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Alfred – App Launcher and More [Review]

Alfred Logo

Alfred – Running with Crayons Ltd is a keyboard-driven productivity application, helping you launch apps and search your local computer as well as the web with great speed. One reason Alfred is a great App, is that it learns what you are searching for and next time you use the same search term it will promote it to the top of the results.

Alfred has won a number of awards, most recently the Macworld’s 2012 Editor’s Choice Awards.

In this article I will cover the functionality of the free version of Alfred,  available in the Mac App Store. Additional functionality can be added via the Powerpack purchased from the developers website for £15. I will add a future post on the additional functionality provided by the Powerpack.

Alfred graphic

  • Application launcher: Launch any application with a quick shortcut. Alfred will learn which apps you use often and prioritise them when you search
  • Find Files: Quickly find and open files
  • Web Search: Search or launch your favourite websites: Maps, Amazon, eBay, Wikipedia and many more.
  • Spelling : look up spellings, definitions or synonyms and antonyms.
  • Calculations: Just start typing to do a quick calculation.
  • System Commands: Control your Mac with speed and efficiency. Empty trash, start the Screen Saver, restart, shut down, eject a drive and more.

Application Icon

Application Launcher

 

To Launch Alfred, either click on the icon in the toolbar and choose Toggle Alfred, or use the keyboard shortcut, which by default is ⌥ and Space.

Alfred Fullscreen

When you first start Alfred go into the Preferences Panel (you can access the preferences panel by clicking on the Alfred Icon in the toolbar) and make the following changes :

Alfred Preferences

I suggest that you turn on launch Alfred at login.

The Alfred hotkey defines the keyboard shortcut to launch Alfred and by default it is ⌥ and Space.

It is useful to define where you are, as this will localise your web searches. For the above example if you conduct a search in Amazon, it will use the UK store rather than the US store.

To launch an App, use the hotkeys, ⌥ and Space to bring up the Alfred search window. Start to type the first few letters of your Application. For example if we wanted System Preferences we could just type the first letter ‘S’ and System Preferences would appear in the search results.

Alfred App Search

You can then select System Preferences by either using the arrow keys to move down to highlight the application or you could just press ⌘ and 5 together.

The clever bit about Alfred is the next time you do the same search – ‘S’, it remembers that the last time you used this term and the application that you chose and has moved System Preferences to the top of the list. You can then launch the application by just pressing the return key.

Alfred App System Pref

There is also an option in the Preference Panel under Features > Applications to Fuzzy Matching for Applications. This allows you to type a short code like ‘fcp’ to find Final Cut Pro.

Alfred Fuzzy Search

Spotlight

Find and Open Files

 

 

 

Alfred can also quickly help you find and open files. To find a file, bring up the Alfred search Window then Type ‘Find’ and then the name of the file. For example if  I wanted to find the ‘Budget’ spreadsheet.

Find Budget

Find a file will display the file in the finder window.

Budget in FInder

If you use the Keyword ‘Open’ instead of ‘Find’ Alfred will open the file for you. If you use the Keyword ‘In’ then Alfred will find the search term in documents.

In the Preference Pane>Features>File Search, you can change the Keywords for FInding, Opening and Inside Files. I suggest you change them to ‘F’ for Find, ‘O’ for Open and ‘I’ for In. This will speed up the search process, as you can just type F and space to start your file search.

Alfred Preferences Short Find

Google icon

Web Search

 

 

 

Alfred can also be used for searching the Web as well. For example if you want to search for something using Google, then bring up the Alfred search bar, and start to enter Google, once you get a few characters in, Google will be the default choice.

Google Search 1

Press the return key and Alfred will complete the Google keyword. Then enter the search term, iPad3 for example.

Google Search iPad

Enter the return key for Alfred to then populate the search term into Safari and return the results of the search.

Ipad3  Google Search 1

Alfred provides a lot of standard web searches, Google, Amazon, ebay, Twitter etc. All the built in Web Search Keywords are found in the Preference Panel under Features > Web Searches.

Alfred Preferences 1

Alfred can also allow you to add your own custom searches as well. To add a custom search for Productivity Orchard. I would first create a dummy search in the Productivity Orchard Website.

Productivity Orchard  Be more Productive with your Mac and iOS Devices

Then on the results page, copy the URL of the search results page, http://www.productivityorchard.com/?s=email

Email | Productivity Orchard

In the Alfred Preferences Panel, Features>Custom Web Searches click the + button to add a new custom search and paste the search URL into the form. Replace the search term that I used ’email’ with {query}.

Alfred Custom Search

Then enter a Title, Keyword and Icon. You can test the custom search using the test button. Finally click the ‘Add’ Button when finished.

The finished custom search in Alfred :

ProOrc email

Dictionary icon

Spelling and Definitions

 

 

 

Alfred can also help you spell and look up definitions as well. Under Preferences >Features > Spelling if you check the Paste Word on action check box on, Alfred will automatically paste the word into your document, rather than just copying it to the clipboard.

Alfred Preferences Spelling

To check the spelling of a word, toggle the Alfred search window and type ‘spell’ as the keyword then the start to type the word you want to check and Alfred will show suggested spellings.

Alfred Spelling

 

Calculator iconCalculations

 

 

 

Alfred can also perform calculations. Pressing return will enter the result into the clipboard to paste into your document.

Alfred Calculations

Power Icon System Commands

 

 

Alfred can enable you to enter system commands, for example if you enter Trash into Alfred’s search window and hit enter, Alfred will empty the trash folder for you. A list of available commands is in Preferences>Features>System Commands Tab.

Alfred Preferences system commands 1

Summary

I have just covered the main features in the free application, which is available in the Apple App store.

Alfred is a fantastic App launcher and is very handy for file and web searching. I strongly suggest you give it a try and see if it will increase your productivity as well.

 

 



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