LaunchAssist: Improving Application Launchers Everywhere

Posted November 15th, 2007 by kyle

None of the popular launcher applications, nor Windows itself, do a very good job of integrating launching vs. activating an already-running application. LaunchAssist is a little utility I wrote to improve this situation. It works with most application launchers as well as the Windows Start Menu, Run dialog, Explorer, etc. To install, download it here, extract it somewhere onto your hard drive, then register by double-clicking reg.bat (to uninstall, double-click unreg.bat, restart Windows, and delete the DLL). It works on Windows 2000, XP, and 2003, but unfortunately the hook that is needed for it to work was disabled in Vista (and despite what is stated in that thread, it can’t actually be fully enabled on Vista).

When an executable, document, or shortcut is launched, LaunchAssist is notified, looks for a matching application that is already running (by comparing the application or document filename with the beginning and ending of top-level window captions), and activates the matching window if found. If no match is found or if Shift is held down while launching (Shift+Enter in most launcher apps), LaunchAssist is bypassed and the program is launched normally by Windows.

Bonus feature: when launching URLs, if Shift is held down, LaunchAssist attempts to open the URL in a new browser window (for URLs, if Shift is not held down, LaunchAssist is bypassed). This is useful to me since I still use the venerable IE 6 (since I disdain tabbed browsers), configured to reuse windows when launching shortcuts, but sometimes I do want to open a new window instead. It works by finding the application associated with .html and launching it directly, which should work with most browsers.

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