See the rest of the blog posts

How to Get More Productive in Windows

July 20, 2007

Anyone who has taken a class from me or watched me do a presentation has probably seen me start applications with a little box that magically appears out of nowhere. That magic box was calledSlickRun and is available at no cost from Its written by a product manager at Microsoft, though he wasn’t at Microsoft when he originally wrote it in Delphi. What’s great about Slickrun is that it relies on keywords that you create, rather than indexing the drive for all applications. There are plenty of other options out there for application launchers, like LaunchyAppRocket,SkyLight, and more, but they seem to rely mostly on scanning the drive or your Start Menu for installed apps. Usually I have a lot of crap on my machines, and I want this type of tool to launch just the important stuff. In fact, after working with those other tools I thought that all tools that do this searching step to come up with options would be bad.

Well that was until I heard about Dash. Downside to Dash is that its not free, but a quick evaluation of the product showed me that this was different. In fact, it only took about an hour to realize I should pay up quick and get the full version. Let me go through some of the ways that I use Dash.

Right now I am looking to purchase an apartment in Amsterdam or Central Utrecht. This is a long process and the fact that most ads are in Dutch, its quite difficult since I don’t speak any Dutch. Each morning, I get an email from my estate agent with new apartments. There is a link on each to a website where I can get more information. That info is in Dutch, so I select the text, press CTRL and the dash key (my chosen shortcut), and type Dut. It autocompletes to DutchTranslate. A tab and an enter and it takes me to Babelfish with a translated version of the selected text. Then I have to try to figure out where it is. I select the address at the top, ctrl-dash map tab enter and Google Maps opens to that address in Amsterdam. Perfect!

Its the tabbing that makes this different from SlickRun. So when I wanted to look at the options file for Dash, I typed ctrl-dash c tab p tab da tab op enter and it opened the options.ini file in my notepad, all the while showing me which directory I was at: c was the root, p took me to the program files directory, then DashCommand, then options.ini. But like SlickRun, I can create my own keywords that do just what I want. So one of the sites I visit quite a bit is to look for apartments added in the last 3 days for the postal codes I want to live in. The keyword I type is Funda and it instantly opens Firefox to this URL.

What’s amazing about this is that Dash does it all very well, and without a lot of hassle. Its still new and a bit rough. Creating keywords that capture selected text automatically is a bit confusing for now and the fact that I have to read a manual to figure that part out is going to limit who uses it to its full potential for a while. Also it seems to be a bit slow at times, but using DonationCoder’sProcessTamer to bump up the priority seems to help a bit. And while Dash can easily create new emails, when they add support for creating tasks in Outlook, then things will get very exciting for Dash.

Find Matt online: