Mac OS X is all about simplicity, ease of use, elegant design, all put together in a nice package. The way you interact with your system is determined by the applications you use, which more than often limit your productivity, because of small nitpickings of a system that waste your time in tedious activities which are necessary to obtain a required result. What happens if you remove those trivial activities? Your productivity increases.
Alfred is a beautiful app for Mac OS X that helps you get to your content faster, from a central, one-stop-for-all location. Be it applications on your system, folders, files, contacts or be it content on the web, you can search and find everything right from your desktop.
As soon as you launch Alfred, you’ll see a hat shaped icon in your status bar. To manage Alfred, or change any preferences, you can use the drop down menu from this status bar icon.
The default shortcut for Alfred on my system was Control + Space. It is possible that this maybe different on your system, to find out what it is, or to change it, you can go to the preferences, and modify it.
You can also define what is included, and what is excluded from your results in Alfred, by going to the ‘Features’ tab in the preferences, in the ‘Default Results’ pane.
When you bring up the Alfred interface, a small search box pops up in the middle of your screen. Now all you have to do to find something is to type it out.
- Applications – There are 2 ways by which you can search for an application.
- Spotlight Comments – The most efficient way of finding Applications with different terms is by tagging the Application with a Spotlight Comment. This can be done in Finder -> Get Info for the Application. If you tag TextMate with the Spotlight Comment ‘tm’, Alfred will find TextMate when you type tm.
- Fuzzy Matching – This is a more general method of search. When you type out characters, Alfred searches for both continuous as well as non-continuous characters in an application name. For example, if you enter ‘td’, TweetDeck will show up in the results.
- File Search – 2 keywords are used for accessing files:
- find - You can use the ‘find’ keyword to find a particular file or folder, and open its enclosing folder in Finder. For example, using the search term as ‘find xyz.avi’ finds and opens the folder in which xyz.avi is contained in Finder.
- open – Using the ‘open’ prefix opens the file in its designated application. If you use the term ‘open xyz.avi’, then Quick Time Player or whatever application you have chosen to handle avi files on your system, by default, will open.
You can customise the settings for File search, in the preferences.
- Web and Custom Searches – Alfred comes with a set of default web services to search such as Google, Amazon, IMDb and Yahoo!. Each one of them has a specific keyword associated with them, which you can easily get used to, over time.
If any of your favorite searches are not included, you can add them to Alfred using the ‘Custom Search’ prefs.
- Spelling, Definition and Calculator – Alfred also has an in-built facility that allows you to search the correct spelling or definition of a word in Dictionary.app, calculate an expression using Calculator.app.
- System Commands – A few common system commands are also included in Alfred so that you don’t need to use the mouse to point and click on specific locations on the screen, you can simply use the keyboard to send your system to sleep, shut down etc.
All of these features, combined with its blazing fast search speed and beautiful, minimalistic UI, makes Alfred a wonderful replacement for Spotlight or QuickSilver.