Advanced tips for using LaunchBar shortcuts with Mac

If you're a fan of shortcuts, these tips for using LaunchBar will streamline frequent tasks, going beyond its basic uses of application launching and switching.

LaunchBar is a great multitasking application that I've written about before. Here are a few tips to take using LaunchBar beyond its basics as a quick application launcher or switcher.

You can use LaunchBar to add events and TODOs to iCal; and, if you use another application that syncs with iCal, the events and TODOs will end up there too. In my case, I use Daylite, so adding an event via LaunchBar to iCal will cause it to show up in Daylite.

Use LaunchBar to add calendar events and TODO items

To add a calendar event, activate LaunchBar and select the gear icon and then the Index option on the pull-down menu. Choose Show Index. Make sure that in the Categories section Calendars is enabled. If it is, activate LaunchBar again and start typing the name of the calendar you wish to add an event to. When it comes up, select it and then press the spacebar. A text field will present itself and here you can type, "Pick up mom from airport @ Apr 18, 7pm." Press enter.

Open iCal and you will see the new event in the calendar with a default duration of one hour. If this is an all-day event, omit the start time. To create an event with a duration different than the one-hour default, use a start and end time, such as "6-8pm." If you wish to create an event with an alarm, use the [!] followed by the amount of time beforehand that you wish to be alerted, such as: "Meeting with John @ May 23, 2-4pm !30m." To create a TODO item in iCal, use the [>] as in "clean garage > next sat !1d" (clean the garage on the next Saturday with a one day in advance reminder).


If LaunchBar is set to index your iTunes library, you can use it to find specific songs quickly. For instance, if you're looking for a song that you think has the word black in the title, activate LaunchBar and type black. A list of matches will come up, which may be albums, songs, artists, or genres with the matched word. Use the arrow keys to scroll around; the right arrow to descend into an album or artist, the up and down arrows to scroll the list. If you think you've found the right song, or even just want to check the song out, press the space bar — this activates QuickLook, which will show the cover art of the song if it is present, and start playing the file. Press space bar again to turn QuickLook off and keep navigating if it wasn't what you were looking for.


If you're navigating in LaunchBar and wish to view the highlighted file in the Finder, hit CMD+[Enter]. To navigate to the directory containing the selected file in a new Terminal window, hit CMD+T. If there is an application to run in the Terminal at that location, use [Option]+CMD+T and type in the command to run in the text entry box. A new Terminal window will open, change to that directory, and execute the typed command. To run a command in the Terminal with the selected file or directory as an argument to a command, use [Shift]+CMD+T.

Finally, one last handy tip. Select a number of files in the Finder and activate LaunchBar. Press CMD+G to "send" the files to LaunchBar, then press [Tab] to get to the actions menu. Type mail and press enter. Mail will activate and create a new email message with the selected files as attachments.

There are a lot of ways to make LaunchBar work for you, and it makes a wonderful bridge between applications as well. The above can be used for anything; select a file then send to LaunchBar and open it in Pixelmator, or iTunes, or import it into EagleFiler. With this, you can navigate and select files in the Finder and open them in other applications, without having to activate or launch the other application first, or use the Open File dialog.

Getting into the habit of using LaunchBar shortcuts like these can save a lot of time. There are many other ways to use LaunchBar; this is just a very small sampling of how powerful and useful it is. More LaunchBar tips can be found on the product Web site:

About Vincent Danen

Vincent Danen works on the Red Hat Security Response Team and lives in Canada. He has been writing about and developing on Linux for over 10 years and is a veteran Mac user.

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