29 Comments

Summary:

One of the first things I advise people to install when they get a new Mac is a quicklaunch application, such as Quicksilver or LaunchBar. However, the decision of which one to install just got harder with the introduction of a solid contender called Alfred.

alfred_feature

One of the first things I advise people to install when they get a new Mac is a quicklaunch application, such as Quicksilver or LaunchBar. However, the decision of which one to install just got harder with the introduction of a new contender called Alfred.

Although still in beta, Alfred puts up a good fight against its more established peers, especially when it comes to looks. It definitely looks at home on OS X. It also has all the features you’d expect from this type of app, including app-launching, plus file and web search. Those features are included free in the basic beta, or you can purchase the “Powerpack,” which includes extra things like iTunes control, clipboard history and “Result Actions.”

Result Actions allow you to do things such as copy, email and move a file once found, which is very helpful if you just downloaded something and want to move it to somewhere other than Downloads, for instance. Alfred can do that without you ever touching the mouse. When emailing a file, Alfred not only supports Mail.app, but also some popular third-party mail applications like Postbox and Mailplane.

Alfred can perform simple system tasks, too. You can do things such as shut down, empty the trash, log out and start the screensaver by typing the appropriate command and hitting return. It’s a good idea to double check you’ve saved everything you need to first, as the action is carried out immediately. It doesn’t take much time to open the  menu and choose Shut Down, but it does let you keep your hands on the keyboard.

The beta of Alfred (version 0.7.2) is available to download now for free, or you can purchase the Powerpack for £12 GBP (about $20 USD). Purchasing the Powerpack now gets you free updates for 0.X and 1.X. Note that this is a special beta purchase price, so once the app reaches version 1.0, the price will increase. If you want to further support the development of Alfred, you can purchase the “Mega Supporter license,” which will cost you anywhere between £30 GBP (~$48 USD) and £100 GBP (~$160 USD) — you can choose any increment of £10 between those values. Purchasing the Mega Supporter license gets you free lifetime updates, no matter what version.

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  1. I don’t really see the point of this App. If you want to launch an application, or look for a file, nothing does it lie the spotlight, so why pay for something that is already part of the system? As for the copy/email/move capabilities, once again, many of them are part of Snow Leopard. All it takes is to drag a file to the Mail icon and immediately you have a new message with your file as an attachment. The rest can be easily accomplished with Automator if you really have a need to move files with just a stroke or a click. It looks like this application is just a shell for a few Automator functions already present in all equipments but at a prime cost!

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    1. The problem with Spotlight is it can get slow sometimes, especially if you have external drives. A lot of the time, I’ll try to launch an app or open a file, but by the time Spotlight has caught up, the selected item will be something completely different to what it was when I hit return. Apps like Alfred don’t have that problem.

      The idea of quicklaunch apps is always keeping your hands on the keyboard. You can’t use the Finder or Spotlight with the keyboard to attach a file to an email.

      Also, there’s no initial cost here. You can download the beta for free, and if you try it out and you don’t like it, then you uninstall and go back to Spotlight. You haven’t lost anything.

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    2. I agree that Alfred doeas same job as spootlight, but it does it much better. It gives you better search results and is faster than spootlight.

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    3. Hi cnlingus,

      I felt exactly the same when I came across Alfred. Why use another app to achieve something that is already built into the OS? After using Alfred, you see how ‘dumb’ Spotlight search actually is. The app remembers the options you picked in an earlier search and presents these first on the next search. A huge time saver. The program also includes (custom) searches to directly look up things on IMDB, Wikipedia etc.. It also makes it easy to browse your HD, without using the mouse. Some handy system commands plus iTunes control and the recently added clipboard history feature make this program a real productivity app. I noticed my ‘mouse-time’ plummeting and started using my keyboard for most of my ‘mouse tasks’, quite a timesaver.

      I don’t want to sound like a ‘fanboy’, but I would definitely recommend you try Alfred (or any other quick launcher for that matter). In the beginning you have to force yourself to pick up some of the basic commands, but after that, it becomes second nature.

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    4. Spotlight is SLOW. ALfred is much faster and it has a lot of possibilities compared to Spotlight. The good thing about Alfred is that it is ready to go when you install it. No need to configure anything. Automator is good for bigger tasks. But you need to create the script before you can run it with sometimes takes more time than doing it manually.
      With the powerpack you also get itunes library access with the keyboard. Extremely easy to play all your music.
      It is worth a download.

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    5. Sorry @cnlingus I have to disagree. Alfred is a much quicker and more powerful way to launch a program / search then spotlight. Spotlight allows you to select an app or file that you wish to open from the list of what is available on your computer/network and does not search the web. Alfred allows all apps, files, and information on the web to be accessed from your keyboard without the need of anything but a quick keyboard shortcut. It is well worth the price, and I can’t wait to see what new features they come out with next.

