Learning Linux: Ulauncher

January 3, 2021

I realized this year that I’ve been using Macs now for a decade. And while that may sound like a while to some folks, it’s nothing compared to other Apple Mac users. Considering Apple has been around since the late 70s and Macs have been around since the 80s, I have missed a lot of those early years. Now, admittedly they’re easy to use, they’re elegant, and some would say they’re down right enviable. Macs have become somewhat of a status symbol in the world of computing. Come to think of it, the only users I’ve met that are more fanatical than some Mac users have to be Arch Linux users. (I also use Arch.)

But, after I built my own gaming system about a year ago I started using Windows 10 and various Linux virtual machines all the time. I rarely open my old MacBook Air anymore. That’s led me to miss a few of the features of macOS. One of those features is the Spotlight you get when you press the Command + Space keyboard combination. I was able to get that functionality back when Microsoft released PowerToys for Windows 10, but I had yet to find the right utility for my Linux VM. That was, until I found Ulauncher.

Ulauncher is an application launcher for Linux, just like what you find on macOS and in Windows 10 with Microsoft’s PowerToy utility. And let me tell you, it’s got some great features: 

  • Fuzzy Search: You can type in an application name without worrying about spelling. Ulauncher will figure out what you mean. It will also remember your previous choices and will automatically select the best option for you.
  • Custom Themes: Ulauncher has four themes built-in, but if you need something different you can always create a custom theme.
  • Shortcuts & Extensions: You can customize your keyboard shortcuts and add extensions to give it even more functionality. 
  • Browse Directories: You can easily use it to browse to directories quickly.

Installation

Default Option
  1. Browse to https://ulauncher.io/
  2. Download the package suitable for your distrobution
  3. Double-click the file and proceed with your package manager install process
CLI Option

Move to Downloads folder

$ cd ~/Downloads

Download package into Downloads folder

$ wget "https://github.com/Ulauncher/Ulauncher/releases/download/5.9.0/ulauncher_5.9.0_all.deb"

Install package with Advanced Package Tool

$ sudo apt install ./ulauncher_5.9.0_all.deb

Run on Startup with Systemd

$ systemctl --user enable ulauncher.service

Once it’s installed you will have to launch it manually the first time. To do so, just go view all of your applications in the GUI and launch it from there. After the first launch though, you can simply press CTRL+SPACE and Ulauncher will popup ready to take commands. Now, type whatever you want in it and launch it within a few keystrokes. It’s fast, it’s snappy, and it’s surprisingly written in Python!

If you want it to launch every time, you can either run the systemctl command above if you’re using Systemd or there is an option to have it run on start within the settings of the app. It’s just that simple. Now you have a great feature of macOS while proudly letting your l33t flag fly high. 

But, we want to hear what you think. Join us in our Discord channel and let us know. We’re always looking for suggestions, feedback, and input. 

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