V2 Sneak Peek: Workflows

Alfred is now almost 3 years old and has been built from the top down, with many wonderful new features being added throughout his life. Over time, it has been getting harder and harder to keep Alfred’s preferences usable and approachable for new users.

Around a year ago, I decided it was time for some big changes… and by big changes, I mean, rethinking Alfred’s architecture from the ground up with a brand new foundation, on top of which all of his features are built – I started to plan Workflows.

Workflows are process containers of interconnected processing objects (haha I just made that up, sounds posh eh?). Put simply, you have triggers, inputs, actions and outputs, which can be mashed together into really useful stuff.

There are loads of great built-in objects, so non-technical users can simply pop these objects onto the canvas, connect them together and use their workflow. Not a line of code in sight.

Even better? Developers can create their own custom objects to process information in any way they like, including live filters feeding directly back into Alfred’s results.

Now for some simple examples of the sort of workflows you’ll be able to create:

Should I watch this movie?

Alfred v2 Workflow - Movies

Alfred v2 Workflow – Should I watch this movie?

Movies weren’t created equal, so before I start watching a movie, I can search for “movie dark knight rises” to decide whether or not I should watch it. This will launch a YouTube search for the trailer in Chrome (because I don’t have Flash installed in Safari), an IMDB search using a default web search, and a Rotten Tomatoes custom search I’ve created.

Upload to Flickr

Alfred v2 workflow - Upload image to Flickr

Alfred v2 workflow – Upload image to Flickr

Using the “flickr” filter narrows the Alfred results to only image files. Once I’ve found the image I want, the workflow uploads it to Flickr using the script I’ve added. It notifies me when the upload starts, and again when the upload has completed. No need to refresh the Flickr page repeatedly to check if it’s done, Alfred will let you know!

Google Searches

Alfred v2 Workflow - Google Searches

Alfred v2 Workflow – Google Searches

This one has a few ways to start the search, using both hotkeys and keywords.

Using the keyword “suggest” feeds Google Suggest results back into Alfred using a script filter – This is a new and extremely powerful v2 feature, allowing developers to feed results dynamically back into Alfred. Once I’ve found the result I want, hitting return will search Google. And just because I can, it’ll also post a notification to Growl and copy the suggestion to Clipboard.

Alternatively, I can launch a Google web search using the “g” keyword. Holding the Cmd modifier when hitting return, or using the Cmd + Alt + G hotkey opens the web search in Chrome instead.

These are just a few examples of what can be created with the new Workflows, and they barely scratch the surface of what you’ll be able to do with them.

What next?

Over the coming weeks, we’ll be posting a few more sneak peeks like this to share some of the v2 features.

If you want to take part in the v2 beta in January, you can upgrade your v1 single user license to Mega Supporter or buy a new Mega Supporter license today.

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Alfred Version 2 is Coming Soon!

Alfred v2 hat

After over 6 months of work in secret, we can officially announce that Alfred version 2 is coming!

When we first launched Alfred in February 2010, we hadn’t anticipated that Alfred would grow up to become butler to millions of users, winning awards and engraining himself into our lives. Version 1 grew organically, with numerous releases over almost three years.

In version 2, Alfred will be even more polished and user-friendly than ever. To achieve this, Andrew has rewritten Alfred from the ground up to make every aspect more efficient, more powerful and more flexible, reusing only around 15% of code from v1. Of course, we’ve also taken great care to ensure existing users would still feel at home with v2.

Over the coming weeks, we’ll be sharing sneak previews of the new v2 features. We’ll also put out a beta once v2 is near completion in early January.

Did you say beta version?

Yes indeed! When the beta version is ready, we’ll invite Mega Supporters to give us a hand in testing v2. Your help in putting Alfred through his paces in previous development releases in the past has been invaluable, and we thought you might enjoy playing with a new shiny app ahead of release. :)

In order to keep a handle on the number of beta users and the feedback we’ll receive, only Mega Supporters will get early access.

If you’d like to become a Mega Supporter, you can upgrade your Single User license or, for new Powerpack users, grab a Mega Supporter license. The upgrade is great value and gives you a lifetime of updates included!

Everyone who has bought since 1st December 2012 will receive a free upgrade to v2, so if you buy today, you’ll get your v1 license instantly, and receive a v2 license when it’s released.

All users who bought prior to 1st December are eligible for a discounted upgrade and can either upgrade to a Mega Supporter license today, or a Single/Family license on release day.

We’ve created a License FAQ page with answers to most license-related questions.

Once the beta is available, we’ll provide documentation for developers who want to make their extensions compatible with v2. In most cases, this will be easy and will give you even more flexibility.

I hope this news is as exciting for you as it is for us. Follow us on Twitter @alfredapp as we won’t be able to resist posting some screenshots and sneak peeks over the coming weeks! :D

[Update: Have a look at the v2 tag on the blog to see all sneak previews we’ve posted to date!]

iTunes 11 support

iTunesYesterday, Apple released iTunes 11, bringing on some changes to the way external applications like Alfred can interact with it. Andrew has been working hard today to make a few fixes to keep your experience with Alfred’s Mini Player enjoyable.

We’d also love to support the iTunes “Up Next” feature, so we’re keeping an eye on whether Apple adds AppleScript support for this!

Here’s what’s changed

We updated the way Alfred sets the tracks you’ve asked him to play, so be sure to keep the Alfred playlist checkbox enabled in the preferences so that your tracks play in a predictable order.

A few hotkeys were also updated; the “random track” hotkey has changed *from Cmd + Alt + up arrow to Cmd + Ctrl + Up arrow), and so were the star hotkeys (from Cmd + Alt + # to Cmd + Ctrl + #)

We also removed iTunes DJ, as this is no longer support by iTunes 11.

