Application Access – Part I

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I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting lately on how my typical workday progresses and one of my primary realizations is that I spend a lot of time switching between applications.

There’s all the typical development applications, Visual Studio, VSCode, Command line, GIT, Insomnia, Web browsers, file search, clipboard stuff, etc. There’s usually an instance or two of these running, and I often find myself ALT-TABing between them.

Then there’s various utilities that I use regularly but not necessarily constantly: putty, SSH, Fusion, Dbgview, etc. Find it, Open it, Use it, Close it, repeat.

And finally there’s all the other apps that hang out in the periphery: Word, Excel, Outlook, Zoom, Remote Desktop, VMs and so on.

Now, I’ve pinned a few of those to the taskbar, so they’re just a mouse click away. However, there’s only so much space down there. Sure, I could stack some in a folder, which would present as a menu, but then often used items would inevitably end up hidden behind one or more layers of menus.

Of course, there’s the Start menu. But after awhile, that becomes large enough to prevent any kind of speedy access. And then there’s the Start Panel, but again, it can begin to get unwieldy fairly quickly for me.

Plus, when customizing the Start menu, etc, there’s the issue of synchronizing changes between machines. Google Drive helps, but not really for the Start Menu or TaskBar.

As I hinted at above, part of my realization was that there’s three levels of application usage for me.

Utility Belt Apps

These are apps that I almost always have running. I need to switch between them quickly and seamlessly. Adam Savage, of Mythbusters and Tested fame, even has a term for it, which I completely forget and can’t seem to locate right now. Irony?

In any case, the idea is that you shouldn’t have to move any tool to get to any other tool. And I can’t think of a better way to describe Toolbelt level applications.

And for that kind of accessibility, you’re really talking about one thing; hotkeys.

Windows does have the ability to assign hotkeys to shortcuts, icons, etc. but the selection is pretty limited, and when you regularly work with applications like VSCode or Visual Studio, most of the typical hotkeys are already in use by those apps.

Further, if I have two or more instances of any particular Toolbelt app open, I need to quickly switch between those instances, not go Alt-Tabbing through every opened desktop window.

Toolbox Apps

These are those apps I use often but that don’t really deserve being added to my Path. For these, finding them is usually the most time-consuming part. They aren’t constantly in use, but none-the-less, I’d like them to be ready at hand. For instance, when you need to hunt down a library binding issue with a .Net application, I’m gonna reach for FusLogVw, but that app isn’t normally on the path, or easily locatable.

Junk Drawer Apps

Everything else, which I’m perfectly comfortable leaving in the Start Menu where they’re installed and digging them on when I need them. They’re not used enough to justify going on the Toolbelt or in the ToolBox.

How you break things down? Have I missed anything?

I’ll be posting more as I start to solve this problem.

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