I have been a loyal Launchy user for a long time. I fell in love with it the very first time I had tried it. Since then I have toyed with numerous similar utilities – Enso, SlikRun, RunIt, Executor etc. But on each occasion, I found myself going back to Launchy. FARR or Find and Run Robot is yet another application launcher. It promises to be the ultimate program for keyboard maniacs. But, can it deliver? Let’s find out.
Installation was quick and painless. Unlike many other Donation Coder programs, it didn’t immediately prompt me for a license key. Once installed, FARR should be good for a year (after which you will need to obtain a new free license key). At first glance FARR appears to be similar to Launchy. Press they hotkey to bring up the search windows and then begin typing to get instant results. However, the differences become apparent as you delve deeper.
A quick glance at the option and it becomes evident that FARR is not something intended for faint hearted. Very few programs offer as many configuration options as FARR. I won’t discuss them in detail, since FARR is configurable enough to fill up a dozen blog posts. Instead, I (highly) recommend that you go through the excellent screencasts available at Donationcoder.com.
So how is FARR different from Launchy? The biggest difference is that FARR doesn’t index anything. FARR actually searches the entire Start Menu (and any additional locations you may have configured) as you type. The advantage is that you will always get the latest results. But, the disadvantage is that it takes a bit of time. The developers are confident that this is a positive feature. However, after using it for a couple of days I am not so certain. FARR is quite fast and only takes one or two seconds to finish searching. But, I would definitely prefer instantaneous results over a short waiting period. The good thing is that once you launch an application, FARR remembers it. It will always be included in future searches and hence will be available instantly. FARR also remember 20 most recently performed searches and you can scroll through them using Ctrl+Up and Ctrl+Down.
FARR uses heuristic ranking to improve its results. It keeps track of factors like how many times an application has been launched, how recently has it been launched, what search strings have you used in the past and so on. In other words, FARR actually gets better with time.
You may have noticed that in the above screenshot, a number (rank) has been associated with each result. You can directly launch any of the results by pressing Alt+# (where # is the rank). This is a handy feature and something I hope Launchy will add in the future.
As I mentioned earlier I won’t delve deep into the capabilities of FARR, but no article on FARR can be complete without at least a brief mention of its most powerful feature – Alias. An alias is basically an advanced search command which can be configured to trigger different actions. To get you started FARR ships with few built-in aliases. In order to use an alias just type its name followed by the arguments. E.g. if you want to find out more about the artist Poets of the fall just type “music Poets of the Fall” and select the action you wish to perform.
To top things off, FARR also supports plugins which can infinitely extend its capabilities. DonationCoder.com houses several impressive add-ons which do everything from integrating with Remember the Milk and tweeting to changing tabs in Firefox.
My only real grudge with FARR is that it doesn’t index the start menu. The developers should definitely consider adding this option in the future – at the very least as a non-default option.
FARR is a remarkable application. It sits quietly in the background, uses very little resources and jumps into action whenever you need it. FARR is a huge productivity booster and once you get used to it, other alternatives like Launchy will appear dumb in comparison. Once again, I have only scratched the surface in this article. Install FARR and go through the documentation or the screencasts to get a better idea about it.
Download Find and Run Robot (5.6 MB)
Version Reviewed: 2.80.02
Operating System: Windows all
(Image courtsey: FlySi)