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Getting Started With Listary, the Alfred for PCs


Operating Systems are designed to run applications and help you find and manage your files and folders. Often, though, the built-in tools aren't so great for that latter purpose. Windows Vista and 7 included a useful search tool in your Start Menu, while Windows 8 includes a Start Screen search integrated with Bing. Both of which can find apps and files on your PC, and let you launch them with a tap of your Enter key.

However, most of us still end up wasting time browsing through folders in Explorer to find exactly what we want, since the built-in search isn't too smart. On Macs, Alfred is a popular tool to quickly find files and put them to work from your keyboard, and on PCs, Listary is a great alternative that offers similar features.

In this tutorial, I'll show you how to save time on your Windows PC by using Listary to find your files and put them to work without ever leaving your keyboard.

Listary Basics

Listary is a simple search tool that lets you quickly find any file on your PC and put it to work (copy it, see its properties, open it in another app, and more) all from one hotkey. The first time you run it, you'll be shown a quick guide, and then will be asked to set a hotkey to launch it. Select the Options → Hotkey tab, and enter a keyboard shortcut that's easy for you to remember and doesn't interfere with keyboard shortcuts you need in other apps.

Then, when you tap the shortcut from anywhere on your PC, a small search bar will popup with three icons in it. There's Favorites which shows a list of all the folders in your favorite list, Recent folders and files which list all the directories you browsed recently, and Intelligent Command which include some regularly used commands like Open Command Prompt, Copy Folder Path to Clipboard and more.

a tour of Listarys features
An overview of Listary search bar with three icons in it

The most obvious use of Listary is to quickly jump to specific folders and files on your PC. There's two places where you fiddle around with files and folders most: File Explorer (what you'd open with the old My Computer icon) and the Open/Save dialog boxes in applications. You'll likely work from Explorer most of the time, but once it's time to submit your work online or open it in another app, you'll be back at your Documents folder in the Open/Save dialogs. Tapping through all your folders to find what you want can be quite time consuming, and repeating that work when you need to open a specific file from a dialog is even more annoying.

Let’s say you are making a website for your client and you have some files of previous project which you thought can be re-used for this project as well, but the problem is you don’t remember where you have stored that file. This is where Listary’s Find As You Type come to the rescue. It recognizes suffixes, prefixes, or any part of the item’s name, so just begin typing any part of the file or folder name and the results are instantly shown next to Listary’s search box in real time. This comes incredibly useful when performing some guess work in order to reach your desired item by typing a few letters related to its name. So if you were looking for that project file you named "mobile layout iPhone - 5th may.css" and forgot, just typing "iPhone layout" or "5th may iPhone" should be enough for Listary.

To make things more interesting, suppose you’re searching for a "Read Me" file from your project that is in a sub-folder of another sub-folder, all of which reside under a directory named "My Old Project–5th May." Now, instead of opening all the folders one after the other to reach your item, simply type ‘mobilelayout-readme’ and voilà—it will instantly have the file in front of you. In order to implement this feature, make sure to check Fuzzy matching by going to Options → General tab.

Listary Find As You Type works great with Fuzzy Navigation

Once you have got your file and want to put it to work, all you have to do is press the right arrow key on your keyboard and a separate pane will load up instantly to unleash the full-fledged context menu (right-click menu in File Explorer) within Listary. This context menu also includes an Action pane which contains a couple of few default commands, either for simply opening the file or to copy an item’s path to the clipboard.

Apart from the default commands you can see some extra commands such as Copy, Cut, Move to Current Folder and more. With this you can copy/cut any file to paste/move to another directory from Listary itself. This way it is possible to use all context menu items without using the mouse on select folders or files in File Explorer.

Listary in action
Demonstration of Action Pane in Listary

Then there's the Open/Save dialog we mentioned before. Let’s say you are making a new prototype of website in Photoshop and whenever you want to open or save a file, My Documents folder will open by default. If you want to save the file to different folder you have to navigate through your folders and find, again, that folder you wanted. Once again, it's time consuming and just too much trouble.

One of the best part of the Listary is that it integrates itself to the open/save dialog box in any app. Open any Windows application that you use regularly then Click File and Open, and underneath the Windows dialog box you will see a Listary search bar. Now all you have to do is type the name of the file in the search field you wish to open, and your results will get displayed instantly in real time in the main panel. This is yet an another way of accessing Listary’s superior file-hunting functionality and it comes in particularly useful when searching for files to open within any application that utilizes the standard Open File dialog.

