Alfred 0.8 – Snippets, Recent Docs and More!

This week, we can’t help but feel festive and cheerful. We’ve been working on bringing you the best treats in our Alfred Xmas Calendar and recently received a treat ourselves when Alfred was featured as one of The Best Mac Software of 2010.

Adding to this, the 0.8 release has been a very strong one; There have been very few reported bugs and feedback from the pre-release users has been fantastic. So we hope you enjoy this pre-Christmas update!

New: Clipboard Snippets

Save your most-used clips as permanent Snippets, and access these through assignable keywords or through the main Clipboard History window. You’ll need to enable this Powerpack feature under the Clipboard preferences.

New: ‘Eject’ command

Under System Commands you can now enable Alfred to ‘eject’ any mounted drive on your Mac. This is disabled by default so don’t forget to go and check the box!

New: Recent documents

You can now show recent documents for your applications. Simply press the right arrow on an app within Alfred and then select the first action “Recent Documents”.

New: Customise fallback searches

You can now customise which web searches Alfred offers when he can’t find a suitable local result. Go to Preferences > Features >Fallback Searches. We’ve added a shortcut to help you work out why Alfred may not be finding a result you were expecting, and both of these features can be hidden by going to the Preferences if you prefer the minimal look.

New: Usage graph

Ever wanted to see just how much you use Alfred? For the stats geeks, we’ve added in a usage tab and a quick way to share your Alfred statistics with all your friends.

For a complete list of what’s new in 0.8, have a look at our updated changelog.

With so many features, don’t forget to check out all that the the Alfred Powerpack can do. And remember that it’s not too late to look at the Christmas Calendar tips and tricks to become an Alfred power user!

Alfred 0.8 and beyond!

As 0.8 draws closer to being ready (1st dev release likely within the next week), I thought I would go over some of the motivations behind this release and give a bit of a sneak peek at some features between now and 1.0.

The focus of the 0.8 Release

Initially, 0.8 was supposed to primarily be just a “quality” release, improving usability of all the current features and trying to remove as many outstanding bugs as possible. Any long term user of Alfred will know that this is not how I like to work ;) so naturally, I have added a number of new features too.

Almost 100 improvements and minor bug fixes including:

  • Overhaul of the knowledge / result sorting making the results much more predictable
  • The fuzzy matching option for Applications now works as expected
  • Instant pasting from the Clipboard History (using low level system events); also change hotkeys to return for paste and cmd+c to copy item back to Clipboard
  • Define keyword now shows a preview of the word definition in Alfred itself
  • Better URL detection when typing just a URL directly into Alfred (e.g. alfredapp.com)
  • Added a number of new locales and better keyboard / language support
  • A detailed performance and memory analysis, Alfred is even faster and lower memory!

… and many many more things!

The following NEW features have been added:

  • Persistent Clipboard Snippets with assignable keyword
  • Ability to select the fallback web searches (e.g. use Bing instead of Google)
  • Usage graph for the stats nerds (ahem… me)
  • Eject command to eject any mounted drive (USB, DVD, dmg, etc)

…and maybe some more stuff if I finish it this weekend ;)

And then what?

The list of things I want to add before we hit the big 1.0 milestone is way too large to post in here. I need to reassure you that I am fully aware of feature bloat and am absolutely committed to only adding features when they will not introduce bloat or complexity of any kind to Alfred :)

With that in mind, here are just a few of the major Powerpack features which will be part of Alfred between now and 1.x:

  • Significantly improved bookmark support (both browser and online)
  • Full Address Book and iCal integration
  • Plugin architecture allowing for users to introduce their own results into Alfred
  • Integration with a few of our (and your) favourite 3rd party applications
  • Improved hotkey support, i.e. assigning a hotkey to Applications
  • Shell integration (run shell commands from inside Alfred)
  • Improvements to the file system navigation and actions

It’s just a (beta) label

One final note: Alfred has been labelled as a beta for probably too long. The reason I have kept the label is because I am still actively developing it and like people to know that it is not finished yet. It has become apparent over the last few months that some people may perceive beta products differently to this, so from the next release we will be dropping the beta label.

All this means is that Alfred is now (and has been for quite a while) high enough quality to be considered a released product.

Before people ask, we will keep the ‘early-bird’ price of £12 for the Powerpack for a little longer while we are adding more features, but buy now to avoid disappointment! :)

Cheers,
Andrew (@preppeller)

Alfred 0.7.2 Brings Clipboard History

The new release brings a brand new feature – Clipboard History – as well as several marked improvements to features that have already been aiding your productivity. Alfred 0.7.2 will make you faster than ever, helping you reclaim all those lost minutes that you spent trying to re-discover information you had saved to your clipboard just minutes ago. Not anymore!

