Use Apptivate To Increase Your Productivity

Keyboard-driven launching applications such as Quicksilver and Alfred are a powerful and super-fast way to launch applications, search for files and even execute complex commands, but depending on your needs, it may be more effective to utilise a series of Hotkeys for performing some of these tasks.

There’s a few ways to go about this, but overall, I believe Apptivate fits the bill due to its low cost, small memory footprint and lightweight, intuitive interface.

Read on to learn more about using Apptivate.

Getting Started

First head over to the Apptivate website and download Apptivate. Once installed, Apptivate will sit unobtrusively in your Mac’s Menu Bar and we can begin adding applications!

Adding Applications To Apptivate


Adding applications to Apptivate and assigning them a Hotkey is very easy and it shouldn’t take too long to have all your major programs added. To begin, click on the Apptivate Menu Bar icon and then ‘Add Item’. This will bring you to your Mac’s Applications folder, as shown in the above screenshot. Clicking on, for example, Safari, will then bring up the Hotkey sequence dialog. As you can see in the screenshot below, I have chosen to add the ‘ctrl’ and ‘s’ keys simultaneously to launch Safari.


Each application can be added in this way and the Hotkeys can also be used to navigate within apps themselves once launched. For instance, since Ctrl + m launches Mail and Ctrl + s launches Safari, moving between the two can be achieved without taking my fingers off the keyboard. Once you’re used to this method of launching and navigating, you should find that you can do so with great speed.

Adding Bookmarks To Apptivate

Apptivate is not limited to launching only applications. This app can also be used to navigate instantly to selected bookmarks too. I shall be using Safari in this example, but any web browser should work fine so long as it’s set as OS X’s default web browser. First open a new Finder window and create a folder somewhere to house your Apptivate bookmarks – I have created a folder named Apptivate Bookmarks in my Documents folder, as shown below.


Navigate to your chosen website within Safari and drag the favicon into your previously created Apptivate bookmark folder. You can do this as many times as you like for whichever websites you feel that you will visit most often. Bear in mind that if you have several websites beginning with the same letter then you may have to get creative with which key you use as Hotkey. Once you have your websites ready, click on the Apptivate Menu Bar icon once more and then ‘Add Item’. Then you should navigate to your bookmarks, as shown in the screenshot below and assign the bookmark a Hotkey.


Though you are free to use whichever combination of keys you wish for launching bookmarks, it often helps to have a system. For instance, while Ctrl + m launches Mail on my Mac, I use the combination of Ctrl and the Cmd (option) key plus a letter to denote a website: therefore, to navigate Safari to Make Tech Easier, I hold down three keys, Ctrl Cmd and m.

Another bonus of using this method to launch your bookmarks is that your web browser need not be running. So, hitting your Hotkey combination for Wikipedia for instance, will both launch your web browser and navigate to Wikipedia.

Other Tricks & Tips

Apptivate’s simple interface belies the surprising depth of features which it contains and there’s a whole host of uses you can put the app to. Here’s a few tricks and tips for tweaking Apptivate and making it exactly how you’d like it:

1. Stop the Add Item window from appearing on login


On booting into OS X, you may find it irritating that Apptivate’s “Add Item” window comes up as default without you clicking on it. To stop this behaviour, head over to system preferences and then the ‘Users & Groups’ preference pane. From here, you need to click on ‘Login Items’ and then make sure that the box under ‘Hide’ is ticked next to Apptivate, as shown in the above screenshot.

2. Use Apptivate to launch AppleScripts

Apptivate can be used to launch AppleScripts too, opening up a huge list of possibilities! Just add your AppleScripts to Apptivate as you would add a normal app, as shown in the steps above.

3. Hide Apptivate’s Menu Bar icon

As outlined in Apptivate’s support page, you can remove the app’s Menu Bar icon if desired. Though this is reversible, bear in mind that you won’t be able to access the ‘Add Item’ interface while it is invisible. To remove the icon, fire up Terminal and enter the following (Apptivate must be relaunched to make changes):

defaults write se.cocoabeans.apptivate TAShowStatusbarIcon 0

if you want to bring the icon back, just replace the 0 with a 1.


Hopefully by now, you’ll agree that Apptivate is a great little application which packs a massive amount of usefulness into its lightweight package and if used correctly, can boost your productivity significantly with a minimum of effort.

Adam Williams

Adam Williams is a journalist from North Wales, regularly covering music and technology for websites such as Make Tech Easier, Mac.Appstorm, iPad.Appstorm and Fluid Radio, in addition to writing weekly content for Apple Magazine. Follow him or contact him on twitter here

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