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Pretty good searching with Pretty Run

Search for and run programs with this versatile free tool.

Pretty Run is a Windows search tool that can find and run programs quickly. Its roots lie in older versions of Windows that weren't capable of searching the Start Menu and other likely locations for shortcuts and executables. Though Windows now offers a search box, Pretty Run has stayed a step ahead, and its versatility keeps this free tool useful.

When it's active, Pretty Run resides in the system tray, though you can call up its simple, semiopaque interface from the Start Menu, an optional desktop icon, or with a customizable hot-key combination. Pretty Run starts searching as soon as you type and returns results very fast. We typed in "sni" and Pretty Run returned "Snipping Tool" before we could get to "p." We could run the tool as a user or administrator, open its properties sheet, or go to "last used" by right-clicking the tool's shortcut. Pretty Run's interface also accesses a variety of Internet search engines, including Google, Bing, Youtube, and IMDb. That's all pretty basic, but opening its tabbed Options dialog showed us what else Pretty Run can do.

For starters, we could set the program's opacity, hot keys, and other settings under Display, while the Search tab let us add and remove search locations using a simple drop-down list. We could enable searches for MP3s, EXIF data, Chrome and Firefox bookmarks, and many other types of data. Under Filter, we could add filters for words or extensions. A tab called "Magic words" lets users configure any word to execute any string, with an option to run the target app as an administrator. We could enter a string directly or browse to an executable as well as specify a Path and Parameters, a very cool feature. The Advanced tab held another interesting and welcome option that creates a fully portable version of Pretty Run that you can run from a USB drive or similar portable media. The tab includes options for alerts when USB drives or CD media are present at shutdown.

We're among those who still prefer to use a third-party search tool with Windows, and Pretty Run is certainly in the running.

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