Application Launchers

Best Free Linux Application Launchers

We’ve recently expressed our opinion on the Linux desktop scene with Best Linux Desktop Environments: Strong and Stable, and our follow-up article Linux Desktop Environments: Pantheon, Trinity, LXDE. These desktop environments provide good application launchers. But there’s still a place for a different approach, using a standalone application launcher.

Application launchers play an integral part in making the Linux desktop a more productive environment to work and play. They represent small utilities which offers the desktop user a convenient access point for application software and can make a real boost to users’ efficiency.

An application launcher helps to reduce start up times for applications by indexing shortcuts in the menu. Furthermore, this type of software allows users to search for documents and other files quicker by indexing different file formats. This makes them useful for launching almost anything on a computer including multimedia files, games, and the internet. Application launchers often support plug-ins, adding to their versatility.

To provide an insight into the quality of software that is available, we have compiled a list of high quality Linux application launchers. Hopefully, there will be something of interest for anyone who wants to see productivity improvements in their workflow.

Here’s our recommendations:


Now, let’s explore the application launchers at hand. For each title we have compiled its own portal page, providing a screenshot of the software in action, a full description with an in-depth analysis of its features, together with links to relevant resources.

Application Launchers
UlauncherFast application launcher written in Python
KupferFast and lightweight desktop summoner/launcher
bashrun2Launch applications from interactive bash sessions
SynapseSemantic graphical launcher written in Vala
dmenuFast and lightweight dynamic menu
rofiWindow switcher, application launcher and dmenu replacement
LaunchyUtility designed to help users forget about the application menu
Gnome-PieCircular application launcher made of several pies
AlbertDesktop agnostic launcher, inspired by OSX’ Alfred launcher
pmenuDynamic terminal-based menu inspired by dmenu
Avant Window NavigatorOS X like panel for the GNOME Desktop

dmenu and pmenu are similar in function to application launchers in that they allow quick launching of programs from a graphical environment using the keyboard.

Read our complete collection of recommended free and open source software. The collection covers all categories of software.

The software collection forms part of our series of informative articles for Linux enthusiasts. There's tons of in-depth reviews, alternatives to Google, fun things to try, hardware, free programming books and tutorials, and much more.
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  1. KRunner is a launcher that is built into KDE Plasma but not in this roundup. I think an update is warranted. 😀

  2. I think the roundup is looking at standalone application launchers, not launchers that are integral to a specific desktop environment. After all, desktop environments such as GNOME, MATE all have application launchers.

    1. MATE doesn’t have an application launcher, it uses Synapse. GNOME has a full screen menu rather than an app launcher.

      The term Application Launcher is awful in regards to what they do. Yes they launch applications but they are much much more than that. KRunner is one of the better options in the space and it has a ton of plugins for customization of it. I understand your point but the roundup should include the best options if it is called “best” 😀

      1. Personally, I agree with the decision not to include KRunner in this article. It’s pretty clear the article is focused on standalone applications that are essentially desktop-agnostic.

        KRunner is sometimes described as an application. The definition of application is somewhat nebulous. And KDE do themselves call KRunner an application. But it can also be argued it’s better described as a Tier 3 framework, and part of KDE Frameworks.

        Given that using KRunner forces the user to use KDE (irrespective of whether they want to use that desktop environment) as it relies on the KDE infrastructure, is another reason why it’s correct not to include it here.

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