The Best Replacements for the Soon-to-Be-Retired Chrome App Launcher

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Google announced on March 22, 2016 that the Chrome App Launcher–which provides quick access to all your offline Chrome apps–will be retired (except in Chrome OS). It’s being phased out over time and will be completely gone in July 2016. There will not be any official replacement for the Chrome App Launcher from Google, but don’t worry–Chrome apps are not going away. You will just need to access them in some other way.

Use the Apps Icon on the Bookmarks Bar to Access the Chrome Apps Page

Google’s official recommendation is to access your Chrome apps from the Apps shortcut on the Bookmarks bar. If you don’t see the Apps icon, show it by right-clicking on the Bookmarks bar and select “Show apps shortcut” from the popup menu.

NOTE: If you don’t see the Bookmarks bar, enable it by going to the Chrome menu in the upper-right corner of the window and selecting Bookmarks > Show bookmarks bar.

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The Apps shortcut is added on the left end of the Bookmarks bar. Click the Apps shortcut to open the Apps page on the current tab.

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The Apps page also has a handy link to the Chrome Web Store in the lower-right corner of the page.

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Use the Address Bar to Access the Chrome Apps Page

If you have a lot of bookmarks on your Bookmarks bar, you may not want the Chrome App Launcher there, too. Or, maybe you don’t use the Bookmarks bar at all and have it hidden. In any case, you can also access the Apps page in Chrome by typing chrome://apps in the address bar and pressing “Enter”.

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You can organize the icons on the Chrome Apps page by creating multiple pages, moving the app icons to those pages, and assigning names to the pages.

Create a Desktop Shortcut to a Specific Chrome App

Are there certain Chrome apps you access often? You can easily create a shortcut to an app on your desktop so you can open that web app just like you open programs on your desktop. To do this, access the Apps page in your Chrome browser using either of the methods mentioned above and right-click on the app for which you want to create a shortcut. Select “Create shortcuts” from the popup menu.

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On the Create application shortcuts dialog box, check the “Desktop” box and click “Create”.

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The shortcut for the web app is added to your desktop. You can drag it to your taskbar if you like.

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Create a Desktop Shortcut to the Chrome Apps Page

RELATED: How to Create a Windows Shortcut to Open a Specific Profile in Chrome

You can also create a shortcut to the Chrome Apps page from a normal Chrome shortcut, or a Chrome shortcut that opens a specific profile. We’re going to make a copy of the current Chrome shortcut. However, if you don’t have a shortcut to Chrome on your desktop, right-click on any empty area of the desktop and select “New” > “Shortcut” from the popup menu.

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On the Create Shortcut dialog box, click “Browse”.

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The Browse for Files or Folders dialog displays. Navigate to the location of the Chrome program file ( chrome.exe ) and select the file. By default, the chrome.exe file is located in the  C:\Program Files (x86)\Google\Chrome\Application folder. Click “OK”.

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The path to the Chrome program file is automatically entered into the “Type the location of the item” box. Click “Next”.

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Type a name for the shortcut in the “Type a name for this shortcut” box and click “Finish”.

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Rename the shortcut as you like. Then, right-click on the new shortcut and select “Properties” from the popup menu.

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Type --show-app-list (with two dashes at the beginning) after the end of the “Target” command, as shown in the image below. If you’re using a shortcut that opens a specific profile, put the --show-app-list at the very end. Be sure to put a space before --show-app-list.

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Currently, the shortcut will open the Chrome App Launcher on the desktop while it’s still there. However, once it’s gone, the shortcut will open the Apps Page in the Chrome browser, just like the Chrome App Launcher icon on the Bookmarks bar and the chrome://apps command in the address bar.

Use a Chrome Extension to Access Your Chrome Apps

Finally, if you don’t like the Apps button on the Bookmarks bar or using the Apps page on a separate tab, you can install an extension that puts a button on the extensions toolbar on the right side of the address bar that provides access to your Chrome apps. There are a few extensions that do this, but we like AppJump App Launcher and Organizer, which seems to have the most options for customizing the extension.

Visit the AppJump App Launcher and Organizer page in the Chrome Web Store and install the extension. Then, right-click on the “AppJump App Launcher” button on the toolbar and select “Options” from the drop-down menu.

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All your web apps and extensions are listed, each with buttons that allow you to Disable, Uninstall, and Add to Group. Each web app also has a button to Launch the app.

The AppJump App Launcher allows you to group your apps and extensions into custom groups. To do this, click the “Add to Group” button for one of the apps. For example, we want to put the App Launcher for Messenger into a Social Media group.

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Because we have no groups yet, a Create New Group link displays above the list. Click that link.

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On the AppJump App Launcher and Organizer dialog box, type a name for the new group in the box and click “OK”. In our example, the App Launcher for Messenger app icon is moved into the Social Media group.

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When we click the “Add to Group” button for the Authy app icon, the Select a group dialog box displays. We can choose an existing group or click “Add To New Group” to access the dialog box pictured above and create another new group. We’re going to create a group called Security for the Authy app.

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Here we have two custom groups we created. An Uncategorized group is also added once you create your first custom group to contain any web apps and extensions you haven’t placed into groups yet. The All Apps & Extensions group contains all the web apps and extensions, ones placed in groups and ones Uncategorized.

When you move your mouse over a group name on the left, the Edit button displays for that group. Click the “Edit” button to change the group.

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You can “Remove” or “Rename” a group, or close the menu without doing either by clicking “Cancel”.

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Continue to categorize your web apps as we discussed. When you have all your web apps organized, left-click the AppJump App Launcher button. A dialog box displays the groups you created at the top, as well as an All group and an Others (Uncategorized) group. Click on a group name to access the web apps you placed in that group.

NOTE: You may have organized your extensions as well as your web apps. However, the extensions are not included on the AppJump Launcher dialog box.

If you have a lot of web apps, and you forgot where you put one of them, you can use the box at the top of the AppJump Launcher box to search for that web app. Results display as you type the name of the web app.

The “Manage Apps & Extensions” link at the top is the same as selecting “Options” when you right-click on the AppJump App Launcher button.

To run a web app, simply click on the app in the gray box on the AppJump Launcher dialog box.

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There are other extensions that provide access to web apps from the extensions toolbar in Chrome, such as the Chrome Webstore Launcher and Apps Launcher. There’s also an extension, called Awesome New Tab Page, that allows you to launch apps (and other items) from a new tab page and an extension, called Omnibox App Launcher, that uses the address bar, or omnibox, to launch apps.

Lori Kaufman is a writer who likes to write geeky how-to articles to help make people's lives easier through the use of technology. She loves watching and reading mysteries and is an avid Doctor Who fan.