Listary integration with Open/Save dialog box is excellent and moreover you can search right from here instead of navigating Open/Save dialog box

To make the Open File dialog more useful, let’s suppose that you have recently found a folder in File Explorer and you now want to open the same folder inside an application without trawling through the same path again. The Quick Switch option in Listary allows you to do this simply by pressing CTRL + G. When you do this it will instantly open the last viewed folder location, with no further clicks necessary.

Quick Switch also works for files. When viewing the Open File dialog, press CTRL + O and the last highlighted file will get instantly opened in the application you are currently using. Similarly, this feature can also be accessed via the Smart menu → Currently Opened Folders when viewing the Open File dialog. In order to implement this feature, make sure to check Quick Switch by going to Options → General tab. It will take you quite a bit of time and change in your habits to learn this method, but once you switch you will no longer look back to navigate with Windows dialog box again.

Quick Switch Option in Listary

Your Favorite Files and Folders

It could also take you a while to access a file or folder buried several levels down in a file hierarchy. To save some time, generally you create shortcuts to the items you use frequently. You can place shortcuts to frequently used files, folders and programs on the desktop or toolbar on the taskbar. While this is not an issue if you pin only few of them, doing it excessively can clutter your desktop and hamper your productivity in no time.

With Listary you can speed up your work immensely by gaining instant access to your favorite files and folders from your keyboard. No matter how deeply nested your folders are, it’s only one keystroke away. Listary brings recent folders and files to your fingertips from Explorer and File Open/Save dialog box, highlighting the most recently opened file for instant access, and also lets you mark folders as favorites so they'll come up quickly.

To add your favorite folders, go to Options → Menu tab and click the “+” button from the small window pane select the folder you want to pin. Then, you can set a Hotkey to access that folder with a single keystroke if you'd like. Otherwise, to access your frequently used files and folders, you can either double-click or use mouse double click on any part of the empty area in Explorer, Desktop and standard file Open/Save dialogs to bring up the popup menu. But remember that mouse middle-click may not work in all applications, so make sure to check the forums or contact the developers if any problems arise.

Accessing your favorite folders and files is one keystroke away in Listary

Listary's For Programs, Too

Windows lets you launch programs in many different ways: you can click program’s name and icon from Start screen (or Start Menu in older versions), the All apps list, your task bar or desktop if you've pinned it there, the Program Files folder in Explorer, and more. While such options are great, if you install lots of programs, your desktop and taskbar can quickly become cluttered, and poking around the Start Screen can take forever.

With Listary, you can launch apps simply just by typing program name in its search bar, using the Hotkey Win-S or Win-G to switch between App Launch and normal modes. You can also set the path from where you start apps from the Options → Launch Apps tab, where you can click the  “+” button to add your folder. I use portable apps a lot, so instead of pinning your favorite portable apps to desktop or taskbar, add their folder to Listary and it'll find them along with your traditionally installed programs.

Set the path in Listary options to launch apps in a swift

What if You Are Not Using Explorer?

Windows 8.1 comes with a pretty decent File Explorer. You’ve got an easy navigation pane on the left, with file and folder listings in the center, and a useful preview pane on the right. You can completely change how file and folders are displayed, map network drives, quickly create new folders and more. But what if you want a dual pane interface, tabs, archive handling, FTP support, MultiRename, or any number of other features File Explorer doesn’t include?

That's where alternate file managers come in. There's a ton—XYplorer, Directory Opus, Total Commander, xplorer2Free Commander XE, and more—and Listary supports all of them out of the box. You can set Listary to use any of them instead of Explorer when opening folders and more if you'd like. To set default to Total Commander, for example, go to the Options → General tab and under Default File Manager, enter the path of Total Commander executable file with its parameter as /O /T “%1” . This will open the folder in existing Total Commander window in a new tab, to fully take advantage of the Explorer alternative's features.


Listary can be a bit confusing when you first start using it, but it's powerful enough to speed up your file management workflow on your PC and help you get your work done faster. This should be enough to get you started with Listary, but if you have any trouble getting started, or have any unique methods you want to share, be sure to let us know in the comments below.

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