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.
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:
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.