I’m obsessed with software, and I’m especially fond of simple Mac apps that make my life easier. Three of my most used Mac apps are Alfred, nvALT, and ClipMenu. They are all free to download, and using a Mac without these tools has become frustrating for me. In my next few posts, I’ll discuss how I use these apps and why they are essential to my workflow.

Alfred is an app launcher and more – it’s the easiest way to search for anything on your Mac and the web, and if you do buy the power pack extension, you gain more powerful features such as workflows, which let you execute almost any action from the keyboard. I use the free version of Alfred to:

  1. Launch Apps
    Alfred learns which apps you launch often and prioritizes them in the search results. For example, typing t results in a list where FaceTime, which doesn’t even start with T, precedes TextEdit.
    App Search Results
  2. Search for Files
    When I know the name of a file, I rarely open Finder to navigate to it. Instead, I type the space bar in the Alfred window, which signals that I’m searching for a file or folder. (You can also change the settings so that it searches for files to open without typing the spacebar or ‘open’ keyword). Typing ‘find’ in Alfred will open a finder window to reveal where the file or folder is located.
    Find feature
  3. Web Search
    Alfred comes loaded with web search options; for example, you can search Google, Twitter, Amazon, Youtube, or Wikipedia. I love being able to search Wolfram Alpha from my desktop. Don’t limit yourself to these websites; you can add custom searches to search or open any website. For example, I can search Netflix by typing ‘netflix’ into alfred. If you’re a developer, you might want to add custom searches to search documentation or APIs.Adding a custom search is simple. Visit the website you want to search and type a sample query. Copy the resulting URL and paste it into Alfred, replacing whatever query you used with {query}. Then decide what keyword you want to use when you use Alfred to perform the search.Netflix Search
    You can also use custom searches to open a particular website or page. For example, I’ve set up Alfred so typing xkcd opens a random xkcd comic.

    Custom Web Search

  4. Dictionary
    Typing “define [word]” opens the dictionary app. It’s the fastest way to look up definitions and synonyms.
  5. System Commands
    I don’t actually take advantage of this feature, but there are keywords for system commands such as emptying the trash, force quitting applications, and restarting your computer.

These are only the basic features that Alfred offers. Sure, Apple has improved Spotlight so it offers most of the basic features that Alfred offers, but it’s not nearly as customizable. Alfred is the first app I download on a new mac, and you should try it.