I just don’t get Launchbar. It drives me crazy. Someone please explain its greatness

I have heard so much about Launchbar over the years and I bought it, but I don’t get it. I am a die-hard Alfred user but Launchbar lovers are many so I wanted to see what it is all about, but I just don’t get it.

It’s search is so weird. It is fast but not accurate (probably because I haven’t set it right). I hate how the text vanishes if wait a second, too! For the love.

I just need to spend more time with it, I guess, but every time I do I want to just go use Alfred again.

Love some insight if you prefer Launchbar!

I’m a die-hard Alfred user, and I have no interest in trying LaunchBar. That said, this article may sum up the pros of LB pretty nicely.


Well, there are some things in LP which make me cry every time I use Alfred.

  1. Syntax. In LB you don’t have to memorise all the abbreviations for Workflows (it drives me crazy to clutter my brain with all the WF syntax in Alfred). Instead, the syntax is “Object Tab Action”. If you want to use search inside of a Workflow (called Actions in LB) it is “Object Space Search term”. This is extremely useful with the next point.

  2. SendTo. Easily the most useful feature which is the single point why I simply can’t use Alfred anymore. It is so cumbersome to get thing into and out of it, I could cry. So, imagine, you find an address in text and want to look it up in Maps. Well, just select it, make a long press on the “Call LB” combo and it will be opened in LB as an Object. Press TAB, type “ma”, select maps and press enter. Maps will open with that Address. Or sent it to another app. Do the same with files, images, folders and so on - you soon will understand how well it works and how useful it is. Alfred is an island - it is difficult to get things in, if you get them in, it takes more time to achieve the same and the whole syntax of the workflows is just not up to this task.

  3. Retype. LB is not meant to think a lot about what you type. Since you don’t have workflow abbreviations you should memorise you just type, not in full words but in some letters (you will get a good feeling for it pretty soon), and if you don’t find what you seek and need to correct yourself, just retype. Seriously, don’t even try to correct, don’t bother about deleting - just retype. That is what this “retype delay” does for you. Mine is set to the minimal value and I sometimes wish it would allow me to set it lower. Btw, it is not valid for complex search, like search inside a folder - there you can wait as long as you want.

  4. Search. A big difference is the search approach. Alfred uses Spotlight index, LB uses it’s own index. You have to work to make it shine. So, don’t index the whole Documents folder. Index the folders you need - you can also define the depth it indexes and types of files. Again - imagine you have a project folder with a lot of git repositories. Spotlight and thus Alfred will index all the files inside which will extremely clutter the search results and render them useless. In LB you would just define a search for folders so you will get only the git repository names - I use it mostly to send the folder directly to VSCode.

  5. LB is well integrated into the system. Don’t want to write Actions (the LB equivalent of Workflows)? Ok, it can use the system Services. Want to select a file and send it via AirDrop? Not a problem, select/find a file, long press, TAB, “air” and enter. The only available workflow in Alfred will open the finder to AirDrop the document from there. And honestly, when I tried to use Alfred, most work went into finding Workflows which would allow me somehow to do what is already included in LB.

To summ it up: LB is a power tool and there is certainly a learning curve to use it efficiently, but I have a feeling the developers thought about how you could use it more than Andrew (developer of Alfred, a really nice guy). Or it may be simply mature - it is existing for 22 years now.

Shortcomings: Well, the community is less vibrant (almost non-exising, I would say, no packal, forum is dead). It may be more difficult for non-programmers to write Actions, compared to the half-visual programming approach for workflows in Alfred. There is almost no communication from the developers - we have now a version 6.9.5 and we still don’t know if there will be a version 7 of LB and when.


I use LB to launch apps, which I could also do with Spotlight. I read the Take Control Book, but I keep forgetting to use LB. Maybe following this thread will help getting used to it. I’m sure it would be helpful, once I use it frequently (same with BTT).

My favourite feature in Launchbar is Instant Send.

It can be configured in the Shortcuts pane of Launchbar Preferences. In my case I have the trigger set to be Double Shift (i.e. press the shift button twice).

What this allows me to do is select something (e.g. a file, folder, some text) and then send it to anything in Launchbar (e.g. an app a search).

