LaunchBar is one of the ten light automation utilities (Macademic Ninja Kit), which make academic work on a Mac fast, smooth and enjoyable. I have been using LaunchBar for over 3 years and it has become so natural that I feel literally paralyzed when I approach a Mac without LaunchBar. Nevertheless, earlier this year I switched from LaunchBar to Alfred 2 after the latter was covered in MacPowerUsers Episode 133. Both utilities allow fast launching of applications, with Alfred 2 offering a nicer UI and ability to develop more complex workflows. However, after a couple of months I am back to LaunchBar. Here are three reasons why:
1. Instant Send
When you select an object (e.g. a file in Finder or text on a web page) and press the Instant Send shortcut (by default – holding down the ^␣ key combination or double-pressing the ⌘ button), the Instant Send function is activated. The subsequent action depends on what command you type. Most often I use the following commands:
- MAIL followed by ↩ opens a new Mail message with blank recipient field and your selection as the body of the message (or selected files as attachments to the message);
- NAME (or a few first letters) followed by ↩ does exactly the same, but the email of your given contact would be inserted as the recipient of the message; (these two options are invaluable for sending files from Finder without using your mouse);
- FOLDER (or a first few letters) enables you to Move, Copy or Alias the selection to a particular folder.
I know that something like Instant Send should be available in Alfred 2, but I could never find this function and was increasingly irritated by the sudden clumsiness of emailing files.
When you activate LaunchBar and start typing numbers it works as a calculator. It is invaluable for simple quick calculations. Now, Alfred 2 has a similar behavior, but the difference is that in LaunchBar pressing ↩ displays the answer in large type, whereas Alfred immediately (without ↩ being pressed) displays the answer in small type just beneath the equation. Somehow it just does not work for me – I would like to see my answer after I clearly indicated that the equation is finished (of course, LaunchBar allows to copy it to the Clipboard and do some other operations).
LaunchBar’s ability to play music was a decisive factor for me. I just need to press the standard Search shortcut (^␣), then start typing the name of any Playlist, Artist, Album, Song or Genre from my iTunes library and press ↩ to play whatever I want.
Although Alfred 2 can also play music, one first needs to launch iTunes (or rather a special Alfred player linked to iTunes) and only then select music. A small thing perhaps, but I could never get used to it and was always distracted when all I wanted was to start a playlist and turn to work.