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Find And Run Robot / Re: new launcher just released
« on: July 25, 2007, 11:54 AM »

just a quick comment. I think that as long as you do not have fuzzy matching, that new heuristic were you'd boost the score of items based on the key combination used to launch them would probably not give you many benefits. As in the current FARR search you need to type the letters of the beginning of one of the words in the filename, you are very likely to score them highly anyway. Once you add fuzzy matching, it will become much more useful.

I understand your reluctance to make the software too smart. All of us probably remember with horror the "smart menus" in Office. But to a certain extent, FARRs incredibly flexible scoring rules make it already one of the smartests launchers on any platform. In my experience, this particular type of smarts, when properly implemented (as in Launchy) makes a lot of sense and I have yet to find someone who did not find them logical after a short time using it.

I am also very glad that you see the value of a stack based approach. Hopefully you'll explore this possibility in a future version. In my opinion it could be a pretty interesting GUI design exercise and it would definitely open a lot of possibilities for FARR.



Find And Run Robot / Re: new launcher just released
« on: July 25, 2007, 10:23 AM »

thanks for taking my comments into consideration :-)

Let me try to explain what I mean by automatic learning. Basicallly, what it means is that everytime that you select a certain search result, the score of the selected search result increases in two ways. First the overal score of that item (file or program) increases for any search that matches its name. Second, the score of that particular item for the set of letters that you used to find that search result also increases greatly.

For instance, let's say that I want to start visual studio. If I typed "visual" it would probably be one of the first (if not the first) result in Launchy. But let's say that I want to start visual studio with "vs" instead. Probably, if I just type "vs" Microsoft Visual Studio will not be the first result to appear in the list. Maybe it will be the 5th or 6th, for instance. I can then use the down key and select it (i.e. I press ENTER). Then, the next time I type "vs" Visual Studio will be the 1st or 2nd item in the list. If it is the 2nd I can just select it again and the next time it will certainly be the 1st result. Launchy automatically learnt that I want to use "vs" as the keyword for Microsoft Visual Studio.

The neat thing is that Launchy also scores higher any previously selected items compared to items in its index that have never been selected. So, imagine that when I first typed "vs" Microsoft Visual Studio were not even on the list. No problem. I can type "visual" that first time (or maybe just "vis") and find and start visual studio. Then the next time I type vs Visual Studio will certainly be on the list as Visual Studio does match "vs" and now it has a higher score.

I don't know the exact heuristics that Launchy uses, but it is really cool. You can feel how Launchy is learning what you want. Very often it will do the right thing right away, but when it doesn't it is very easy to "teach" it. There is no need to use menus and keywords to configure it.

Now, imagine that later on you install some other program called "version control", for instance and for some reason you don't want to use "vs" to start visual studio anymore, but to start this new program. Well, you simply need to select "version control" a few times (once or twice) after typing "vs" and Launchy will quickly learn that you changed your mind. Visual Studio will still be shown on the list of results, probably as the second option.

By the way, Launchy _also_ has a pretty flexible keywords plugin
(installed and enabled by default) but in my experience you rarelly need to use it as the automatic learning, coupled with fuzzy matching works fine in most cases. The only times that making a keyword is necessary is when you want to use a keyword that does not match the file name or if you want to be able to pass parameters to the program that the keyword starts.

BTW, I may be making sound all of this too fancy, with names such as automatic learning and fuzzy matching. The whole point is that the launcher should just pay attention and try to do what I want it to do :-)

Regarding the stack vs the +ACTION modifiers (which by the way I think are pretty clever and cool) I think that the stack based approach has an advantage in that, once you select one item in the stack, the launcher can use its "search" capabilities to match the next element on the stack.

Let me explain with one example:
Imagine that I want to send an email to you and I want to attach a certain log file to the email.

In QuickSilver I can first search for the log file, called "My log.log" for instance. Imagine that I type "log" and find "My log.log". I type TAB. The default action was "open" but I type "e" which finds the "email as attachment" action. I type TAB. I type "mou", which finds "[email protected]" on my address book. I type ENTER. A new email is open in Outlook, addressed to mouser and with the file "my log.log" as an attachment. Total keys typed:

"log[TAB]e[TAB]mou[ENTER]" -> 10 in total.
How many would it take with the +ACTION approach? FARR cannot continue matching after the 1st element is found, can it? And even if it could, it would be a bit ackward, because if it starts showing you the email addresses on the results list, then you lost the name of the file that will be attached (as you did not type the whole filename, you just looked for it my typing a few letters). With the stack based GUI, you keep all the information, and if you make a mistake you can go back easily (just type ESC to go back to the previous stack level).

