One of the nice things about the Mac is the nature of the software market around it. There are a lot of small developers doing some great products. I know there are lots of small development shops on Windows too, but my experience with small apps on Windows is different. There are some developers who seem to pride themselves on fit and finish, and Mac users tend to demand fit and finish. For my part too, I was always reluctant to add lots of little apps to Windows in case it made performance suffer, which I was caught with several times.
Anyway, one of these small developers who have created a really nice app is the team behind Alfred. Alfred is a simple app launcher which you can ring up with a keyboard command. What I love about Alfred is it’s ease of use, and the power of it’s extensibility engine. On average I use Alfred around 32 times daily.
By default (and for no cost) alfred allows you to launch applications, search for files and open them, perform maths calculations and spell or look up words and meanings far more quickly than by opening the apps that you’d normally use for these things. In fact, the more I use Alfred, the less I like apps and the more I like using Alfred as an interface to information and data. I still use apps obviously (and probably more than I realize) but I’m relying on Alfred to get me to the information I need rather than the apps.
For me, one of the greatest joys and benefits of Alfred is the extensibility when you spend the $15 on the Powerpack. When you buy the Powerpack, not only do you get a heap of additional features, but you also get the ability to create your own functionality in Alfred. You can then export these and share them with others. Alfred can then become so much more than just a launch, now it becomes a servant.
There are a lot of extensions that people have already built which I use. There are also a couple of lists of extensions where you can find some to try out. Try this, this, this and this and see if they have anything you find interesting.
Some of the Alfred Extensions I use are:
- Search Evernote from Alfred (download)
- Start, play, pause, search, etc Spotify (download)
- Change your volume (download)
- Create a Disk Image file from a folder (download)
- Tweet (download)
- Capture screen shots (download)
In addition to these, I’ve also created a bunch of my own. I’ve made one for interacting with my to do list (more on that in another post), one for telling me what unread emails are waiting for me (without opening an email client) and one for opening scripts in CodeRunner (the app I use for writing and updating scripts) and one or two others.
Alfred is probably not everyone’s cup of tea. I’m a keyboard junkie and find it easier to move around on the keyboard than to continually pick up the mouse (or move to the trackpad). Regardless, if you know the name of the app you want to open and can remember commands, then you’ll love Alfred.
Alfred is free – unless you want to pay $15 for the power pack and all the goodness that comes with it. To me, it is easily worth $15.