Typing Trumps Pointing

Windows Vista gets criticized a lot in the press, mostly for not being OS X. Some of the criticisms are valid. It is terribly late. And the feature list has grown less and less impressive as the development process has worn on over the years.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original blog entry at: http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/2007/01/typing-trumps-pointing.html

Like every other “compelling” Vista feature, there is a free alternative.


So, it’s kinda like the Spotlight Menu in Mac OS X? To launch TextEdit (the closest equivalent to Notepad):

Command-spacebar t e x down-arrow return

(By default, Command-spacebar will open the spotlight menu and place the caret in the text box.)


Yes, OS X has Spotlight. All you have to do is throw away your PC, rewrite your code to work on OS X and revamp your organization to run on Apple computers. It’s a cinch!

It would be nice if fan boys had more sense than emotion.


Sorry to add another “me too”, but you really, really need to play around with Quicksilver.

It’ll blow your mind.

This is pretty much like OSX’ Spotlight (or even Google Desktop’s desktop search), and it does fall short of the wonderfully amazing Quicksilver on OSX which Simon Willison already pointed to.

Jeff, try QuickSilver, seriously (just get a VMWare OSX image)

“Or type “readme” and see a list of like 50 readme.txt without any extra information about the folder it belongs to or anything else to separate them.”

If I remember correctly, there is a tooltip that gives you the file path when you hover. In Spotlight when you view “all results” it shows the file name, and the full path to the file in another window, I imagine there is something similar in Vistas…errr…start-search bar. What the heck are we calling that thing anyway? Start++? Start#?

As for remembering something about what you are searching for. Let us not forget Vista Commandment # 3 “Be Discoverable” ( http://msdn2.microsoft.com/en-us/windowsvista/aa904980.aspx ) and let us hope that app devs remember this commandment too and hold it sacred. (more info here http://msdn2.microsoft.com/en-us/windowsvista/aa904975.aspx#CTA3 )

I’ll echo Rick S. sentiment from above. I find myself caring less and less about who came up with what first and more whether or not it’s available in a platform I’m using. BeOS had amazing media capabilities for it’s time, but I wasn’t running it so I didn’t care. Anything that gets me closer to feature parity on my chosen platforms is double plus good to me.

I also love the Start Menu search mojo, it’s probably the most noticable feature I miss when switching back to XP for certain tasks.

Those mentioning QuickSilver, what does it do better/different? I’m really not going to waste a few hours just to find out so if someone doesn’t mind sharing that would be great. Is QuickSilver an Apple product? It looks like it’s just something that someone decided to write for a Mac instead of Windows.

Side question, why do people always want to talk about who had what feature first? Do you get points? Is this some fun meme game I don’t know about? Does an angel get it’s wings? Unless someone’s a patent lawyer I don’t get the point.

I’m a bit suspicius it looks a lot like the search feature in the “Window | Preferences” in Eclipse 3.1

I always agree that if something is a great feature and it can help in your application, you should copy the idea. But please, don’t present it as something new developed by you, and even more important, don’t ever patent it.

this comment might be coming a bit late to be of any assistance, but for everyone who loves pointing instead of typing, the vista start menu still acts an awful lot like the XP start menu.

There isn’t any reason that you HAVE to type, you can drill down through hierarchical menus, just like you could in previous versions of windows. you can click the ‘start’ button and then click on your favorite app, if you’re into doing it that way. Vista doesn’t make you choose between typing and pointing.

Seems you lost your lastname on the second screenshot… hidden vista feature?

I’ve been using Google Desktop for the same thing. For running applications as well as finding stuff in files. QuickSilver (OS X) is the best implementation of these types of features on any OS. As someone else pointed out, there are other options out there too. I also like to combine Google Desktop with WinKeys for keyboard nirvana.

Glad to see you’ve caught on to the times… just kidding. Myself I’m a keyboard junkie so I’m always on the lookout for such applications. Imagine if Vista had been delayed or not included this feature, maybe you’d still be dealing with mouse clicking and the dreaded Start menu. :slight_smile:

SUSE 10.2 has the same feature in their SUSE menu :slight_smile:

Lovely post.

Luckily there is a way for mere mortals like me, who do not have Vista installed yet, to enjoy the magic you’re describing. There’s an open source product called Launchy (http://www.launchy.net/) that can be installed on XP and lets you launch things by typing their name (comes with auto-complete of course). It’s pretty slick looking too (although a bit buggy on my two-monitor setup).

Enjoy :slight_smile:

off topic here, I was happy when Apple integrated the spotlight menu into OS X, but was disappointed with its speed and overzealousness. It would start to search before I was done typing, and usually the sudden cpu surge would result in a 1-4second hangup, even on a high end machine. I stuck with launchbar which isn’t free, but works amazingly well. It does everything I need it to including launching apps, songs, urls, emails, sites etc. I tried quicksilver long ago and found it to be too complicated, as well as eating up large chunks of cpu even in the background.

Note that at least the KDE (one of the two major linux/unix desktops) equivalent of the start menu really has had this exact feature for quite a while now?! I’m not talking about the linux command line here (don’t forget just because the windows command line sucks, doesn’t mean all command lines suck) - the actual GUI “K” menu does this.

Only, we never thought to trumpet it from the rooftops as some amazing new feature… Geez. It’s a minor usability thing, one of the many,many things that makes a Linux/KDE workstation a heck of a lot more pleasant to use than a windows box…

So, the typical “linux” start menu does already do, well, exactly this.

i look at the major desktop for Linux and tell me where that inspiration comes from ?/i

Amiga, RiscOS, Be, Mac, mostly. Microsoft are followers, not leaders, there’s really not that actual imitation of windows in linux desktops, just convergent evolution and in some distros, defaults tuned for ex-windows-users.

I have written an application that does just what this new Vista feature does plus have seen many many more great applications done by others which of course are mentioned.

But what I see may be a problem with Vista that haunts XP is that activating the start menu with alot of information in it can take alot of resources. Right now on my XP box with 3.2Ghz and 2 GB or RAM and opening the Start Menu is a bit doggish. If I turn off all my sytles it comes up quick.

So in the end. Will Vista start menu have better performance so your not waiting for the results of what you typed like when your waiting for the menu to load after you just clicked in XP?

My 2 cents.

But trust me when I say that they don’t have the speed and ease of use that this does.

Trust me when I say some do

Press the winkey and its there, all loaded and ready to go, type some things and press enter, and you don’t even have to wait for the thing to refresh, it will just go and run the first result it finds. The fact that I can now run programs in less then a second is very important.

QuickSilver says hello. Defaults binding to ALT+SPC, just press, type whatever you want, press enter, everything is instantaneous.

As mentioned before, there are several launching utilities available for Windows already. The one I use has better discoverability of programs than most I’ve found, but it doesn’t support features like launching from your media library or url’s.
However, I’m hoping they will provide an api to create new commands.
Unfortunately it’s a bit pricey and not out officialy yet :S

This is actually one of the features I don’t like with Vista, sure I would have had no problems if it was there to be used but now they force us to use it everytime since the programs list has been reduced to a useless scrolling list of programs.

There is nothign wrong with point and click, this is a step backwards to force it upon people.