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Alfred: Your MacBook Butler

While MacOS’s native search tool spotlight is pretty darn good, I want to spotlight (pun-intended) Alfred, a more powerful search tool for MacOS.


Open an App

<app name> or open <app name>


Google Something

google <query> or just <query> (use cmd + enter to force a google search if the query has matches)

you can also enter a url and get taken the page directly, e.g. github.com/jaymody


Open a Bookmark

<bookmark name> or bookmark <bookmark name>

bookmark to show all bookmarks


Find a File

This just works in Alfred. Spotlights file search is just not it. Also, you can specify which folders to search in, so rather than vomiting out lots of irrelevant files that you don’t care about, it just searches where you want. I’m looking at you node_modules.

Also, I have it set up to ignore source files unless I ask it to include them via the ' token. This way, I get a more minimal search by default, and I can be more granular with my search if I specify.

<file name>

find <file name> or '<file name> to include more files (like source code) in the search


Preview a File

You can click Shift to preview a file.


Open in Finder

Sometimes, you don’t want to open the file, you just want to open it’s location in finder, that’s easy as well, just use ctrl when pressing enter.


Drag and Drop a File

Search a file, and simply drag and drop it. Much much faster than clicking around finder, finding the file, moving the window to the right location, and then dropping it where you want. Just search, drag, drop.


Search for term in Files

This is super powerful. Let’s say instead of opening a file named induction, I wanted to search for the word “induction” in all my files. Maybe i’m studying, and I can’t remember which lecture mentioned induction.

in <term to search>


Math

You can do math (and save the result in your clipboard)

4*5 or =4*5

=sin(pi/4) , use the equals sign when you need terms like sin or exp


System Commands

You can also trigger some useful system commands like:

  • quit chrome
  • quit all apps
  • show trash
  • empty trash
  • lock
  • sleep
  • shut down

Comparison with Spotlight

Pros

  • It makes you be more explicit/specific with your searches. Rather than searching something, and wading through the results (like in spotlight), alfred uses special phrases to specify what you want exactly.
  • It has a “smarter” memory than spotlight. I find with spotlight, the option I want is always way down the list, but with alfred, it’s almost always the first option.
  • Less noise, more signal
  • Way faster than spotlight in my experience
  • Highly customizable
  • Looks clean asf (although spotlight looks super nice as well)
  • Powerpack unlocks even more powerful features (particularly clipboard snippets, file actions, and workflows)

Cons

  • Spotlight can search your mail, which is neat
  • Spotlight also suggests websites (which is sometimes useful), alfred does not
  • It’s an extra app you gotta download (but it’s one million percent worth it)
  • The alfred logo is ugly
  • If you want to unlock all the features you’ll need to buy powerpack (developers need to make money somehow!)
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