One of the benefits of OS X is its unique ability to be all things to all people. If you’re new to the Mac from Windows, it’s still all point and click. If you’re new to the Mac from iPhone or iPad, OS X is even easier thanks to LaunchPad, Handoff, and Continuity. If you’re a tried and true, card carrying, certified computer Geek, OS X obliges with heritage from Unix. A Mac is so adaptable it can run OS X, Linux, Windows, and various flavors of Unix– all at the same time.
One of the most powerful and geeky functions under OS X’s hood is the famed launchd services, an elegant framework which exists solely to make life easier for the Mac geek and app developer. So powerful is launchd that Apple hides it from the average Mac user, but you can get the same power to start, stop, manage daemons, apps, processes, and scripts with a lesser known but very useful utility called LaunchControl.
At the basic level LaunchControl is a graphical user interface that lets you use point and click to create, manage, edit, debug launchd services.
I first started using LaunchControl to setup a select number of apps to run at a specific time during the day and night. Then, I started using it to launch various AppleScripts, again, on a set schedule.
LaunchControl scans launchd and displays all the services and their status on the screen. Each one can be enabled or disables as needs. Launchd services can be loaded, unloaded, even tested, as invalid services are highlighted. In many respects LaunchControl can be used as a Plist editor (preferences), but it does much more. The Expert Mode is useful because it displays changes made within the editor itself and gives you access to unofficial features in launchd.
LaunchControl makes it almost child’s play to discover the 36-plus documented keys in launchd, complete with annotations which can be search by name, description, or category.
I consider LaunchControl to be an entry-level geek peek into what you can do within OS X to customize your workflow but also to give you an understanding of where Apple deviates from the typical Unix roots to improve functionality.
If all you use it for is as a simple app or script launcher tied to a schedule it’s worth the money, but far more valuable to help you with learning launchd and the power Apple has packed into the framework.