A counterpart to Do we “exit”, “quit” or "close" an application?...

Imagine you're browsing a list of apps and there's a button next to each one that will run the application when interacted with. Does it say "launch" or "open" or "start" (or something else)? What are the different contexts where each term should be used?

  • You might also be forgetting "run" an app
    – gabe3886
    Commented Mar 17, 2017 at 15:58
  • Yes. We do those things.
    – DA01
    Commented Mar 17, 2017 at 22:40

2 Answers 2


Semantic nuances

  • Open is generic and safe for almost all uses, but can feel dated, slow and static. See related answer on related question.
  • Launch is a term full of movement: it feels dynamic, mobile and modern - but also is more specific to those environments. It is associated with clear, deliberate transitions - the opening of a new window; a 'launching' animation.
  • Start refers specifically to the action of starting an app for the first time, and cannot be used to describe, for instance, re-opening a minimized/hidden/backgrounded app.

Accessibility of language (source)

  • Open is the 356th most common word in American English
  • Launch is the 1756th most common word in American English
  • Start is the 173rd most common word in American English
  • Although Open is less common in general English usage, it is arguably a more prevalent concept in software than Start - simply because it is more versatile (see above).
  • I don't disagree with this, but it does feel very much opinion-based. I could see counter arguments to these that would be just as valid.
    – DA01
    Commented Mar 17, 2017 at 22:41

A search on Google trends for bigrams involving application and either open, start, launch, run, or execute reveals the following search trends:

Google Trends search

Apparently, launch and execute have been somewhat more frequent collocates of application at the beginning of the observation period, but are rarely searched for nowadays. These two may be out as options, then.

Run used to share the top ranking with open, but has fallen out of use somewhat over the last few years. Start shows a rather constant trend, and is now clearly in second place. Nevertheless, open appears to be most frequent search term together with application.

In conclusion, neither run, start, nor open are bad choices. Yet, based on the principle of least surprise, open might be the best candidate.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.