Another Way to Replace Start Run - Enso Launcher
Stephen Nelson turned me on to Humanized Software's "Enso Launcher" (blog) earlier today, and I've been playing with it all evening. I've been on a quest to replace Start|Run for years (podcast). I've also done a lot of work in UI and UX and these guys are definitely fans of Jef Raskin's Humane Interface for good reason. Not just because Jef was brilliant - but also because they worked directly with him. The Enso Launcher is dedicated to Jef.
As I write this I notice that Enso was written up in the WSJ by Walt Mosberg today. Good PR team.
These guys have two products so far, one, a universal spell-checker called Enso Words with a very clever overlay interface. Right now I use an autocorrecter called Universal Autocorrect. Personally I think that US$40 is twice as expensive as it warrants.
However, the really interesting application in their Enso Launcher, which is oddly more useful, but reasonably priced at US$24.95. It's not quite as fast and intuitive as the Holy Grail - QuickSilver for Windows, but it's absolutely clever enough for you to download and try out.
There's a number of folks who are fervently against the Caps Lock key. Rather than suggesting that we rip the key off our keyboards, Enso Launcher uses it as its one-and-only hotkey.
- You hold down Caps Lock, an overlay appears, you start typing, then release Caps Lock. Sounds god when you type it, but in practice, it's kind of a tricky maneuver. For example, hold Caps Lock with your pinky, Type "gog", then without letting go of Caps Lock, press Tab with whatever free finger you have, mine is the left ring finger, then type the search term you want, then let go of Caps Locks. It's a bit of a dance. I'd prefer NOT to have to hold Caps Lock, or be able to configure the "start" and "end" events, like "Ctrl-Space" to start and "Enter" to end the command.
- There is an alternative "lock-on"command, but it's (to me) very hard to to fast. "You can press down Caps Lock, then press down Alt, then release Caps Lock, then release Alt."
- The calculate() command. If you have some text like 2+2 in a text box, just select it and do Caps Lock, "calc", release, and the text in the textbox will be replaced with the answer. If there's an = at the end, the answer appears at the end.
- The "go" command switches between running applications, but also within Tabs in FireFox and/or IE. So, I can type "go", Tab, "Han" and if I have my blog open in a tab, Enso will switch me there.
- So far, I'm just not as fast with this as I am with SlickRun. Mostly because of the machinations of the left hand.
- It really needs a "start" type "stop" command...holding down Caps Lock thing is, in itself, an implied Mode, and having to hold it down makes this tool that much harder to "sell" to my Wife and/or Parents.
- No plugin model that I can see.
- Runs pokey on my 3Ghz P4. Might be my crap video card.
I'd say that it's pretty darn impressive for a first product, and a 1.0 at that. One caveat, it doesn't officially support Vista (yet), but it works pretty well on my Vista machine with UAC turned of. Go get it, I suspect it's going places. It's this kind of out of the box UX thinking that I expected from Windows Vista.