Windows has a very convenient Run box (WinKey + R) that

  • from one box, can
    • can launch programs by exact path to the executable
    • launch any program in the PATH directories by executable name
    • open files in default applications
    • open an Explorer window into a local directory
    • open an Explorer window into a network share
    • open any URL with its default handler (e.g. a browser)
  • has tab completion (well, really up/down arrow completion)
  • has a history function

This is an amazing time saver for any power user, and I'm looking for something equivalent for a Mac. I know that there are some utilities that have some of the features (e.g. the "Open Directory" command in Finder, Spotlight, Quicksilver), but I haven't found any one that does everything or almost everything.

Does anyone know of some close equivalent?


It doesn't, but Terminal is very similar to both the run box and the command prompt (cmd) in Windows. In Terminal, open is your friend.

  • can launch programs by exact path to the executable

  • launch any program in the PATH directories by executable name

In Terminal, you can use open -a Application.app to launch an application that lives in the /Applications folder, or open <exact path to applcation> to launch an application that is anywhere on your computer.

  • open files in default applications

Just us open <file>. open song.mp3 will open song.mp3 in the default audio player (in my case iTunes)

  • open an Explorer window into a local directory

  • open an Explorer window into a network share

open /Path/to/dir/ will launch the folder in Finder

  • open any URL with its default handler (e.g. a browser)

open http://google.com will launch the default browser and open the url. It also works for FTP (but i have not tested anything else)

For more, just run man open in Terminal or see this page.

  • I wonder if anyone has made a GUI wrapper around open. This is convenient, but it would be even nicer to skip typing "open" first :-). – kpozin Jul 16 '09 at 15:01
  • 4
    The Finder is a GUI wrapper aaround open. – Richard Hoskins Nov 8 '09 at 5:33

Command+Space triggers Spotlight that beyond finding documents can also find Applications and launch them, but does not take arguments AFAIK.

You can also take a look at QuickSilver: http://www.blacktree.com/

  • i had been off of the mac for a while, this was the one I had forgotten – javadba Jun 11 '14 at 14:39

While Quicksilver works for me, there is a new app made by the same guy.

  • GO LAKITU!! – bobobobo Jul 16 '09 at 3:08
  • That's my MO. Floating around the web, tossing out spiny nuggets of knowledge. – moshen Jul 16 '09 at 12:59

That would be the Terminal.

Same for Linux distributions.


Use Terminal (/Applications/Utilities/Terminal.app)

To launch a program, simply type its absolute location. You can execute a program in your current directory like so: ./somescript (Note the ./ which points it to the current directory, so Terminal doesn't go looking through the path.)

To launch a program in the path, just type its name: python

To open files in their default application: open picture.png or open movie.mp4 etc.

To open a Finder window: open somefolder or open /Users/yourname/Desktop/somefolder

To open a web page: open http://superuser.com

Sorry, my Mac isn't part of a network, so I'm not experienced with that. I assume you could use the open command in some way, though!

  • open <path> is the command I was looking for. – asgs May 16 '13 at 18:52

The windows run box is synonymous with the spotlight search box in the top right on leopard. I use it all the time to run applications.

Generally the mac is more shortcut centric that Windows. Mac users of old learnt shortcuts in stead of using right or control clicking. The mac still supports them all and they are the way to becoming really efficient on the mac.

Command N opens a new finder window.

If I want to open a finder window in a location I use the go menu or Shift Command G, then type in the path (with completion as well)

Opening network can be accessed from the go menu as well or Shift Command K, or Command K depending on exactly what you are after.


If you don't want to launch the full Terminal.app for running some quick shell commands (like you would in Windows using "Run..."), try DTerm. I use it and love it, but note that it costs $20 (at the time of this writing). It's also superior to the Windows "Run..." box in many, many ways.

(from the website:)

DTerm's Philosophy: Command line work isn't a separate task that should live on its own—it's an integrated part of your natural workflow

No matter what application you're in, no matter what document you're working with, just hit DTerm's hotkey and it'll be there for you, already set to the working directory of your current document. When you're done, hit escape or just go on about your work, and it'll automatically fade out, leaving your screen clutter-free.

  • Unfortunately doesn't work on El Capitan. – user1433372 Jan 29 '16 at 15:16

to get to a folder/finder location, from finder, hit Command+Shift+G. It will open up a dialog box. Type the absolute or relative path in, hit enter, and it will take you there, or try. Great for hidden folders like bin, etc, var, usr and others.


Moshen mentioned quicksilver, and I concur. It is a very powerful tool that you learn how to use, you will wonder how you ever lived without it. Launchy on Windows is the closest thing to it in terms of functionality. You can launch any application (without even knowning its exact path), search files in the systems, the web, etc. Oh, and it can fully leverage the power of whatever shell you are using (bash in my case). In short, it does everything you mentioned above and more. I highly recommend you evaluate it for yourself and see. See http://vjarmy.com/archives/2004/03/quicksilver_a_b.php to get started.

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