Using Alfred

Recently, Jason Rehmus asked me, “What does Alfred give above and beyond Spotlight?” I replied with a few highlights and promised a more comprehensive follow-up. At last, here it is.

I’ve been using Alfred for many months. On the surface it’s an app launcher, and that’s how I use it most of the time. After assigning a hotkey combination (I chose Command-Space), its main window is only a tap away. From there, start typing the name of the app you’re after and hit Return to launch it. But that’s just the beginning. Here are some of the other useful tasks Alfred performs for me (note that some require the Powerpack, which is a separate purchase).

Spell check

I use this several times per day. Here’s how it works.

  1. Launch Alfred
  2. Type “spell” and then your best guess at the target word
  3. Hit Return
  4. The correct spelling will be saved to the clipboard, ready for pasting into your document

iTunes Control

It’s nice to listen to music during the work day, but annoying to bring iTunes up front time and again. Fortunately, Alfred has a powerful iTunes controller built in. Here’s how to use it.

  1. Open Alfred’s window
  2. Type “iTunes” and select “Launch iTunes mini player”
  3. Use the arrow keys to select an option
  4. Hit Return and listen to your tunes

There are so many options here, like searching by artist, album or genre; iTunes DJ; play, pause, skip and back and so on. In fact, you probably won’t look at iTunes itself again. Nearly everything can be accomplished via the mini player.

Browsing contacts

Here’s another one I use often. To browse contact information, simply type that person’s name and hit return. Alfred presents all of that person’s info (from Address Book) in a tidy window. Copy the default email address to the clipboard by hitting Command-C.

The email option is pretty cool, too. I can type “Email John,” select his card from the list and hit Return. Mail will launch [1. Alfred also supports Sparrow, Mailplane, Postbox 2, Postbox Express and some versions of Outlook] to compose an outgoing message.

There’s so much more, like moving files, creating mail attachments, browsing the clipboard history…I could go on. The point is I find it tremendously useful and launch it on average 20.2 times per day (Alfred told me that, too).