The more programs you have installed on your PC, the harder it becomes to find the one you want. That's why I can't live without Launchy, a simple but incredibly useful application launcher that saves me having to sift through the dozens of programs in my Start menu.

Launchy is keyboard-driven. You invoke it by pressing Alt-Space (or a hotkey combination of your choice), then type the first few letters of the program you want. For example, to launch Google Picasa, I merely type "pic" and then press Enter. For iTunes, I type "itu." Excel is "ex." You get the idea. Usually you can find what you're after with just two or three letters, though occasionally you may have to type a few more.

Launchy also serves up Web favorites. To head straight to PCWorld.com, for instance, I type "pcw." It even indexes files, so you can load, say, Word documents or iTunes music with just a few keystrokes. (If all this sounds familiar, it's because Microsoft added similar functionality to Windows Vista's Start menu.)

Using Launchy may seem a bit unusual at first, but trust me when I say you'll grow to love it.

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