Some specific examples:

  • Select an image and Instant Send it to Acorn.
  • Select some files on the desktop and Instant Send them to a specific client folder.
  • Select the name of a movie and Instant Send it to the IMDB search.
  • Select the name of a client and Instant Send it to a search I created to look up their record in WordPress.



@bodiequirk I’d say if you’re used to Alfred and like how it works then stick with it. I was a Quicksilver guy which was the grandfather of all those apps and when the original developer went to work for Google, I was devastated. Like many, I had to switch to Launchbar which I hated at the beginning, but using QS was getting so bad, I had no choice. After a while, QS came back and I tried to switch back to it but Launchbar was so much easier and fast that I’m still using it to this day. Sure there are very advanced things you can do with LB, or QS or Alfred, but if the basic things you do every day are not getting faster by using one or the other than don’t bother. The grass is not necessarily greener elsewhere you know;-)

This is not true, quicksilver is a younger one. LB is the oldest of the launchers, counting it back to 96. Quicksilver is “only” from 2003. ¯_(ツ)_/¯
Sadly, I missed QS completely out, so I can’t say anything about it. But it seemed to be similar to LB in command structure.

My mistake let just say that Merlin Mann was the guy that popularized QS to the “masses”. I had never heard of “launcher” apps before QS. But seeing Merlin fly with QS was what got me all excited to use my mac.

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@ptarh Thanks for the passionate and thorough reply, this is exactly the kind of thing that I was looking for. I really appreciate you parsing out the features and benefits so well. Eager to give it another go. Especially instant send / Sendto (difference? no idea). Anyways, thanks!

Tim, thanks for replying, this makes me want to give it another go. I may copy your setup and see how it works for me. Instant send sounds really awesome.

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You’re very welcome. Instant Send is a very convenient feature. I probably use anywhere from 30-50 times in a typical day.

Instant Send is my favorite, too.

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I also came from Alfred but never availed of the Powerpack so I don’t really know what I’m missing but I switched to LaunchBar when version 2 of Alfred was released.

One of the main feature that I use LB is the clipboard history. I can just copy multiple items, invoke clipboard history and select an item from there. It can be an image, a text or URL.

Instant Send and Send To is also my favorite and being able to access a calculator.

I’ve read the extensive guide from LB, there are still a hundred of other things I know I can do with LB but so far I’m good with what I’ve integrated in my workflow.

SendTo is the syntax to send information to Apps in LB, Instant send is a feature which allows you to select marked text/objects in LB by a long press of the “Call LB” shortcut. You could achieve the same without instant send by marking text/object, calling LB and pressing ⌘+G.

I think this may only apply to files. For example, if I select some text in Safari, invoke LaunchBar and press ⌘+G…it doesn’t grab the selected text. Whereas, if I select the same text and invoke Instant Send (via Double Shift in my case) it puts the text into LaunchBar and I can send it off to, for example, a search.

Where do you guys recommend getting some basic launchbar training? Going to start at ScreenCastsOnline, but his videos are on the previous version, version 6. Still probably more than adequate to get me going.

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I would start here. Not that new but mostly valid.

Update! I am forcing myself to try Launchbar out instead of Alfred, and so far I am liking it, but I still don’t understand how it thinks yet. Going to give it a fair shake, for sure. I think once I get some time with it, I am going to use it for everything. That, at least, is the goal.

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if you have certain apps or folders that you access a lot, you can define your own custom abbreviation, which will make that the first search result. I’ve assigned “DL” for the Downloads folder, “DK” for my Desktop,* and “C” for Calculator. And you can still get to them the regular way as well. Type “down” will still get you to Downloads.

To do it, start typing until you get the desired result and then put your mouse over the text and you will see a pull-down menu. choose “Assign Abbreviation.”

it’s very helpful!

*If you’re thinking, “shouldn’t Desktop be DT?” Yes, but for some reason, my brain always goes to DK, so instead of fighting it, that’s my abbreviation.


Yes! Thanks @richtack

Once I discovered this feature, you are right, it really helped make Launchbar’s searching for predictable. I have been assigning shortcuts like mad, since I figured this out. Thanks!