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Alfred

Looks like Alfred is the next big thing. Wikipedia categorizes Alfred as an application launcher but I’m not sure if this is not a bit too narrow to meet the capabilities of this tool.

Sure, Alfred can launch applications in a similar way as spotlight does. Press the hot-key1, type the applications name to the extent that Alfred unambiguously identifies it and hit return. Again, same as in spotlight.

Alfred can also search for documents. Same as in spotlight? Well, not really. A search for a document requires the usage of a keyword followed by the search phrase. I checked using the search term “alfred” and incidentally Alfred2 finds merely itself while spotlight comes up with a host of search results.

Leaving now the realm of spotlight, the next item on the list is web-searches. For this, it is possible to select the search engine as the search term is typed into Alfred’s input field. Apart from the usual suspects it is3 possible to search e.g. on Twitter.

So far, so good. Apart from the freely available core application, Alfred comes with the so-called Powerpack, a collection of advanced features that can be activated in exchange for a small amount of money payable to the creators of Alfred.

The Powerpack comes with some really cool features such as direct navigation on the file system. That’s right: type the path into the input field and navigate to a place on the file system.

Text expansion is supported such that it is not required to type the full name of a directory. Just type some characters and hit enter to expand the closest match. Possible other matches are also displayed and can be selected at the user’s convenience.

Another nice feature that comes with the Powerpack is a clipboard history. For me, this is extremely handy. Just type the corresponding hot-key and the clipboard history opens instantly. Available from everywhere.

Last not least, there is a nice “gimmick” included such that it is possible to display a “usage statistics” of Alfred. This can also be done in the preferences dialog.

So far, I have found no hint that explains the name of the application. I’m not entirely sure whether this is a just a wild guess but at least the icon sparks the association with Batman’s butler, Alfred. As we all know, this guy always has a gadget or two in store. So maybe I’m not entirely on the wrong path.

The quintessence of the first days with Alfred installed on my machine is that to my surprise I actually use the app. That is, I have tried similar software before, e.g. the famous Quicksilver, but somehow I never really got into it. Frankly, I couldn’t actually tell why this is the case or whether other tools come with more or less features than Alfred.

What counts for me personally is that Alfred is the first of that breed that I really seem to embrace and use on a daily basis. Seeing that Alfred is quite young4 in relation to its already impressive feature set I’m looking forward to what the creators might have in store for the future.

  1. The hot-key can be freely set as a combination of keystrokes in the preferences dialog.

  2. The “search scope” can be set in the preferences dialog. In this case it was set to “everything”.

  3. Thanks to a whole bunch of predefined search templates. Apart from that it is possible to define custom templates just in case the predefined templates do not cover every relevant search engine.

  4. The current version number is 0.8.1.

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