Launchy and AutoHotkey revisited for Windows 8

I was hoping Microsoft would be providing a more intuitive replacement for the Start menu. But they didn't, so we have to come up with our own solution. This is my solution and it could also be yours too, if you like.

Launchy and AutoHotkey logos

I introduced Launchy a while back when I first moved over to the Mac world and really missed the quicksilver/spotlight OSX feature when using Windows in bootcamp. But I never really found any need to use it as the Start menu and the search box was sufficient.

However, it's a completely different story in Windows 8. The Start menu has been replaced with the new Metro Style start menu (Metro UI). This is not a very user friendly approach to launch/access applications.

Regardless of whether you hit the start button or do a search via the on-screen charms bar. It requires you to jump out of the desktop and into the Metro UI - very annoying.

So I looked around for a solution that didn't require me to jump out of the desktop just to launch a application. The best solution I could find was Launchy + AutoHotkey.

I don't know if this is the best solution for everyone. But it's currently working out quite nicely for me. There is one slight annoyance with Launchy I haven't figured out how to fix yet - that is to be able to search via a program's internal name. e.g. mstsc - for remote desktop. But it's no biggy, I can still use the run dialog by hitting the key combination of 'start + r' just like in the past versions of Windows.

If you would like to give this solution a go; below are the steps to setup AutoHotkey and Launchy to work seamlessly.

For more information about Launchy and to download the latest version go here: http://www.launchy.net/

For more information about AutoHotkey and to download the latest version go here: http://www.autohotkey.com/

Important: If you don't want to use the 'start' button as a part of the key combination to invoke Launchy. You do NOT need to install AutoHotkey.

Note: The following steps assumes you have already downloaded and installed the latest version of Launchy and AutoHotkey.

Configuring Launchy

Step 1: Invoke Launchy using the default key combination 'alt + space'. Launchy with search results

Step 2: Left click the cog icon at the top right hand corner to access the settings dialog.

Step 3: My recommended settings are in the screenshot below. Launchy settings

Most important setting to check is the 'Hide Launchy when it loses focus'. If you don't have this checkbox checked, the only way to make Launchy disappear again is to press the same key combination you used to invoke Launchy.

The other setting I believe is quite important is the key combination to invoke Launchy. I suggest you change it from 'alt + space' to 'ctrl + shift + space'. The reason for this is because Photoshop uses the key combinations 'alt + space' and 'ctrl + space' for zooming. If you don't use Photoshop, then it's less of an issue.

Lastly, the default skin is a bit narrow. I recommend you change the skin to the 'Spotlight Wide' skin. You can do this under the skins tab.

Setting up AutoHotkey

AutoHotkey requires a bit of work to setup. Quick reminder, you only need to install/setup AutoHotkey if you want to use the key combination 'start + space'. Otherwise a normal installation of Launchy + the configurations outlined above is sufficient.

Note: The following steps assumes you have set the key combination to invoke Launchy to 'ctrl + shift + space'.

Step 1: Check you have enabled viewing of hidden files/folders in Windows explorer. Open a explorer window if you haven't got one open. Click the 'View' tab in the explorer ribbon > Click 'Options' > Click 'Change folder and search options'. Change View Options

Step 2: In the Folder Options dialog. Click 'View' tab > Change/make sure 'Show hidden files, folders, and drives' is the selected option for 'Hidden files and folders' as shown in the screenshot below. View tab of folder and search options dialog

Step 3: Navigate to the folder where AutoHotkey is installed. 64bit Windows: 'C:\Program Files (x86)\AutoHotkey'. 32bit Windows: 'C:\Program Files\AutoHotkey'. Right Click the 'AutoHotkey.exe' > From the context menu, select 'Create shortcut'. When it prompts you to save to desktop - select 'Yes'. AutoHotkey folder

Step 4: Navigate to your startup folder: C:\Users\ {Replace with your username} \AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs\Startup. Cut and paste the AutoHotkey.exe shortcut you created in the previous step into this folder. Start menu startup folder

Step 5: If AutoHotkey isn't already running (check system tray for AutoHotkey icon - see next step's screenshot). You can start it by double-clicking the AutoHotkey shortcut in the previous step (you're now done with the windows explorer window, you can close the explorer window now).

Step 6: Right Click AutoHotkey icon in system tray and select 'Edit This Script'. AutoHotkey system tray icon and context menu

Step 7: Delete all the contents in the notepad window (titled: AutoHotkey.ahk) that just opened up. Copy and paste the following script into the notepad window: '#space::SendInput ^+{Space}'. Save the notepad document, then close the notepad window. AutoHotkey.ahk contents

Step 8: Right Click AutoHotkey icon in system tray and select 'Reload This Script'.

Now if all went well, press the key combination 'start + space' and Launchy should appear.