There are plenty of ways to launch apps on your Mac—to start with, you can pin apps to your dock or use Spotlight to search for and open apps. There’s an even faster way to launch apps, though: by using a floating dock.
There are a couple of apps that allow you to quickly open a dock wherever your mouse cursor is. If you use a large monitor or if you’re using the Trackpad to navigate on your MacBook, these floating dock apps will save you time by using a keyboard shortcut to launch apps. You might especially appreciate this if you’re among users who have been complaining about Spotlight search becoming slower with time: Even if you replace it with a better alternative, manually typing app names takes more time than using a floating dock app.
Charmstone is available on the Mac App Store, and the free version allows you to pin up to four apps to your floating dock. You can unlock more slots (up to 16 apps) by paying a one-time fee of $10. Launch the floating dock by typing Command + Option and moving your cursor in any direction. You don’t have to click again to launch apps. Move your cursor to the right and release it to launch the app pinned in that direction. Similarly, you can launch apps pinned in any direction quickly.
You will see only eight apps when you first launch Charmstone because the app has two modes—near and far. Use the activation keyboard shortcut and move the cursor a little to open the apps pinned to the near mode. To see the remaining “far” apps, use the key combination and drag the cursor a little farther away.
You can also change the keyboard combination required to activate the app—any combination involving the Command, Option, Shift, Function, and Control, paired with the mouse cursor movement.
Orbital requires less configuration to be useful because it mimics your dock; it’ll pick up the apps in your dock in the same order. If you configure Orbital to show eight apps, for example, it’ll pick the first eight apps from your dock.
You can also launch Orbital a little faster because it can be fired up using a keyboard shortcut (Alt + X) and doesn’t require you to move the mouse cursor. Orbital allows you to pin up to six apps for free and costs about $12 to unlock all 20 slots. You can also change the size of the icons.
Orbital isn’t as customizable as power users would like, but that is also part of its appeal. It literally is a floating dock, whereas Charmstone is more of a customizable app launcher. Since both apps have a decent free version available, you should give both a shot before deciding which one works better for you.