alfred web mac application launch

Application launchers

I’ve read a lot of about application launchers, but no one has ever used them before in our house.

Since my interest in computers and the MacBook took off 2 years ago, however, I have slowly been switching over to using more keyboard shortcuts over mouse gestures and clicks where possible. I find that the shortcuts are way more productive and like getting to pages/windows/the next tab without having my hands having to leave the keyboard.

So, I have been interested in app launchers but have never got around to using them. The ones I read alot about were:

All three of these had quite extensive documentation, and I listened to a very informative podcast about LaunchBar.

As much as I was attracted to a system whereby one could open a new application via a keyboard and not mouse clicks, I never quite got around to installing or using any of them.

Along came Alfred.

I read about it on another blog a few months ago and found  it to be a simple little app that did nothing but

  1. launch applications
  2. find things on the web
  3. find things on my MacBook

Loved the premise and the idea of Alfred, a service to help one out, quietly, unobtrusively, in the background. Like a butler, like its icon, get it?

Well, since installing it, I’ve found it to be extremely handy – when I remembered to use it! I wasn’t in the habit of hitting option-space bar to call up the Alfred dialogue box to implement my searches or to find a application.  It’s a very handy key-combo that calls up a big box in the middle/top of your screen:

Then I could type in the first few letters of any application on my MacBook – usually it would only offer one suggested option, and then I hit enter, and voila, the app is launched. So, the MacBook’s native Spotlight does the same thing, and I was using it to do so for awhile, but honestly, I didn’t like having to look at the upper right hand corner of my screen at very small font to do so. Alfred pops up in big letters in the center of my desktop display and I found this much more attractive as a UI feature.

Another very useful task Alfred performs for me, the one I’ve actually utilized the most, is web search. Press option-space bar, type in the search item, and you are given your choice of three massive web search engines to choose from.

alfred web mac application launch

So far, that’s been sufficient but I haven’t quite gotten around to figuring out how to add other engines, i.e. Amazon Canada, and IMDB, which would be very very helpful for me. In any case, I love the functionality. Pretty simple.

The last thing I’ve used Alfred for is to search for items on the computer, usually documents, but also film clips and some photographs. As I only have about 90 gb of documents and files stored on my hard drive, the search takes place at a zippy pace and pops up with the what appears to be most recent items. It’s handy but not super useful as yet. I still like manually searching down file trees for items.

Anyway, I like what I can do with Alfred, and it is an attractive little app. Has it improved my productivity? The answer is yes so I would recommend this app for sure. Did I mention that it’s free for now? It’s currently in beta, so I look forward to seeing what the newest tweaks will be when the company is ready to release the updated version.