Find and Run Robot (FARR) a free “search box” style launcher similar to previously mentioned Launchy. These kinds of programs scan certain locations on your hard drive, including your start menu, and provide a floating search box that pops-up on demand to display matching results for programs and files as you type into them.
But FARR is not just a launcher. With its open architecture, FARR is extensible through plugins that allow it to perform all sorts of tasks and to function as an all-in-one interface for many other apps. You can use it, for example, as a front-end to desktop search app “Everything” (a favorite of mine), to perform on-the-fly internet searches, to manage your “Remember the Milk” account from the desktop, or even to perform spelling and thesaurus lookups on-the-fly from within any program, just to name a few of the functions you can add to it.
In fact, FARR has slowly emerged with a distinct, hard to duplicate advantage over similar programs (like Launchy), and that is simply the community of coders that use it and develop plugins for it, that enable it to perform the kind of tasks mentioned above and a whole lot more.
The verdict: this is one post where I will start with the verdict, which I usually reserve until the end. There are two things I want say about this program to sum it up:
(1) If you are unfamiliar with search-box style launchers like FARR and Launchy, you’re in for a treat. Once you try these, they will literally transform the way you use your computer. Just imagine: instead of hunting in your start menu or other locations for a shortcut, all you need to do is start typing the first few letters of the program name, and it will popup. (Very useful if you have a large folder full of portable programs, like I do, that never make it to the start menu).
(2) FARR is likely the best program of it’s kind. It has come a long way since I first saw it many years ago; for one thing, it has undergone a face ift that brought about the “wow” factor which Launchy had from the start.
But the real, difficult-to-replicate edge it has over other programs like it is the community over at Donationcoder which has embraced it and continuously develops plugins for it that enable it to perform a wide range of tasks. Some of the ones I like (and which I have mentioned above): a plugin for “Everything” desktop search, a Remember the Milk desktop management plugin, a plugin for clipboard-based spelling and thersaurus checks, etc.
I will not say too much more about FARR plugins (instead, look for my upcoming post untitled “My Favorite FARR plugins” — leave suggestions in the comments), but I will say that the sophistication of this program and the plugins that are available for it make it a must have tool. It will also most likely replace Launchy in the next update of my Freeware Top 30.
More notes on this program:
- How to use: press a keyboard shortcut (the Pause key by default but can be user defined) and the FARR search dialog will appear on screen. Start typing and it will display matches in a list that are ranked based on an (editabe) scoring scheme. You can then access the results using the mouse or arrow buttons, by pressing enter, or by pressing various hotkeys (numbers with keyboard modifiers such as ALT, for example).
- Performing tasks: is done via commands (referred to as aliases). For example, you could type “search Freewaregenius” in the FARR searchbox and FARR will give you a choice of 8 or so search engine search for that term (Freewaregenius), with Google being the default. You could also create your own aliases, for example FF to run Firefox, or define an alias that lists a whole bunch of your favorite folders or apps, etc.FARR can also take folder paths as input, and with its quick filtering by extension or wildcard, can function as a Windows explorer replacement of sorts.
- Indexing: FARR, in fact, does not index folders but rather performs real-time searches (unlike Luanchy). It still manages excellent responsiveness and performance and moreover never needs to rebuild its index.
- Scoring: like Launchy, FARR scans a pre-defined collection of folders. Users can add to these (or remove them from the list) but, additionally, can give each a score which can influence the importance of its contents in terms of appearing on the results lists. As with folders, file extensions can be scored in order to influence FARR’s behavior. For example, give *.mp3 a high score to boost FARR’s actions as a music desktop search engine, if that’s something you might want, etc.
- Memory usage: offers 3 levels of memory use, minimal (not recommended), average (at about 11 megs in memory or so), and a faster-running option weighing in at 16 megs or so, which I would personally recommend.
A video of FARR in action:
Version Tested: 2.90.02
Compatibility: Windows 9X/2K/XP/x64/VISTA/Win7; 32bit and 64bit
Go to the program home page to download the latest version (approx 5.99megs). Note that you will need to register with a valid email to get a free license key (from the left sidebar).