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This black box saves me a ton of time

Vikrant Duggal
Vikrant Duggal
• 4 min read
Image 1. The Alfred Command Box. Similar to macOS Spotlight, but faster, customizable, and powerful.

I’ve downloaded Alfred. For around USD $30 I’ve freed up so much time. I like the power at my finger tips. I like the freedom to operate from a central place. I like that I can pull up the command box (⌘+space) and I can be on my way to completing one of many tasks. All those repetitive tasks take less time.

I will suggest this to anyone who uses a Mac (while I’m sure a similar product exists for PC users). With over half a billion computer users worldwide that’s a lot of people who would love to have their unique ways of using their computer. Alfred does so much, but I’ll limit it to a few items that might you find intriguing.

I started by replacing my shortcut keys that I used for Spotlight and it now launched the Alfred Command Box. The Feature set for Alfred is pretty large, so here are some simple, basic things I’ve been doing in the my first real week of using Alfred. 

With Alfred, I do a number of things (that I do repetitively) faster. Here are a handful I’ll walk you through:

  • Open File
  • Launch a Program
  • Open a Recent File
  • Search Folders/Files
  • Search Google
  • Search Bookmarks/Reading List
  • Snippets
  • Clipboard
  • Calculator
  • Launch website for financial institution and enter username/password

Step 1. Starting small

Prior to Alfred, I would keep my Dock loaded with apps, even some. These days, my desktop looks like this. Let’s start with some basic items. Image 2 is about what you can do with a file. I can find a file and simply open it. Once I find the file I can hit the right arrow and do number of other tasks (move, delete, find similar files, open in Evernote, etc.)

Image 2. Launch Alfred and then press the space bar. I’m now ready to search for any file on my Mac.

I search for files frequently. So now I have the ability to search for a file name, or search for words embedded within a file. I can also find files based on tags.

Image 3 allows me to type any letter, this case ‘g’ and do a number of things. I have ‘g’ set to search in Google, but if I continued typing and wrote ‘gmail’ it would let me search my gmail inbox. As you can see I can also hit ⌘1, ⌘2, ⌘3 and open up other apps, contacts, etc.

Image 3. Launch Alfred and then press any letter and now I can pass a query to Google, for example, or open Gmail, or launch a program, like Chrome.

Launching a program is easy as well. In this case, typing Word and then hitting the right arrow brought up Image 4.

Image 4. Launch Alfred and then type Word and press the right arrow and I have a number of things I can do.

I can do a more broad search and type ‘~’ and it pops up a Finder like environment and I can use shortcuts to browse through folders. At any point I can start typing to narrow down the files to the one I’m looking for. See the visual in Image 5.

Image 5. Launch Alfred and then type ~ and start browsing through folders.

So you’re starting to get the picture. I can find things in my Safari Reading List or my Chrome Bookmarks (Image 6), anything I copy gets pasted to a Clipboard and I can search that clipboard and paste what I need (Image 7). I can save a number of snippets (Image 9) and have them ready to use at the click of a few buttons. Image 8 shows something similar to Image 3 where I type linkedin and I can pass a search query to the LinkedIn search box. I use the computation feature a lot as it can save the answer to my clipboard for use where I need it (Image 10).

Image 6. Launch Alfred and type Reading List to find Safari items in Reading List.
Image 7. Launch Alfred and then type ~ and start browsing through folders.
Image 8. Launch Alfred and then type linkedin and I can pass a query to the linkedin search box.
Image 9. Command + Shift + V and I can paste pre-written snippets.
Image 10. Launch Alfred and compute. I hit enter and it’s saved to the clipboard to use where I need it..

This was a fun way for me to document how I am using powerful, automation tools as part of my workflow. I hope if you read this you got some value out of it.

Link to Alfred App