5 of the Best Application Launchers for Linux

Don’t you really hate it when you install a new Linux program, and you can’t find it in the Application menu right away? Sure, you can run it from a command line, but isn’t there an easier way? Yes, there is an easier way, and it’s called an app launcher. With a Linux application launcher, you can find and open programs quickly. Here are five of the best launchers that come with good features and/or plugins.

Note: Most of these application launchers are available in your distro’s package manager and can be easily installed from the Software center.

Synapse comes installed with some of the most popular Linux distros, so it’s possible you are already using it but are totally unaware. Synapse is a visual launcher you can use not only to start applications, but also to find and open any file. It uses the Zeitgeist engine and is a very fast launcher/searcher. In addition to launching apps and searching for them, it comes with lots of other features, such as Run commands, ability to look up words in a dictionary, ability to log out, shut down, and restart your Gnome session, etc.

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If you are a fan of keyboard shortcuts, then you will love Launchy. It’s not a Linux exclusive – you can use it for Windows, too. In addition to launching programs, you can use it to open files, folders, and websites. Just assign a key combination to activate it, and you can forget about the Application menu or clicking icons to open files, folders, apps, etc. It comes with a lot of plugins, too.

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Gnome Do is a Gnome launcher, but it is available for other desktop environments such as KDE. You can use it to search for stuff such as applications, Firefox bookmarks, files, artists and albums in Rhythmbox, Pidgin buddies, etc., and perform actions on them. You can use it to launch an app, as well as open files, chats, play music, etc. There are a lot of plugins for Gnome Do – you can start with the pack available in Synaptic (the gnome-do-plugins pack).

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Kupfer is similar in style to Gnome Do, but it’s written in Python. You can use it to search for files and launch apps. There are really a lot of plugins for it – just open the Preferences dialog and choose which ones you want to use. There are Kupfer plugins for almost anything you can think of – from Audacious and Calculator, to Dictionary, Documents, and Favorites, to Gnome session management, shell commands, and Web search.

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Apwal is one more visual app launcher. What makes it different is that it is an icon-based application launcher. Apwal has two parts: the application launcher itself and the configuration editor. When you open the editor, you see all the icons available on your system. You can assign a different icon to your applications, then just click the icon, and the application launches. You can search your icon files by filename, size, or extension.

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You don’t have to use all five of these app launchers together – just pick one or two you like best. Some of them might not be available for your distro or might not work on your system which narrows down your choices. But there are a few more launchers I didn’t include on the list because they are either very similar to these, or I don’t like them as much. If you don’t like these five or if they don’t run on your system, fear not, there are more options to explore.

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