10 Quick Ways To Launch Mac OS X Applications

You do not always have to use the Dock or the Finder application folder to start an application under Mac OS X. There are other ways and techniques you can accomplish such trivial task, some are obvious, some are improvements and some might appeal to your way of working. Choose your pick.

  1. Dock is probably the first method new Mac users learned how to launch a Mac application. Many are drawn to the cool magnification effect of the Dock. You should always customize it and dock only the applications that you frequently use for less screen clutter.

    To dock an application, drag the application icon from Finder window and drop it onto the dock. To remove an application from the dock, just drag the icon out of the dock.

  2. When you are under Finder, Command-Shift-A is the shortcut key to open the application folder. To use keyboard as navigation, key in the first alphabet of the application name (eg key in ‘q’ for QuickTime Player) to highlight the selection. Press Command-O to open the application.

    You can customize the Finder window by placing application shortcuts on the sidebar as well as toolbar of the Finder window. Just drag the application icon and drop it onto the sidebar or toolbar location. The diagram below shows iTunes and iPhoto setup on the sidebar of Finder window and Firefox, Safari and Mail on the Finder toolbar.


  3. Mac OS X keep the last closed applications and documents in a “Recent Items” list. You can access this list and open last used applications from Apple Menu > Recent Items submenu.

  4. Double click on a document will launch the default application associated with the document type. If you would like to choose the application, select the contextual menu (Control-click or Right-click) of the document and choose “Open With” and select the appropriate application.

  5. You can also open an application by dragging its document file and dropping it into the application icon on the Dock or the Finder window.

  6. This is one of our favorite. Key in Command-Space to launch Spotlight search, key in the application name in the search box, and select the application from the search result to launch it. Spotlight search result will appear as you are typing the search text and is categorized by type such as Applications, Documents, Images etc to make it easy for us to locate the item.


  7. For those who are unix shell / command prompt oriented users, you can use the shell command “open” with the “-a” option under the Terminal program to run Mac OS X GUI applications. To start iTunes for example, enter “open -a itunes”, case is not sensitive for application name and you can drop the “.app” extension for an application.

    For application that has space in their names such as Address Book, Adobe Photoshop CS3, you can enclose the application name using double quote, single quote or add a backslash:

    open -a “Address Book”
    open -a ‘Address Book’
    open -a Address Book
    open -a “Adobe Photoshop CS3”
    open -a ‘Adobe Photoshop CS3’
    open -a Adobe Photoshop CS3

    A quick way to open a directory under Finder window is to use the “open” command with the directory path as parameter. For example “open /Users/yourname” will open your home directory in Finder, and “open .” will open the current directory in Folder.

  8. Many utilities programs are made to allow quick launch of applications, some example includes QuickSilver and LaunchBar. We do not have any recommendation for such utilities program but QuickSilver has a large following and might be worthwhile for you to evaluate further.

  9. For third party keyboard and mouse such as those from Logitech, you might want to check if there is utilities software that you can install to allow you to customize the special keys and buttons for quick launch of applications.

  10. You can setup to launch applications automatically when you login to the system. You might want to do this for those must have and daily applications such as Mail and Safari. To configure, choose Apple Menu > System Preferences > Accounts. Select your account from the left and click the “Login Items” tab. Click on the “+” button to add programs into the list. You can also add application by dragging the application icon from Finder window into the list.

The fastest way to start an application is never to close it. Mac OS X has efficient memory management and you will notice little performance hit by keeping applications open.

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