to need to change their policies to let increasingly tech-savvy employees install software and manager their own computers without getting permission from the IT department.

All that to introduce a series on some of my favorite apps and techniques to increase work speed and productivity. The topic for today: Launchy, a program that has grown so integral to my computer habits that I find it difficult to navigate a computer that does not have it installed.
The purpose of Launchy is to allow you to launch programs right from the keyboard without having to go looking for an icon on the desktop or somewhere on the Start menu. Hit the hotkeys Alt+Space, type a few letters of the program’s name, hit enter and you’re there. With some of my most frequently used programs Launchy guesses correctly after I type the first letter of the program’s name. “F” opens Firefox. “W” opens Windows Media Player. The result of this is that getting programs started is amazingly quick. Another result is that I can hardly find a program on my own Start menu, let alone a computer I’m not used to. That’s a negative of course, but it gives me a huge increase in speed when I’m working on my own computer.

Launchy can do muchmore than just open programs though. I also use Launchy to index my computer which means that I can open a folder directly from the keyboard instead of navigating through the hierarchy in Windows Explorer. It makes navigating to locations on your computer very quick, and like I said, once you get used to it, it’s hard to do without. If you’ve heard of Launchy before and never got around to installing it, now’s the time.

Already using Launchy or another keyboard launcher? Let’s hear your experiences in the comments.

« Previous Page