I am a big believer in the power of the keyboard. The time it takes for me to move my hand from the keyboard to mouse is wasted time. If you take the effort to learn the keyboard shortcut’s for all of your applications, you will find you productivity will dramatically increase.

While you can do pretty much anything in Windows with a keyboard, most actions were designed to be primarily performed by a mouse. To get around this emphasis on the mouse you can use a key stroke launcher to execute commands e.g. e.g. opening Firefox, searching Google. My favourite key stroke launcher (for windows) is launchy. If you haven’t used launchy before, I would recommend downloading it and have a bit of play. This article, however, is not about the basics of launchy but rather I wanted to show some more complex things that you can do with it.

Opening a folder

There are certain folders on my computer which I need to access constantly. I hate having to manually click through all the sub-folders in explorer and not a massive fan of shortcut’s. Instead you can use Launchy to assign keywords to particular folders.

To do this, you need to bring up the launchy window; right click, click options and then go to the plugins tab. The plug-in you will use is the Runner plug-in (it should be installed by standard). To assign a keyboard shortcut to a folder, you need to click the “+” button at the bottom. In the name column, you enter the keyword you want for the folder, e.g. “trunk”. In the program column, enter explorer.exe, and finally in the arguments column you want to enter the folder path (e.g. d:\dev\huddle\trunk). That should be it! You will now be able to access your folders with ease.

Smart Url’s

I often need to go to the same webpage but with different parameters in the query string, e.g. http://www.google.com/search?q=dynamic+query+strings. To do this using launchy, you can use the Weby plugin. The method of adding a dynamic Url is pretty much the same as before, you just enter the keyword you want associated with the url, in the url column you enter the base url, e.g. http://www.google.com/ and in the query column you enter the query string for the url. The part of the query string you with to make dynamic (e.g. ?q=dynamic+query+strings) you replace with %s (e.g. ?q=%s). You can now enter the keyword associated with the url, press tab and enter the dynamic part of the url!

While the Google example is rather basic (and already in Launchy) this trick come’s into it’s own when you have app’s with friendly url’s e.g. Mingle (web app we use for managing our iteration + backlog). I can use Launchy to jump to stories by typing “Story [tab] {story number}” (and the same for adding bugs/tasks to stories). This is by far the biggest time saver for me.

More complex scenarios

Sometimes I want to do something more complex which takes multiple steps. E.g. When I arrive in the morning, I want to update my trunk and the build the solution. To do this with launchy I wrote a pretty basic batch script which updates my trunk and then run’s a build script:

You can then run the batch script using the Runner plug-in. It’s the identical process to opening a folder apart from you just specify the path of the batch file in the program column (and no arguments).

These are just a couple of examples of how awesome and extensible Launchy can be. You can also roll your own plug-ins for launchy although currently there is no easy way of finding them (so far the only place I’ve managed to find them is through their forum). Another downside is they have to be written in C++. I would love it if you could use the .NET framework so you could write plug-ins in C#, IronPython!

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