Help us test

Release 1.3.2 will go out to everyone through Alfred’s auto-updater once it’s fully tested, but in the meantime, if you’re using iTunes 11 and would like to help us test the changes to the Mini Player, you can download it here.

Gatekeeper: Alfred and the future of OS X

Apple recently announced OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion, which contains great new security features to keep your Mac safe from malware. One of these new technologies, Gatekeeper, prevents unauthorised code from running on your Mac.

Gatekeeper – the perfect solution for Alfred

Gatekeeper aims to keep you safe from malware when downloading apps outside of the Mac App Store. By default, Gatekeeper allows you to install apps from both the Mac App Store and from developers who digitally sign their applications with an Apple-certified Developer ID.

The great news is that Alfred 1.2 is already signed with our Developer ID. In simple terms, this means that Alfred and his Powerpack work great on Mountain Lion 10.8 without having to change any security settings, keeping your Mac as safe as possible!

What about the App Store?

Many of you have asked whether we intend to put Alfred’s Powerpack in the Mac App Store. In November, we explained why we planned to keep Alfred out of the MAS due to the new Sandboxing requirements. Today, 1st June, Sandboxing comes into place in the MAS.

In a nutshell, Sandboxing aims to protect users by restricting what an application can do by keeping it in its own “box” and only allowing limited authorised access to specific files and resources on your system. Sandboxing also makes it much easier for Apple to review applications into the store as apps simply can’t do things outside of this “box”.

Meanwhile, Alfred works deep into the heart of your Mac. He gives you very fast access to everything your Mac has to offer, especially with the Powerpack – searching, scripting, file interactions and many more richly integrated features. Thankfully, Apple’s new Gatekeeper paves the way for us to keep Alfred as productive as possible without having to work within the limitations of a sandbox.

On the topic of new features…

You’ll continue to find the free version of Alfred in the MAS, as Apple allows existing apps to remain in the store and receive bug fixes. However, if you’re looking for the big juicy new features, your best bet is to download Alfred from our website. With this version, you can take advantage of the Powerpack and of pre-releases, which give you a sneak preview of new features.

Andrew has also been hard at work on the next release, which brings you the much-anticipated QuickLook, 1Password integration improvements and many more improvements. That’s something to look forward to in the next few weeks!

[Photo credit: Nick Schooley, The Gates at Buckingham Palace on Flickr]

We’re heading to SXSW 2012!

It’s that time of year again: We’re all packed up and heading to Austin, Texas for this year’s South by Southwest Interactive.

It’s not often enough that we have the chance to meet Alfred users face to face so, while we’re looking forward to the SXSW panels and parties, we’re most excited to meet you.

If you’re also attending, look out for us. We’ll be wearing purple Alfred tshirts, occasionally bowler hats and will be carrying very special Alfred stickers and goodies.

We’ll be tweeting throughout the week, so keep an eye out on the @alfredapp account for updates and do come say hi. :)

Happy 2nd Birthday Alfred: 10% discount on the Powerpack this week!

This week, Alfred celebrates his second birthday. And he likes to do it in style!

Hot on the heels of two big releases, we’re offering a 10% discount on the Powerpack so if you haven’t yet adopted the powerful add-on to Alfred’s free version yet, this is your chance. With more useful features than a Swiss Army knife, you’re bound to love this addition to your everyday Mac workflow.

If you’re already a Powerpack user, be sure to tell your friends to take advantage of this week’s birthday discount code while it lasts! You have until Saturday 3rd March to grab a single or family license at 10% discount.

Also, feel free to bake Alfred a birthday cake, cupcakes or cookies. We lo… ahem, I mean, he loves those very much.

Alfred 1.0: Big statues, awards and the next release

On November 29th, we released version 1.0 of Alfred. We were so excited to finally make this milestone release available to everyone, yet we couldn’t have predicted how much better you would all make December and January for us.

Macworld Editor's Choice Award - Running with Crayons' Alfred

Since the release, Alfred received numerous accolades, including the revered Macworld Editor’s Choice Award. As a Mac user since the late 80’s, I remember thumbing through my grandfather’s Macworld magazines so being recognised as an “exceptional Mac product” by this mainstay of the Mac industry is an honour. Plus, it comes with a gigantic statue. Who doesn’t love a giant statue?

Additionally, a few other publications awarded Alfred recognition as they looked back at 2011:

In addition, at the end of the year, screencaster extraordinaire Don McAllister produced two excellent videos on Alfred’s core and Powerpack features. If you’re trying to convince a friend to switch to Alfred, this video will walk them through in superbly useful detail.

With these being the cherry on top of our 2011, Christmas was spent sitting on cloud nine and feeling that we truly do have the best community in the world.

Since 2012 started, Alfred also received a mention on Forbes and a PCMag Editor’s Choice review. As they say, start the year as you mean to go on! We’ve saved as many of the mentions as possible in our Delicious account, so have a browse if you’re curious. And of course, thanks to everyone who wrote these wonderful pieces.

What now?

Did you really think that now that Alfred has hit 1.0, we’d stop improving this app we love so much? Of course not – you know us too well! :)

Andrew has nearly finished working on version 1.1. As he explains on his Tumblr, it originally was intended to be a 1.0.1 maintenance release, with a few tiny fixes, but it has grown into a full blown release with shiny new features. Expect to see improvements to Contacts integration and Extensions, and see the change log for the full list of changes. As it went into development release today, we hope to roll it out to everyone within the next few weeks.

We also can’t wait to unveil the other ideas we’ve been working on, which we hope to share with you over the course of the year. Until then, keep an eye on Twitter for sneak previews over the coming months!

Cheers,
Vero