August 16, 2007

GetIt – Easily Install Applications

Posted in Application Launchers, Beginner, Intermediate at 2:52 am by gloriouscomputing

If you’ve used Linux before, you probably know how good they have it when it comes to installing applications.

App-Get comes to mind. Linux people sure have it easy.
If they want to install Gimp, as with the example given by the above article, they simply run:

apt-get install gimp

Done! Wow, amazing.
They didn’t have to click “Next” fifty times, toggle a Radio Button list to “Agree” to terms they didn’t read anyway, or anything!

Don’t you wish it was that easy on Windows? Well, wish no more. A few development teams are currently fighting for the title of best Application Getter.
While it’s been a friendly competition (as far as I’ve seen), nobody has come up with a perfect solution yet.

The issue is the repositories. This is a fancy word for the database of applications, their version, where to get their installers, and how to install them as silently as possible.
Since all Application Getter have their own non-interchangeable repositories, you basically need to install every Application Getter to get the largest, and most up to date repository of applications to install.

Doing all this work manually can be annoying.
When I type “install Firefox”, I don’t care which Application Getter has “Firefox” in its repository. I just want to install “Firefox”!
GetIt

Without further ado, I present to you: GetIt – A simple way to interface with multiple Application Getters. I coded GetIt myself, and I use it myself too.

When you first run it, it scans your computer for known Application Getters, and takes note where they are.
It then updates all Application Getters’ own repositories, and imports them into it’s own database/folder structure.

You can then easily install applications via your favorite interface:

  • Visually install Applications from a master list formed by combining all installed Application Getter’s repositories. Just select the Application from the list, and click Install. The proper App-Getter is called upon to do its job, using its repository.
  • Install Applications via command line: getit.exe install Firefox
  • Install Applications from a folder that lists all possible applications: just double click! Make a shortcut on your desktop to it, if you wish.
  • Type “install” and then be presented with an incremental search of possible applications, using FARRv2!

farr

If you wished it was as easy to Install applications in FARRv2 as it is to Uninstall them, now it is! Of course, as is listed above, you don’t have to use FARR at all to enjoy GetIt.

It’s simple to do a global update of all repositories (of all installed App-Getters) as well.

Currently, GetIt works with Win-Get (because of its huge, yet somewhat neglected, repository) and AppSnap (because of its revolutionary “always-hunt-down-and-install-the-newest-Application-version repository).

The next step is for GetIt to make it easy to choose additional repositories to inject into programs like AppSnap (which have framework in place to allow for such a thing), so that anyone can easy host/subscribe to an additional repository.

As I said, the biggest limiting factor right now are the repositories. If we had the sort of great user-dedication towards updating these repositories that some Linux communities enjoy, installing applications will be a snap. 😉

For now, enjoy GetIt. Once I finish the Repository Manager component (and the AppSnap developer fixes his program to work via the commandline again), I’ll be calling on all of you to help index your favorite Applications. I’ll be doing my part. ^_^

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Ode to FARRv2 – My favorite Application Launcher

Posted in Application Launchers at 1:36 am by gloriouscomputing

The love affair between myself and Find And Run Robot (v2) should not be a secret to you, if you’ve read recent posts.

But why is FARRv2 my favorite Application Launcher? The simple answer is that it’s so much more than an application launcher. It’s the closest to the mythical Mac-only QuickSilver that we Windows folks have. I hear that Linux people are even worse of than us, so it’s ok.

Quit your sobbing, however. FARRv2 is here to the rescue. I may not have tried the praised QuickSilver (I’d love to, but I don’t have a Mac), but I’ve tried many of the Windows Launchers, and they don’t come close to the glory that is FARRv2.

“Citation Required”, I hear you shouting. After all, we don’t need lots of features. We need useful features. So here’s how I use FARRv2:

Find Applications… and Run Them
Yeah, it’s a given. Application Launcher can run them. I still know some people that don’t get it though. They don’t understand how something like FARRv2 (or even Launchy) is better than Windows Run (WindowsKey+R).

With Windows Run, you can only launch applications that are in the System32 folder (aka. Windows stuff… not most of the programs you actually use), and programs that you included in your PATH (For people who don’t know, this is a silly variable that can be set to multiple locations, and these locations will be looked at when applications/you try to boot other applications).

Manually adding every folder that every application uses is ludicrous! Unless you hate yourself, or you only use Notepad and Co., the Windows Run box is a weak tool.

What does FARRv2 (and most any other Application Launcher) bring to the table (with respect to Launching applications)?

  • You can still launch Notepad, but
  • You now only need to type the program’s name partially
  • You can launch any program you installed by only typing a fraction of that program’s name
  • You don’t have to set up anything after you install a program for it to be launchable (as long as the installer made a start-menu shortcut, which I know none that don’t)

Example: Paintball2. (It’s a fun indy game)
Old way to run: Start->Programs->… (Try to guess who made Paintball2) …-> Paintball2
New way to run: Alt+Space -> Type: Paintb -> Enter

Start Paintball2

“Paintb” would just having given us what we wanted, but if we wanted to launch PaintBall2 after only typing “Paint”, we can hit F2 at this point (or NumberPad2) instead of Enter.

