Last I wrote about LaunchBar, I explained ways I use it for opening applications on my Mac. Whilst this is something I do frequently, other more applied uses of LaunchBar are what endear it to me most.
Chief amongst these applied uses is Instant Send. It takes advantage of LaunchBar’s core competency of knowing myriad things to do with your Mac. Rather than just getting you to a destination folder or application, though, Instant Send picks up a passenger – files, folders or a bit of text – to take along.
With any of those things selected, invoke Instant Send by pressing a keystroke of your choosing (it’s off by default but I prefer double-Shift). LaunchBar hoovers up what you’ve got selected and places it onto the bar.
Once there, LaunchBar is mostly in the same mode as usual. It’s ready to search at a single keystroke, but with one difference: the Instant Send data on the bar will be passed on to whatever you launch with your search.
LaunchBar indexes so much of what you can do or launch on your Mac: applications, files and folders, Share Menu actions, Automator workflows and Services. It also has its own in-built actions and web search templates, to which you can also add your own.
All of these are options for where your bar item can go. Understandably some actions will only work with one type of input or another. You can’t send a folder to a DuckDuckGo search, for example. Because of these differences, I’ve split further explanation and examples into two groups.
Sending Files and Folders
When sending a file or folder, you’re initiating a virtual click and drag of the items to the destination. Depending on various factors, sometimes the mouse may be faster. Nonetheless, I still use these actions frequently:
- Compress: the items on the bar will be compressed into a .zip file and placed into the same folder (Note: You many need to enable third-party actions in Automator for this to work)
- BBEdit Instaproject: send a folder to BBEdit to create an instaproject, a window with the folder’s files to one side with the text editor on the other
- Send as Email Attachment: send the files to Mail or MailMate (the latter also provides a ‘New Email With Attachment’ service)
- Terminal Window: open a window in Terminal (or iTerm) with the directory changed to the folder on the bar or a file’s folder
File system operations
LaunchBar can do more than send to apps and actions. It can be used to perform tasks you might normally do with Finder or at the command line.
To get started, when you’ve got a file or folder on the bar, type with the intent of searching for a folder on your disk. To get to the root of your drive, type a forward slash (
/) or for your home folder, type a tilde (
~). You can further navigate through these or any folder by pressing the right arrow key.
Once the target folder is in selected in the bar, press Return to:
- Move or copy: the Instant Send item is moved or copied to the destination now selected (though convenient, for regular and predictable file operations, I still prefer Hazel)
- Create aliases and links: create a Mac OS alias or Unix-style link from the bar item to the selected destination
Text data on the bar can be more flexible in comparison to files. As a result, the possible destinations for it are numerous:
- Dictionary: look up the selected word in the Dictionary app
- BBEdit: send the text to BBEdit’s Scratchpad or a new document
- Mail: use Mail or MailMate’s ‘New Email with Selection’ service to put the text in a new message
- Inactive Links: open a URL that’s not an active link, just text, in Safari (except when I’m using BBEdit)
- Convert Case: LaunchBar has many options, like snake_case, spinal-case, and lower or upper case conversions; these actions just place the text on the bar where you can copy it or send it on to another action
- Large Type: display the text in large type across your screen (this is the default action, so there’s no need to search – just press Return)
- Wikipedia: look up the selection on Wikipedia
- OmniFocus: send the selection to the OmniFocus Inbox
- Stickies: for bits of information I only need to keep for a short amount of time
- Yojimbo: for long-term information storage
I’ve also got a few custom actions for searching a specific web site:
- Jisho: look up a Japanese word on the Jisho dictionary site
- This site: two actions for searching the published content of this site and one for searching the Movable Type back end
I cannot be certain whether I use Instant Send more with text or with files. What is clear, though, is that I use it a lot – 42% of the actions I take in LaunchBar are Instant Send. I shudder to think how lost I’d be without it.