AltRun: lightweight application launcher


AltRun is an open-source, lightweight launcher that launches applications, documents, and folders with just several keystrokes.

This software also provides the flexibility to perform a wide range of tasks; examples of these include, but are not limited to, quickly running web searches, controlling on-screen windows, sending e-mails, and shutting down, restarting, suspending or hibernating the computer.

AltRun is somewhat different from other popular launchers, for example, Launchy and FARR. AltRun does not search for applications or documents in specific folders, but in a list of user-defined shortcuts.

In this way, AltRun presents the results quickly with minimum memory use. AltRun has some helpful built-in shortcuts and you can add yours to the list in various ways. For example, you can drag and drop the application or document onto the built-in shortcut manager or use the “Send to” menu to create your own shortcuts.

[Editor’s note: this review was guest written by reader Terry Chen].

AltRun Screenshot2

AltRun is invoked/dismissed by a hotkey (Alt + R or Pause by default). Before you type anything, you can launch the default 10 shortcuts using the 0~9 number keys. If the item you seek is not among these 10 shortcuts, just start typing the first letters of the shortcuts and the results appear instantly. Hit enter or space to launch the top result.

Shortucts in AltRun are not limited to applications, folders and documents, but can perform many other jobs. For example, you can create a shortcut called “gmailto” with the command line (,where %p represents the parameter and will be replaced by what you type in a text box that will appear after you launch the shortcut. Now, you can simply invoke AltRun and type “gmailto” and hit enter, then type the e-mail address to which you want to send an e-mail and hit enter again. Now you can start writing an e-mail in Gmail to the address you have typed.

Here are some Pros and a Wish list.


  • Easy to use: you can create shortcuts in various ways and then just type to launch them.
  • AltRun Screenshot3AltRun entry in Windows explorer Send to menu: can be enabled in the settings. Allows you to right click on any file, folder, or shortcut and add it to AltRun via the send to menu (see image to the right). Will also reconcile shortcuts, so that the app runs even if the shortcut is removed or moved.
  • Lightweight: just about 300 kilobytes in memory.
  • Highly customizable: you can customize how AltRun looks and works.
  • Portable software: just unzip and run.

Wish list:

  • Creating shortcuts in batch: when you have tons of installed applications and lots of files to work with, the process of creating shortcuts is really tedious and boring. I hope AltRun can scan a folder and create shortcuts in batch just in the way Launchy indexes a folder.
  • Better shortcut manager: which can manage the shortcuts by categories would nice.
  • Fix some visual glitches on Windows 7: where the bottom of the launcher appears truncated.

The verdict: Overall, this program is good. It is extremely lightweight and does more than what I expected a simple launcher like this can do. Creating shortcuts may be a little time-consuming, but it will be fine if you don’t have a lot of applications to run. But with a great number of applications and documents on my computer, I would stick with FARR. I really wish AltRun could create shortcuts in batch.

Version Tested: 1.46

Compatibility: Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7

Go to the progra home page to download the latest version (approx 760K).