Launchy: Append text to a file from anywhere
Being able to write to a text file while in a whole ‘nother application is killer app as far as GTD-fu goes. This trick/hack/feature first came to my attention via the indisposable 43Folders but sadly, only though Quicksilver which is only for MacOS.
Launchy (think of it as Quicksilver Lite for Windows) doesn’t make this possible out of the box. But with Launchy and a very small batch file you too can append text to a file from anywhere without opening the text file. Yes, with QS you can magically append or prepend text to many files. Again, QS is amazing whereas Launchy is merely excellent.
How to Magically append text to a file from Launchy
- download and install Launchy. It’s tiny and (opensource and) free.
- create a directory called ‘scratch’ in c:
- create a batch file called add.bat that has this and only this line
- [Geeky digression] what this is doing is telling Windows to append all the parameters passed to add.bat to the file scratch.txt. It passess all the parameters in %*, >> is the append command and the file path is where your text file is.
- You want to pass all the parameters because parameters are space-separated. If you just passed one parameter, %1, you’d only get the first word you typed.
- invoke Launchy. Right-click it and access the directories menu. Add the directory c:\scratch. For c:\scratch, add the file type “.bat”. Click OK to back out of the menu.
- re-invoke Launchy. Type add, TAB, and a string to append to the (currently inexistent) scratch.txt file, say ‘woohoo!’ and press enter. You might notice a quick flicker of black as a terminal window flashes open and closed.
- open scratch.txt and see that your text was added to the file.
- close scratch.txt and invoke Launchy and type add, TAB, and some other text. Open scratch.txt and see the text appended after ‘woohoo!’.
It must be said that this is nowhere near as awesome as the way that QS does it. You are limited to one file and you get the annoying black flicker. On the other hand, it works.
Why you’d want to do this
I could write a bunch of reasons why you’d want this. Basically, it comes down to being able to capture thoughts about stuff related to project N when you’re working on project A without changing apps, looking away from the computer, switching apps or anything else that might get you out of the flow state that is so hard to achieve. Merlin said (of the QS method, but it applies here):
It’s jaw-droppingly useful, and is the single best way I know of to ensure that “ubiquitous capture” can always occur without causing disruption or unnecessary modal change.
[...] you’re a few fast keystrokes away from capturing your brilliant but ephemeral idea without stopping what you’re doing. This is huge, in practice, believe me.
Of course, if you’re using ThinkingRock, as I am, being able to append text to a file in this way is amazingly cool. ThinkingRock allows you to import a text file to the “collection” step. The imported text file needs to be formatted one thought per line. You can then process the thoughts into Next Actions or Projects. Capturing the thoughts is the key to getting them into the “trusted system” (in GTD parlance). Being able to extremely quickly capture a thought as it occurs without a mode shift to another program is awesome.