Also note how after you type each "TAB" the "search context" changes in a Stack based approach. Initially it searches for files and programs. Then it searches for actions and finally, depending on the action type it may search for something else (in this case for email addresses). Plus, it you have automatic learning you can just type "e" for the "email as attachment action" because the launcher learnt that you want to use "e" to select that particular action.

I agree that these types of usages are a bit advanced. But when the interface makes this powerful capability extremely accessible, even for non power users.

So again, looks can improve the program capabilities in some cases. I think that this is a very good example.

BTW, as I said, I really appreciate you guys taking my comments into account. I will definitely keep checking on FARR from time to time.


Find And Run Robot / Re: new launcher just released
« on: July 25, 2007, 08:26 AM »
mouser (and others),

thanks for your answer and specially for showing off the new skin capabilities in FARR v2. It certainly shows and improvement over FARR v1. It is still not as nice as other launchers but it is better than before, which is great. BTW, is it possible to disable the numbers in the "big icons" mode?

Regarding the "look" of FARR, one thing that I like in Launchy, Dash and Quicksilver is how they really "highlight" the current selection. That is, the element would be launched if you clicked ENTER. I think that this should be prominent in the interface, not just be the first result in the list of search results. I also like how Dash and Quicksilver highlight the letters that are being matched (this is more important when you have intra-word non-contiguous matching, which FARR currently lacks).

As a final note on "eye candy" and "looks". I love the way QuickSilver fades in and out when you use it. That sort of thing could be implemented without modifying the current skin capabilities of FARR. It could even be a plugin, with several fade-in/out animations to chose from (and obviously it shoul be totally optional). Maybe that is an easy way to differentiate FARR in the looks department compared to other launchers?

I will certainly give the new version a try once it is released. I am happy to see that a few of the weaknesses in the previous version have been improved.

One particular comment that I'd like to make is that I think that the "real" intra-word non-contiguous matching (sometimes called "fuzzy matching") is really a _must_. It does not seam a big deal until you start using it but it is really useful and once you get used to it you may never want to use a launcher that does not have it. When coupled with "automatic learning" (i.e. results re-scoring based on user selection) it becomes a really nice way of "automatically" creating keywords.

What I mean is that, in FARR, it is often suggested to create an alias when you want to use a certain name for a certain program or file (say ff for Firefox). But that is the whole point! I _don't_ want to have to manually create keywords. But that means that you have to do that for every computer where you use Launchy (unless you use a usb key or something). And it takes longer than letting the launcher observe what you do and learn what you want it to do. Not to mention that it is also harder for non power users to use this feature.

It is hard to explain, but it really makes a big difference. And having to add a space between the letters would be annoying (the best example is firefox, which I currently can start by simply tapping twice the "f" letter).

And this is another reason for indexing, I think. As you said, implementing this sort of "fuzzy matching" may be too costly in a pure search based program like FARR. But for index-based launchers this is not a problem whatsoever.

I really liked the idea that a previous poster had, were you could select whether you want to index or search each individual folder. I also think that it may be nice if you could do "both" at the same time. That is, quickly present the results of the index search, and then do a search in the background and show any additional results as soon as they are ready. Maybe this could bring the best of both worlds?

Another question that I have is: how does the new version of FARR handle "alternative" modes? I really like how in Launchy if you select "Google" (by typing gg for instance) and type TAB you go into "google search mode". In Dash this is even more evident, as the "Google search" text appears on top of your editbox which makes it clear that any words that you type will be used for a google search.

Another related question is how does FARR handle "alternative actions". By default, hitting ENTER opens or executes the program or file selected. Can you select things such as "open folder" or "copy", etc? In Dash and Quicksilver you can by hitting TAB until you select the action that you want to perform.

As a final note I'd like to answer jgpaiva regarding the trade off between improving the FARR interface versus adding new features. I have to say that the looks of an application can often limit its capabilities. For example, QuickSilver has a really neat "multi-level" "stack" interface, where you can select a file, type tab, select and action, type tab and select a "modifier" for the action (e.g. select a filename, select "copy to..." and select the folder to which the file will be copied). I don't think that this is something that is too difficult to implement. But in Quicksilver it is very natural as every time that you hit tab the selected item is "saved" into a "stack" that is shown in the interface very clearly. So the interface flexibility not only looks good but also adds a good deal of functionality, making it trivial to add this sort of feature. In FARR (and sadly, also in Launchy) this would not be nearly as easy to do, as they are based around the concept of a single edit box where you type your command. That could never be as powerful as the stack based interface approach that QuickSilver (and to an extent Dash and the new SkyLab from Candylabs) has.

