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Shooting Flies

It's like shooting flies with a cannon.
 - Scandinavian saying


One of the obtuse uses for Spotlight - for the 'unbelievers' out there - has been as a program launcher.

Obviously as Spotlight crunches through your entire hard drive, it's able to find things easily (the hard work already being done) and normally typing in a few characters of an application name is enough to call something up - at which point a facile ⌘-Enter is all you need.

But that's a lot of work for very little joy, and the irony is that the technology to do the same job both easier and better has been in OS X from the beginning.

Using Spotlight to perform this straightforward task is, as the Scandinavians would say, like shooting flies with a cannon.


Apple have it documented both online and with the ADC developers tools at the following path.

file:///Developer/Documentation/Cocoa/Reference
/ApplicationKit/ObjC_classic/Classes/NSWorkspace.html

- (BOOL)openFile:(NSString *)fullPath withApplication:(NSString *)appName
Opens the file specified by fullPath using the appName application. appName need not be specified with a full path and, in the case of an application wrapper, may be specified with or without the .app extension, as described in 'Use of .app Extension'. The sending application is deactivated before the request is sent. Returns YES if the file is successfully opened, NO otherwise.

See Also: - openFile:, - openFile:withApplication:andDeactivate:

This is so easy and so accessible it's no wonder a number of utilities have sprouted up to take advantage of it. The OS X command line 'open' uses this (or something similar); the ACP Runner does as well; and so do all the applications of the ACP Xfile Suite: Xfile, Xfind, and Xscan. Even the ACP Lightman uses a similar facility.

And it's not much of a stretch to see the functional similarity to the Windows 'Run' box off that system's 'Start' menu, and a search at the popular software archives for OS X are bound to turn up any number of programs that do the same or at least something very similar - and to little or no cost and little or no disk footprint.

After all, the functionality is already built into the operating system. It's been there from the get-go, since before NeXT came to Cupertino.

It's just that not many have been using it up to now.

Maybe it's time you did - instead of running that harvesting machine on your new computer.

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