Looking for a simple, practical launcher? Try Launchbar 4 for Windows


There’s nothing I like more than a good launcher, especially if it is based on an intuitive, practical concept. Which is why I like Launchbar 4.

Launchbar is a free launcher for Windows that lets you start your favorite programs, files, and folders simply by right clicking any of the edges of your screen that you choose. It’s simple, straightforward, and very useful.

We’ve seen a number of launchers for Windows that employ this method (hovering and clicking into any of the four sides of the screen), such as RUNitRunMECoolbarz and (my favorite) HiddenMenu.

I had in fact hoped that  Launchbar is a HiddenMenu clone, because the latter has problems with Windows 7 compatibility and with data loss, but it isn’t quite (unlike Hiddenmenu, Launchbar4 does not support multiple columns and multiple menus on each side of screen), but it is a great program nonetheless.

Launcher 4.0 Screenshot

Setting it up: go into the settings and click the menu tab. Next, you can get your shortcuts into the launcher simply by dragging and dropping them into the Launcher interface, even from the ‘Start’ menu. You can add dividers and either ‘real’ folders from your desktop or virtual folders inside Launchbar that can display cascading menus.

Launcher 4.0 Screenshot2 - settings

The verdict:

A nice launcher, drag and drop shortcuts to add them, practical and useful. You can choose which side of the screen you want the launcher to be active in, and you can make the icons a lot larger and tweak the opacity. The cons? Requires MS .NET Framework 4.5, and does not reconcile a shortcut to the original item, such that if you use a shortcut on the desktop to add an item to the installer, then delete the shortcut, the launcher does not know to find the original.

Here’s a quick wish list: the ability to ‘pin’ it to the desktop and drag shortcuts straight to the launcher, the ability to have different menus for each sides of the screen, the ability to have multiple columns, the option to enable cascading menus for actual Windows folders, the ability to make the icons even smaller.

Get Launchbar 4 here (Windows). Requires MS .NET Framework 4.5 (if the program crashed on launch, then you don’t have it). [Thanks go to reader Panzer for the tip about this program].

  • BioBob

    Pretty hard to beat Rocketdock – has always worked without a problem for years now in XP thru Win7. Much nicer options, more configurable, and has always been free,


    • Samer Kurdi

      @ BioBob. RocketDock is good, but I think of it as a Mac dock clone, and I don’t really like the genre. I put Launchbar in a different category, a lot subtler and much less prominent.

      • Daniel G

        Samer, thanks for this review–I’ll check it out. I’ve tried a million launchers and have stuck with RocketDock + menuApp. RocketDock can easily be configured to appear only when the mouse cursor touches the edge of the screen–not prominent at all!

      • BioBob

        Heh, not an Apple Fanboi ? I just like apps, an OS and low-walled garden that works and is ‘open’ to innovation. Variety is the spice of life !

        As Daniel mentions, you can make RocketDock autohide, and I always do. One of the nicest things about it is the large number of options. For instance, you can make the Icons any size from 16 to 128 px wide (read really tiny) and have them “pop-up” large which means you can fit a VERY large number of shortcuts in a small amount of space. Since I do like my apps, I typically can have 50 to 100 icons on a single bar and still have room for many more. I even have shifted my win 7 taskbar to the left edge and rocketdock the bottom edge and set it to fill the available width.

  • John

    The hands-down launcher for windows is TRUELAUNCHBAR (paid version of FREELAUNCHBAR). It is outstandingly customizable and simple to use. And it expands all folder shortcuts as if they are real folders. That is the best and unique feature of this software. Free version does not expand folder shortcuts but I highly recommend the pro version since it is not really expensive.

  • Simplicity

    I get annoyed when things pop out even when not supposed to. So I liked and used RunIt for quite a while. Then I found something even simpler: Quick Pop Menu. It can be assigned to a button on your mouse. You can make it “universal”; just click the assigned mouse-button wherever you are and you have your menu. Perfect.

  • Sieg

    Try a little program called magicformation its old but it works like a charm

  • Peter

    Not a patch on QuickCliq.
    Enter into the search box on this page for frewaregenius’s own review.
    One mouse gesture anywhere on the page brings up a totally customizable menu to launch .exe/files/folder/drives …. I use on all four machines in the house and have not found anything better …. and oh! …it’s free.

  • Krishna

    Launchy is my fav. Taskbar and Launchy make a great combination without the need for another launcher.

  • Ray

    Thanks for the article. I have used Rocket Dock for a number of years and though there are no updates since long, I prefer to use it. It launches applications like you would expect and does not use too much memory compared to Object Dock, etc. It is a dock clone but if the concept works, I don’t see the harm.

    I have also been using xlaunchpad and it is gorgeous too. Granted here also, it is a mac clone.