Out with Synapse in with Albert!

Okay, so perhaps Synapse is still around and kicking. And when it’s not segfault(ing) for no reason whatsoever, it’s a great keyboard launcher! Unfortunately, my patience has run thin enough with it that I’ve decided it was time to part ways – for good.

Over the past week or so, I spent a fair amount of time looking at alternatives. I tried Kupfer, GnomeDo, among a few others. None of them really hit home for me personally. All I wanted to do was launch applications and find documents easily. Then I discovered Albert!

In this piece, I’m going to be reviewing a very simple, but highly colorful keyboard launcher called Albert.

What the heck is a keyboard launcher?

In my humble opinion, a keyboard launcher is the single best invention for the PC since the introduction of the mouse. Instead of spending lots of time bouncing through menus looking for documents, applications, pictures and other related items, a keyboard launcher allows you to access all of these things with a few keystrokes.

Introducing Albert



My discovery of Albert was basically happenstance. I just found it one day as I was browsing Github. What impressed me the most about Albert was how it uses triggers with its plugins to provide different end results.

The plugins provided include:

Applications – activated by using your keyboard to type in the first few letters of an applications.

Files – From the settings area, you can assign the directories you wish to grant Albert access to. After that, simply start typing out what the name of the doc/image/directory happens to be.

System – From the settings area, you can assign different system commands ranging from powering off, rebooting to locking the screen.

Calculator – With Albert open, simply start typing the mathematical equation you want, Albert will use the calculator to figure out the math for you.

Terminal – Once you’ve give Albert the command path to your preferred terminal application, you can access it anytime by typing ! Then the command you want to execute. For example:

! ip address

Unfortunately, I did not have much luck getting it to work with MATE-terminal. I had the same result with other terminal applications I tried. Perhaps this will be fixed in an upcoming update.

Web search – If you’re interested in using different search engines from the Albert launcher, you can activate different options using asigned triggers. Google for example would look like this:

gg Freedom Penguin

ChromeBookmarks – I personally disabled this as I just filled my Albert query results with stuff I didn’t need when looking for applications, docs and so forth.

What Albert is missing?

Honestly, I can’t say that Albert is genuinely a great fit for everyone. While it’s fast and stable, it’s not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. The single biggest issue I have is that I find that Application results occasionally end up on the end of the query list.

The simplest solution would be to introduce triggers for applications, docs and images. For example:

ap Gimp


doc mytodolist

By simply introducing these types of triggers to activate a more selective list of queried items, Albert would instantly be a smashing success.

Should you use Albert?

If you’re looking for a new keyboard launcher and are not happy with the alternatives mentioned at the start of this article, then yes, you should try Albert. However I must warn you – this is a beta application. It’s not as fully-baked as say, Synapse or GnomeDO. That said, it’s under heavy development and unlike Synapse, it’s not crashing every time I go to use it.

Matt Hartley
Freedom Penguin’s founder & talking head – Matt has over a decade working with Linux desktops, his operating system experience consists of both Windows and Linux operating platforms. In addition to writing articles on Linux and open source technology for and, Matt also once served as a co-host for a popular Linux-centric podcast.

Matt has written about various software titles, such as Moodle, Joomla, WordPress, openCRX, Alfresco, Liferay and more. He also has additional Linux experience working with Debian based distributions, openSUSE, CentOS, and Arch Linux.

8 thoughts on “Out with Synapse in with Albert!”

  1. I’ve been using Albert for the past 6 months or so. It’s a great piece of software, light, fast, and no major bugs. The best part it is that it is possibly the only keyboard launcher that is still being actively developed.

  2. just out of interest, what’s your beef with kupfer (my own weapon of choice)? it seems to do all of this and more, is stable, not too ugly with the right skin, and smart enough to use a combination of mru and plugin priorities to mean that the result i want is nearly always at the top of the list. what’s not to like?

  3. I’ve never known Synapse to crash and I think its still being updated. The albert launcher looks ugly to me next to synapse, but I guess beauty is in the eye of the beholder

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