How I use Alfred

As first glance, Alfred is a program launcher. That's entirely true, but doesn't speak to the productivity and efficiency Alfred brings. There is a lot more to the story.

Further, when reading what Alfred can do there are references to Keyboard Maestro. While similar, and overlap in functionality, they are quite distinct in how they work. I have both, use them both daily, and do different tasks with each.

From the start, Alfred has a lot shortcut functionality built in. This comes in the form of hotkeys and trigger words. When the Workflow feature is unlocked, Alfred can be extended in all sorts of ways.

Keyboard Maestro has some of this function built in functionality where it can launch apps, control system settings and perform actions based on hotkeys and trigger words. It closely resembles the built in Automator tool and has the same building blocks to build your own solutions.

But, back to the original point. Alfred is fantastic as a program launcher. Press the hotkey, enter the name of the app and it will start. This is efficient and time saving. Not to mention there are dozens of apps that live in the menubar to perform this same task.

Just as easily, Alfred can close apps using the "quit" command. Further you can empty the trash, mute the volume, put the machine to sleep, lock the system and launch targeted searches without taking your hands off the keyboard.

My most common shortcut is launching and closing apps. Next, is target searches. There are built in query shortcuts for Amazon, Google, eBay, IMDB, Wikipedia, YouTube and a dozen others. Type in "ebay Mac Pro 128gb 1tb" and Alfred opens a new browser tab, goes to eBay, enters the criteria and starts the search all in one action.

You can create your own query links. I have searches set up for Katalon Studio, StackOverflow, the Keyboard Maestro forum, and several others. Again, this saves time.

I use that same ability to search within Jira on a daily, even hourly basis. I have a keyword set up for the prefix of the project. The ticket number is then appended and that is sent to Jira in the correct format to open the ticket. When I type "abc 1234" that ticket is opened in Jira within a new tab. I have this for the two projects I work on daily. I don't have to search, I don't have to find the link, I don't get derailed. The ticket is right there and I keep working.

Alfred also provides and extremely convenient way to search for files. Type "find" followed by some part of the file you want, and it will search it's index to locate matching results. Very similar to Spotlight, but this sticks to files in locations you specify, which I feel is more convenient. I can locate files across the 4 drives in my system very easily.

One of the biggest uses for me is the Workflow feature, which is unlocked with the paid version. From this I create "workspaces." This is a way to launch multiple apps together so I have related tools open at the same time. For example, when I start Katalon Studio, Alfred opens SnippetLab, CodeRunner, TextSoap, the GitHub client and opens the project folder on the drive.

The same is true for Valentina Studio. SnippetsLab is opened, TextSoap, my working folder, and my other SQL tools.

I don't have to go looking for a tool, it's open and ready when I need it. When done, they all close down together. I have found this to be extremely convenient. I get a consistent workspace that saves me dozens of steps each time. I don't have to stop and open a folder. I don't have to stop to start another tools. All that has been done. Each step saved is more time saved.

I use this to close all my apps for screen sharing either through Slack or Zoom. This keeps all the dings, notifications, and other interruptions to an absolute minimum. This also prevents bringing a side conversation, document or email to the fore.

Workflows can be written using some of the built in tools, AppleScript, as well as Javascript. But, along with writing your own, there are dozens of Workflow applets available for download. There is an entire site dedicated to just that.

Alfred can integrate into tools like DevonThink Office Pro and SnippetsLab, so results are displayed inline within Alfred without having to open the other application and perform the search. Again, this saves time.

Along with Workflows, Alfred has both a Clipboard and Snippet manager. Just like TypeIt4Me, Alfred can be used to expand text as you type. Snippets can be organized into collections so SQL code is separate from Java which is separate from Emojis. That alone is a massive time saving as I discussed before.

The Clipboard manager works in a similar way. Use the hotkey to copy text, then when you need it, Alfred has a list of items you can paste from.

Workflows, Snippets and Clipboard are in the paid version, but the free version offers plenty of efficiency gain. The launcher is a great time saver. The web search and file search are excellent tools and will be used dozens of times.

I will admit, it takes a bit of time to get yourself into the habit of using Alfred. Not because it's hard to use, but because there is the habit to click LaunchPad to start an app, or to grab the mouse and find Quit from the menu. However, in just a few uses it becomes second nature. If you switch to Mac a without it, you'll wonder what's wrong.

Alfred is a fantastic app, and I use it on my home and work Macs dozens of times per day. Workspaces are a part of my daily routine. I rely on Alfred to get apps up and running together. I use it almost exclusively for Google, Wikipedia and Amazon searches.

Using Alfred becomes a time saver and makes so many shortcuts possible. It took just a couple of days use to see the benefit of the full version. I had no qualms on the Lifetime Upgrades package.

I will also say, it's not a matter of choosing Alfred over Keyboard Maestro or vice versa. It's a big yes to both.

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