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    6. The big deal is that it’s entirely keyboard-based. It gives better results than Spotlight for launching apps (Spotlight only shows a few). Also, tons of features are built in, even to the free version. I use “define” all the time. I could use Spotlight, but this is much faster. Plus there’s custom web searches, which save so much time. I can just type “bs01 blargh” to go straight to the article on biosector01.com. And if you do pay, you get fully keyboard-based iTunes control, system navigation, and actions that can be performed on files. Yes, these can be done with the system, but you have to have found the file in the Finder. Plus there’s Clipboard history, which is so incredibly useful. There are free apps that do it, but none do it as well, and it’s nice to only have one app.

      This is nothing but a “shell for a few Automator functions at a prime cost.” First of all, most of it is free! And try writing an Automator function for the iTunes mini-player or Clipboard history!

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    7. I completely disagree with cnlingus : all stuffs mentionned come with the Alfred FREE version!
      And the most important point is that Alfred allows you to do all of those current things with shortcuts, this is fully time-saver.

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    8. @cnlingus: I agree 100%. I do not understand either. Just use spotlight or have frequently used apps in the doc.

      Why install more software when its already built in?

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      1. Can’t you read? It’s faster, simpler, and much more capable.

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  2. It’s a nice app, I use the free version, but the Powerpack is just TOO expensive. Absolutely unjustified. QuickSilver does all of this for free. I’d be happy to buy a license if it was less than $9.

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    1. I agree it should be cheaper (and it’s going to go up a little when beta ends), but in Britain, it’s close to £10, so they probably see it differently from us. And Quicksilver does do it for free, but it’s so incredibly hard to use. I couldn’t understand much of it at all, and even what I did understand was really hard to do.

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  3. I love Alfred and have been a user since the very early days. I’d tried Quicksilver and Google launchbar in the past but found them just too much and nearly as slow as Spotlight.

    No so with Alfred! I can open an app in Alfred in the time that it take spotlight to even think about opening. Yes you can drag an attachment onto the mail icon, but with spotlight you can’t type ‘email foobar’ to create an email.

    One of the things I use it for most is a really quick calculator. Open Alfred and type in a sum and tada, so much easier than opening the calculator app.

    And the iTunes controls in the powerpack are worth the cost of the pack alone.

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  4. I have to disagree with @cnlingus. Alfred is a much quicker and more powerful way to launch a program / search then spotlight. Spotlight allows you to select an app or file that you wish to open from the list of what is available on your computer/network and does not search the web. Alfred allows all apps, files, and information on the web to be accessed from your keyboard without the need of anything but a quick keyboard shortcut. It is well worth the price, and I can’t wait to see what new features they come out with next.

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  5. I love Alfred, I use in every day as part of my workflow.

    It’s so much more than just a search function or launcher. I even use it to remove the formatting from cut text before pasting it into other apps.

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  6. Very nice design and a very active developer:) but can’t replace LaunchBar yet.
    Missing a lot of basic functionality…desperately in need of Autoreplace!!!

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  7. Before Alfred, I couldn’t really get myself to use other apps like Quicksilver – I would use Spotlight for what it could do, and everything else the hard way.

    But with Alfred (which I use between work and home around 50 times a day), I do everything so much faster. Launch apps? done. Google Search? absolutely. Custom quick searches like php.net and wordpress.org? yes. Calculator, iTunes control, calculator, dictionary? all the time.

    Not only do I believe the PowerPack is worth the expense, but I convinced my boss to buy the family pack so that I wouldn’t be without those extra features at the office.

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  8. I love alfred. It beats spotlight hands down. I do agree with Minou, the powerpack is too expensive. If it came down to somewhere around $10, I would buy it in a heartbeat.

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  9. I’ll say it: I love Alfred! I just never took to Spotlight, and after using Quicksilver, really began to like the power and ease of a sophisticated launcher. After it became abandonware, I searched and searched for another until I came across AlfredApp. A US Powerpack user, I feel I get lots of value for the price.

    But you know what’s coolest of all? Team Alfred’s customer service is AMAZING. They reach out with Twitter and Get Satisfaction, and genuinely care about the user experience. I’ve never seen such personal, genuine and sincere attention to a customer base from a software company. (And, no, I’m neither related nor a stockholder, lol.) These folks are A+.

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  10. I tried Quicksilver in the past but I think it is actually too feature rich and requires a learning curve just to take advantage of it’s basic features.

    I use Alfred frequently for:
    Launching apps, searching google, dictionary, calculator and finding files.
    I use Alfred only occasionally for, clipboard and browsing files.

    I hope Alfred stays fairly simple and doesn’t go down the same path as Quicksilver. The over abundance of features make new users weary of adopting this new method of computing.

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