There are plenty of ways to launch programs using hotkeys, and even Windows has one of its own (right-click a shortcut, select Properties > Shortcut and click the “Shortcut key” box), but remembering enough of these to cope with all your applications is extremely difficult.
The open source MadAppLauncher takes a different approach, though, which is very much simpler. It uses a simple QWERTY-type layout, and allows you to assign one program to each key. The relevant application icon and name is displayed alongside the key letter, so if you press H, say, whatever is in the H box will be launched.
You also get ten tabs, which correspond to the number keys, and each of these have their own QWERTY layout. This allows you to separate your programs into ten groups of up to 30 applications, for 300 in total. And if that’s not enough, you can save your current layout with a descriptive name (“Internet”, “Work”, whatever fits) and then create and load as many others as you need.
Every application “key” can be customised in much the same way as a regular Windows shortcut. You’re able to set its name,icon, target, command line arguments, starting folder, window style (normal, hidden, minimised, maximised and so on).
Unusually, you even get some control over the window size and position, so for instance you might decide to launch a program in the bottom half of the screen (assuming the application supports that, anyway). This doesn’t always look good – the application may appear somewhere else, then move – but it does work.
And there are all kinds of options here. You can move an application from one key to another; keep MadAppLauncher on top of other windows; show or hide the program when Windows starts, and more.
We had some issues here, too. Some of the program’s default settings are a little annoying, so for example if you drag and drop the program window then it’ll just snap back to the centre of the screen. Just about everything can be reconfigured via the View menu, and the Hotkey and Options dialog, but it could still be annoying for beginners.
Elsewhere, there’s very little documentation. And if you expect your launchers to look stylish and glossy then, well, MadAppLauncher will leave you extremely disappointed. But, if you just want a simple way to organise large groups of applications, folders or files, then the program should serve you very well. Go check it out.