And remember, I didn’t have to do anything to get Paintball2 to show up in that list.
Find Anything …and Start It
By default, FARRv2 just looks at your applications. But, if you love FARRv2 and Music as much as me, you’ll want to use it to search your Music folder. Maybe your pictures and documents folders too. Anything is fair game.

It’s a simple add in the Options, and unlike Launchy, you don’t have to worry about adding all sorts of file types. I have .ogg, .mp3 (sadly), .wma (even more sadly), and maybe even more.

Anyway, this is how I search for a single song that I want to listen to:

It’s much like searching for applications. In fact, it’s exactly like searching for applications.

Thanks to FARRv2’s excellent scoring system, I am able to find Applications and Music that I want, without much conflict.

Browsing a Common Folder Easily
Is there a folder you use extremely frequently? Maybe your Downloads folder, or your Documents folder. If you answered no, you’re probably lying.

FARRv2 has powerful folder features build in. You can start navigating at C:\ and browse your way to where you want to go.
But, just as shortcuts were invented to make this less painful with Explorer (or Xplorer2, which I must recommend), you can make “Aliases” in FARRv2.

Since I’m a music enthusiast, I’ll use my music folder as an example. I created the alias “mus ” to show my music folder in FARRv2.
So when I want to browse my music folder, I just type “mus “:

I can see all sub-folders (I have one per artist) and files. (Not shown, you stalker, you ;)).
I want to access the sub-folder called “E Nomine” (The name of the artist I want to queue up in Winamp).
So I’m going to start typing “no”, to search the current folder for folders/files with “no” in them.
Mus No

There is it. I can navigate into these by hitting Tab, but I just want to queue up the whole “E Nomine” folder into Winamp. Since winamp put this feature into my explorer’s right click menu, I hit Alt+2 (that’s what I configured), and I get folder 2’s shell context menu. I press E for Enqueue, and I’m done.

That’s a winamp specific thing, of course. If you wanted to browse your My Documents folder in this way, you could just hit enter on a file you found this way to open it.

Sure, you could just add your My Documents folder to what FARR searches when you type anything, but it’s sometimes better to get a list of files in a certain place (if you don’t know exactly what you want to look at, for example).

You could make an alias to browse your videos folder. That’s useful if you don’t know which show you want to watch, but you do know that you want to watch some show, and that you have some in your video folder.

If you have FARRv2 and want to set this up, the alias I have is:
Regular expression: mus (.*)
Result(s): dosearch C:\Storage\Music\$$1 +sall

Launch something in the system32 folder
Some things aren’t indexed by default (although most stuff is). If you use something in System32 a lot, you should probably add it to the index. However, if you haven’t gotten around to it yet, you can do:

run Cmd.exe

That, for example, will run Cmd.exe the same way doing a Windows Run would. A bit backwards, but sometimes useful.

One way to make this alias nicer, it to wrap it around a batch file to looks like so:
%*
PAUSE

…which means that it will run whatever parameters that you threw at it, and pause, letting you look at the output. So you can do a NetStat -an, which lists the IPs and Ports you are connected to, and actually look at the output (the window won’t close on its own).

Search Firefox Bookmarks
It used to be that Launchy had this feature, and FARR did not. Now they both have it.
Firefox search
By default, you use the plugin “ff” to search your bookmarks. It works nicely.

Generate Random Data / Copy to Clipboard
There is a plugin that generates random e-mail addresses that you can check (a features which ties into Mailinator and BugMeNot), and copies it to the clipboard.

email gen

Then there is another command to check the temporary email you generated (still in your clipboard, hopefully).
That’s the fastest way I’ve seen to generate/check a temporary email without needing to use a space wasting browser toolbar.

The feature can also be used to generate any other format of data, like Usernames and Passwords.

Killing Processes
What do you use to kill annoying processes? Task Manager? Hah. Laughable.

Seriously, though. Killing processes with Task Manager can take some time. Especially if you didn’t know that you can access Task Manager directly in WindowsXP/Vista by hitting Ctrl+Shift+ESC, rather than going through the time-wasting menu that comes up with Ctrl+Alt+Del.

But do it even more quickly. Check it out:
pkill
Why is iTunes’s helper running? I don’t have iTunes open. Grrr… must… kill… pKill that is. 😉
Personally, I recommend abbreviating “pkill” to something shorter, but you see the point. Yes, it searches all running processes for what I typed. Ah, incremental searches.

In the same way, you can also :

These are all user-created Add-Ons, so there are many more to come, since anyone can make them.

Yup. There is quite a lot of power here. Probably more power than you’ll care to play with for the first week of usage. (If you’re like me, you’ll be too busy searching your music and busting a move)

I’ve used FARRv2 for a few weeks now, and I’m extremely happy with it. It has helped me simplify so many of my hourly tasks.

And with that, I’ll take a moment to inform you of things you may not like:

  • It’s still not “Public” yet. I’m expecting it to come out any day, since it’s as bug free as it needs to be. But you will have to send the author an e-mail to get your hands on it, if you want it right now.
  • Once it does come out, it may be like the old version, and insist you register a free account on their site.

I’ve found the cost (time) of setting it up to be more than worth it though.