I am a big fan of application launchers. I even built one a few years ago for Windows, trying to learn WPF and to do an implementation of fuzzy searching for testing purposes. Trying to find some apps via start menu (invoking via Windows/Super key) is another story. Sure, for majority of people, start menu search is/will be enough. You can find most of the apps with ease (if you remember the name) and there is no additional installation needed.
Why then having a new tool for searching apps?
Ulauncher – much more than just a launcher
Ulauncher is an application launcher for Linux. In short: it is a smart textbox, enabling you to quickly open apps (with fuzzy search support), browse for files (and do actions with them) and search the web from anywhere in the system with the use of custom keyboard shortcut.
If you want to do more, you can search through numerous extensions online, which enables you to add additional functionality to the launcher itself. If that is not enough, you can write your own.
You can install it from the website https://ulauncher.io/ – majority of the Linux distributions are supported.
I am using Linux Mint. If you have the same (or Ubuntu or Debian distro), download ulauncher_5.6.0_all.deb package (as of time of this writing) and double click it.
Confirm installation with pressing on Install package button. After finished (you’ll need to enter your creds), search for Ulauncher application in the start menu (Windows/Super key). You’ll notice U character in taskbar on the bottom right and textbox in the middle of the screen.
Start searching for some apps and play around with fuzzy searching (approximate string matching). Write kybord and you’ll see some results, even if the name is not 100% correct.
Launcher is smart and remembers, what you used previously for specific keywords. For example: if you searched for te and opened an app, next time, when you searched for that specific keyword, it will highlight and position on that specific app. That can be quite handy, if you are used to searching with specific keyword and opening same app frequently.
If you don’t like basic look and feel, it has themes support and enables you to change preferences. Modify hotkey, how the search textbox should behave (empty on exit), frequent apps, indicator icon and what not to search. Maybe you have some folders, you want to have excluded. You can easily set those in Advanced section of the launcher preferences.
As part of searching, you can define additional shortcuts. Maybe you want specific app or script to execute.
To use that shortcut, just invoke ulauncher and use selected keyword with query request.
Sometime default functionality is not enough. Maybe you want to have something like generating passwords, translating text, running maintenance tasks, etc.
Ulauncher has a great site with useful 3rd party extensions to support specific cases. If you don’t find anything for your scenario, you can always write your own (more here with tutorials).
Installation is easy. Search for the one you like, click on it. Let’s try out unicode extension (click here).
Copy GitHub url. Open Ulauncher preferences (right click on U icon, Preferences), select Extensions tab and add the url.
You’ll need to Reload the list. Once reloaded, you can define shortcut to invoke extension inside launcher, check for updates and additional other options.
You can now easily invoke the extension inside launcher app with the defined keyword.
Ulauncher is a great tool for quickly searching through apps/folders without changing the focus on the task at hand. The textbox is unobtrusive, search efficient and quick with the option to search online, when needed. The last open app is quite useful, especially if you are have a frequent app for doing a specific task. Extensions are rich, easy to install and open sourced. You can check the code and learn something new.
It will for sure be in my toolbox going forward with Linux.