No, we're not talking about the launch of Windows 7, unfortunately. Speed Launch is a cool, free app launcher from Microsoft.
If there's one thing Microsoft isn't afraid to do, it's dabble in little side projects. Some of them bear fruit in later operating system and application packages, while others founder by the wayside. Today's example of a Microsoft side project has emerged in the form of "Speed Launch", an application that we suspect many programmers (and other fans of keyboard shortcuts) will love.
Speed Launch a product of The Microsoft Office Labs. Microsoft describes it as a "Community Prototype",. The prototype bit presumably means they're disclaiming responsibility for it if anything goes wrong. What about the community side of things, though? The Office Labs Web site describes it like so:
"Community prototypes are projects Microsoft employees work on in their spare time."
Wait a minute -- Microsoft Office Labs employees have spare time?
In any case, Speed Launch requires Windows Vista (any version) or Windows XP SP2 with .Net Framework 3.0, and is a relatively titchy 2.7MB download from the Office Labs Web site. It does require you to send usage data to The Office Labs team, if you're of the privacy obsessed mindframe.
While you've got your tinfoil hat on, it's also worth noting that the EULA is a bit on the odd side, as it seemingly contradicts itself. Here we'll quote directly:
"You may install and test any number of copies of the software on your premises.
You may not test the software in a live operating environment unless Microsoft permits you to do so under another agreement."
Anyone who can reconcile both of those statements (which follow each other in the EULA) is probably already a lawyer. As it happens, one of the developers of Speed Launch was; the program's FAQ notes that "Speed Launch was created by two Microsoft employees, Matt Dyor, a patent attorney, and David Craig, a support escalation engineer."
In any case, installation is likewise swift and painless, and once you're done, you'll be left with a target resting above your system tray. Hitting Windows+C brings up the speed launch toolbar, and then typing the first couple of keys for your preferred activity will bring it up, no mouse required. Adding shortcuts is as simple as grabbing your document (or web page, or application, or whatever) and dragging it to the target, where you'll be able to name it.
It's worth noting that Speed Launch isn't the first such application for Windows systems, with plenty of competition from free applications such as Executor, Launchy or Find And Run Robot.
Oh, and we couldn't let this pass without comment: According to Speed Launch's splash screen, the program "enables you to work faster and with less frustration". Are they sure they're running it on Vista?