Finding The Best Windows Application Launcher

The application launcher I'm currently using is Executor, which started 10+ years ago and still being maintained now. I have tried to switch to other launchers about 1~2 years ago but can't find one that fits my needs. I want to make a switch mainly because it sometimes lags. I need to wait for the searching list showing to push enter, which is a big no.

JiaChen ZENGList by JiaChen ZENG, last updated 2020-12-23
  1. Requirements

    Must have: (which are all in Executor) R1. Open/close shortcut can be set to Win+R. R2. User defined short keywords to open a specific app. For example, ed for Microsoft Edge Dev. And more importantly, it should show at the very top of the searching list. R3. Indexing applications to search and open.

  2. Executor icon

    The application launcher I've been using for these years, mainly because the old Microsoft Edge doesn't support searching via a certain website, so I was in the need to find a launcher that supports this feature. And I was using Win+R with links in a folder to quickly open apps.

    It has so many options to customize and the functionalities are very practical to use, which I probably won't have thought about if I haven't used Executor. The priority of the searching list can be fully customized. I put the keywords at the top (R2) so I can use it as if using the built-in Win+R.

    However, the UI is old and it doesn't support high DPI so it looks blurry. The software isn't open-source, and it's written in Delphi, which doesn't have a good prospect to be contributed widely even if it open-sourced someday.

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    Executor screenshot 1
  3. Wox icon

    The feature is very versatile and it has good support for Chinese and network proxies. It has a good design to support a good plugin ecosystem. I really wanted to love it. However, it doesn't satisfy R1 and R2.

    R1: It does have Win+R support for open/close but limited to shell commands. The shortcut to open/close to search is Alt+Space. And unfortunately, the key combination can't be changed to anyone that includes the Win key.

    R2: It can be configured to use a folder that contains links to applications to simulate keywords, but they won't always show at the top.

    Also, another downside is the development is not active recently. From GitHub issues, there are lots of seemly same bug reports. I can't find a community to ask questions.

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    Wox screenshot 1
  4. Flow Launcher icon

    It derives from Wox and says it fixed lots of bugs. Quickly examining it, I can't find where it improves compared to Wox. R1 and R2 still can't be satisfied (see Wox). The UI renders poorly with MacType font rendering. The fonts are cut here and there.

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    Flow Launcher screenshot 1
  5. Keypirinha icon

    Doesn't satisfy R1, and R2 maybe initially. The open/close shortcut can be configured but failed to set to Win+R due to confliction which the error showed. It will associate keywords to historically opened apps but automatically only. The keyword can't be manually set. There is a GitHub issue that has been open for two years with literally no progress. In another related issue, someone who comes from Executor seems to have figured out how to simulate manually associating keywords but no clear explanation.

    The configuration is done by a text file like Sublime Text, which is a bit geeky. The documentations are in detail. Seems appealing to programmers.

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    smart search
  6. Microsoft PowerToys icon

    Microsoft PowerToys Run is an alternative. I haven't installed it but watched a tutorial video. It seems experimental and isn't so customizable at this moment. And seeing its attribution from Wox, I can imagine that it doesn't satisfy R1 and R2 (see Wox).

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    Microsoft PowerToys screenshot 1
  7. ueli icon

    Doesn't satisfy R1, but supports R2 seems in most cases in this setting now. I set e for Microsoft Edge but it will interpret it as a Math constant e.

    The UI looks designed for Mac as the folder icon is blue. No support for Japanese or Chinese at this moment. The shortcut to open/close can't be configured to include character or number keys, which disappointed me so much.

    The search feature is done correctly in my opinion. It only indexes something like .lnk files by default, which makes the searching list surprisingly clear. What extensions to the index are configurable. (I want to note that Executor also has this feature but I didn't configure it like this. I'm going to change to a similar setting and see now😂.)

    • ...
    ueli screenshot 1

It is terrible that again, I failed to find an application launcher that satisfies my three least requirements. But maybe I should think the other way around. Because I've found this brilliant piece of software, Executor!

This list was created by JiaChen ZENG Dec 23, 2020 and was last updated Dec 23, 2020. The list has 6 apps.

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Mauricio B. Holguin
CommentJan 8, 2021

I find myself using more and more PowerToys Run on a daily basis, since it is quite simple but at the same time I don't waste much time with the settings and the UI adapts very well to windows. Great list btw!

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