Alfred Productivity Tips: Using custom searches

Lego Ninjas are awesomeFancy becoming a productivity ninja with Alfred? Some might say that calling yourself a “ninja” is cliché but the ninja is efficient, stealthy and a master of his tools, just as you can be with Alfred. Besides, I’ve been gagging for an excuse to post this awesome Lego ninja picture so bear with me, alright? ;) To help you discover some of the more advanced features, I’ve put together this mini series to introduce some of the power user functionality you may not have used before.

First, use the web searches

Before jumping into Custom Searches, have a look at the dozens of web searches in the preferences. We’ve included a stack of standard searches you’re likely to want to use. Simply type the keyword followed by your search term. YouTube search in Alfred

Create your own custom web searches

There are no doubt websites you want to search that we haven’t included. In that case, it’s time to create your own! The key to creating custom web search is to work out the search URL for that site. Simply do a search and replace the search term with {query} like so:{query}

You can then use the searches to do super useful stuff:

And much more…

Searching apps on your Mac

There’s more than one flavour of custom searches; you can also create them for applications on your Mac. Not all apps offer an application URI so it’s worth digging around or asking the developer. Here are a few of our favourite ones:

  • Spotify: spotify:search:{query}
  • App Store:  itunes://{query}
  • Facetime: facetime://{query}

A custom search without a query

Did you know that your custom “searches” can in fact not be searches at all? Launch any website with a custom keyword by saving it in Alfred’s custom searches.

Check out Anna’s Tumblr for regular tips on using Alfred and discover many more custom search ideas on Alfred fan Olivier Guerriat’s

Share your searches

As Jack Johnson says, “it’s always more fun to share with everyone…” so swap custom searches with friends. Use the copy icon to copy the custom search query and click on any special URL starting with alfredapp:// to import one to your own custom searches.

Sharing your custom searches

Websites change and evolve, so searches that worked in the past may stop working. If this happens, take a look at the website you created the custom search for and go through the steps above again. It’s likely that the exact search URL has changed, so you’ll need to update your custom search accordingly.

Chime in in the comments if you’ve become a black belt of productivity and want to share your own tips. We’ll feature some of the best ones in future posts! Next time: Tweaking your search results to show just what you want

16 thoughts on “Alfred Productivity Tips: Using custom searches

  1. Here’s one for the programmers: search Stack Overflow

    alfredapp://customsearch/Search Stack Overflow for/stack/ascii/url={query}

  2. Guys, you rock! Thank you for that great post; there’s so much possible with Alfred, I realize I only scratched the surface yet.

  3. I have to build a custom search where spaces are replaced by dashes (-) or plus signs (+). How can I do it?

  4. Why, why Rebecca Black??

    I have a custom search for The Pirate Bay, and have it set to sort by Seeds. I use it almost daily (for accessing TV shows which aren’t available here in Australia).

  5. i’m addicted to duckduckgo. and i use it as the first fallback.. bingo, hundreds of custom searches available with one step, no need to set up all those query URLs…

  6. Here’s one to search the Mac OS X Developer Library:

    alfredapp://customsearch/Search ADC/adc/ascii/url={query}

  7. Wow, I had no idea about application searches. Anyone got some useful ones?

  8. I have several gmail accounts, and I’m a mailplane user. I have one custom search setup for each account so I can use Alfred to quickly switch between accounts. Be sure to give each account a different keyword.

    alfredapp://customsearch/Switch to Gmail Account/ggmail/ascii/url=mailplane://

  9. These tips are great! Thanks for authoring this series of posts on how to better use Alfred. I would have never figured this out on my own.

  10. Hey I was wondering if there’s a simple way to search using URIs or some other method?
    thx for a fantastic product!

  11. Love it… my only suggestion would be to make the copy icon into the word “Copy”… hard to know what it does unless you are told and I missed it totally. Wonder how many other users are missing out because it looks like it’s just an icon to go with the save button?

  12. nv://{query}

    Add a new note to Notational Velocity

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