Anyway, I'm really looking forward to the FARR v2 release. I don't think that I could give up "fuzzy" matching at this point, but maybe you guys will change my mind? :-)



Find And Run Robot / Re: new launcher just released
« on: July 24, 2007, 05:43 PM »

as an old member of donation coder, and someone who used to use FARR all the time and finally dropped it in favor of Launchy I think that I might give a different perspective on why "less featured" programs such as Launchy and Dash appeal to some (perhaps many!) users.

First of all, let me say that I _loved_ FARR. When I discovered it I was blown away and I inmediatly became a donationcoder member and I donated to FARR. I still like it and I think it is useful but I don't use it anymore.

There were 4 main reasons why I started using Launchy instead of FARR:
- "Better" search results (out of the box, without tweaking).
- Looks awesome compared to FARR (although not as good as Dash)
- Some really cool pluggins (e.g. the calculator and web search pluggins)
- Simpler setup and better "out of the box" experience.

Please, before you guys jump to dismiss these reasons, let me elaborate a bit more. But first, please note that the last time I tried FARR it was a few months back and perhaps some of these have been fixed since them. I'd be cool if you pointed me to those.

1. Why I think that the Launchy search is better?
- It is "index-based" which means almost instantaneous search results. There was a noticiable difference compared to FARR.
- "Adaptive" search results. Launchy tracks what I select after every search I do and boosts the ranking of those results the next time I repeate the same _OR A SIMILAR_ search.
- Non contiguous search (i.e. searching for ff will find FireFox)

I believe that some of these features were planned for FARR v2.0 but I don't know if they all made it. I would agree that the "index-based" search may be a drawback for some people, which want to be able to search a completelly up to date list of files, but in my usage I've found that using Launchy with a 20 minute update timer is good enough 99.9% of the time (and when it is not updating the index is 2 mouse clicks away). Perhaps this works well for me because for me Launchy is mainly a program launcher and an interface to google (and a calulator and folder navigator...) and not a file search tool. But I think that there are better "file search tools" around that both FARR and Launchy anyway.

2.- Better look. I think that this cannot be questioned. I don't even think that Launchy looks "that good" but it definitely looks way better FARR. I know that a lot of people don't really care about this but _A LOT_ of people do care (me included).

I think that saying that "power users" do not care about looks is untrue. Actually I find that many power users like to tweak the looks of their computers a lot, as they use them so much more than non power users.

I really don't think that you should under-estimate the importance of this. One of the previous posts made a very good point regarding commercial vs freeware software and I think that there is a reason why commercial software "tends" to look better and that is because most people like better looking software and sometimes are willing to trade some features for good looks and style (case in point ipod vs other mp3 players, etc).

3.- Better "out of the box" experience:
This is related to #1. There is an enourmous amount of options in FARR. I bet that the options pane is probably overwhelming for many users and maybe you should consider create two separate "simple" and "advanced" "configuration modes" to make FARR more approachable and feel less bloated (often bloat is just a feel, it does not need to be real to put some people off).

However that was not what I mean about a better "out of the box" experience and why I stopped using FARR. I know that I can configure FARR to behave exactly as I want with all the very useful and detailed options. I actually did that when I was using it. However, I often go to new computers and I like to have a keyboard launcher in them. With Launchy, I can just install it and it works very well without any configuration. With FARR I would need to waste some time (probably a while!) to configure it properly in each machine that I install it.

A previous poster mentioned that trying to use his wife's PC without FARR was a pain. I bet that trying to use FARR without any reconfiguration would be a (much smaller) pain too!

I really believe that this last reason is very important and probably something that with some careful thought could be easily improved in FARR. You could think about the most useful scenarios for FARR use and make sure that FARR works seamlessly in those cases. Making google searches, opening firefox/explorer bookmarks, finding start menu items, being able to navigate and find the most important system folders (my documents, etc) out of the box should be a priority.

Ah! There is also another (small) criticism to FARR. The name (at some point I almost convinced mouser to change it into something else! :-). Launchy, Dash, SilverLight, QuickSilver... quite frankly, they all sound better than FARR. OK, I know. That is a pretty stupid complaint, but it is true, nevertheless ;-)

I think that most of this can be easily improved and that _technology_ wise FARR is (under the hood) probably the most flexible and impressive launcher for windows. But these loose ends stop it from reaching its potential, IMHO.



Find And Run Robot / Re: Links to Review and Comments - Add yours!
« on: November 03, 2006, 07:26 PM »
I actually would like this as well. At least it could be an option. What is the point of not reacting to a click on the tray?


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