New: Clipboard History

  • Text-based storage of items copied to the clipboard
  • Hotkey access and quickly searchable history
  • Paste selected history item directly into current app from Alfred
  • Persistent (including reboot) for a user-defined amount of time (24h/1w/1m)
  • Easy-to-clear history which ignores user-defined apps (e.g. 1Password & Keychain)

Learn more about using Clipboard History with the Powerpack.

Improved: File System Navigation

New functionality includes:

  • show last browsed path in File System Navigation
  • show Result Actions panel for selected item in Finder
  • the behaviour of Tab has been changed to auto-complete
  • the Result Actions hotkey is now the right arrow, ctrl or fn (not Tab)
  • new actions, including Open folder in Terminal.app, Show package contents for applications, Copy path to clipboard

Improved: iTunes Mini Player

  • ability to ‘Play all songs by Artist’
  • Improved ‘random’ algorithm for random albums
  • Overhaul database structure to improve efficiency and performnce
  • Show Alfred core if using hotkey from iTunes mini player instead of hiding Alfred
  • Toggle to turn off Alfred using its own Playlist when selecting songs

For a complete list of what’s new in 0.7.2, have a look at our updated changelog.

With so many features, don’t forget to check out all that the the Alfred Powerpack can do.

The Mac App Store – First thoughts

It was inevitable – after Apple’s success with the iOS App Store, they would want to get their finger in the pie for OS X Apps too. Is Alfred (and its Powerpack) suitable for the App Store? These are my very initial thoughts about the App Store split into Pros, Cons and Uncertains.

The Pros

Improved reach and visibility – With the positive feedback we get about Alfred, I would hope that we would be listed in the popular and Top Apps in the App store, even if it was only in the Productivity section. If so, this could be absolutely fantastic for Alfred as the visibility would go from reasonably small to millions of users overnight!

Easier purchase / installation process – Apple’s installation process has always been a bit broken. I know this as I had to explain it to my mother recently. Allowing people to single-click to purchase / install Alfred and instantly activate it is definitely a positive. Over the past month, I have been working hard to change our checkout process to make it much easier for all users but it still won’t be as easy as the App Store will make it. This work may now be shelved.

The Cons

The review process – This shouldn’t cause a problem for Alfred as it is 100% 64 bit Obj C / Cocoa / Carbon and after a quick read of the T&Cs, Alfred would satisfy every requirement. However it may make us stumble in the future as it has done already with some legitimate apps in the current iOS App Store – I am a touch wary of this for now.

Fast Release Cycle and Pre Releases – I love doing fast release cycles and dev builds for our users. It gives them a sense of being involved in the development process, learning the App as it grows and feeling instantly comfortable when there are releases. The App Store would abstract the users from the process as they would only be getting the released versions. I could still do pre-releases from our own site but this would be a massive pain for the users as they would have to use two separate update processes for Alfred.

The user doesn’t get a tangible License Key – They are locked to downloading and ‘owning’ the software through Apple. While this may not be a problem, it adds a level of dependency to Apple which I hope isn’t going to become a problem for the customer beyond 10.7 Lion.

The Uncertains

The 30% Cut – While this works for simple apps which can be impulse buys and small $1 apps which subsequently require no customer support, I’m concerned that the App Store will drive the value of desktop apps down into this model. If it does, then we simply couldn’t continue the near-instant and thorough support that we currently pride ourselves by. We love our users and we can see that they love our feedback – I don’t want this to change.

Unable to provide support in The App Store ratings / reviews – So many times on the App Store I have seen people publish negative feedback and 1 star ratings because they don’t understand the software. On Twitter, this can be rectified in a second and convert a frustrated customer into a happy customer in seconds.

Unanswered Questions

  • Current Powerpack users – Can they be migrated to the App Store update process for free? If we did go to the App Store, we want these users to get the benefit of the easy update process but without an additional cost.
  • Family packs and Mega Supporters – Can we still separate the purchase types? Apple has a family pack for iLife / iWork so I am assuming that this will be possible.
  • Will the App Store be in all our target market countries? Otherwise we will have to have a separate checkout / licensing / deployment process anyway.
  • No support for Leopard deployment – What does this mean for our leopard users? Will we need a separate deployment process for these users?

In Conclusion

As you may have gathered from Twitter and the way that we interact with our community – our users are the main focus and we want to do the very best for them.

On the one hand I would prefer to keep Alfred completely independent, improve our checkout and update process and keep the sense of community that we have built since initial release in March 2010. On the other hand, I am worried that if Alfred doesn’t go into the App Store, it will be forgotten about or dwarfed by alternatives.

I would be very interested in hearing your views on this.

Cheers,
Andrew (@preppeller)

Baking Alfred – The Release Cycles

I love interacting with our Twitter followers, giving them sneak peeks of things I am working on for Alfred at that particular moment in time. Screenshots of upcoming features, keeping the change log up-to-date, discussing future ideas. However, this poses a bit of a problem.

Alfred is under heavy development and currently releases very regularly with pre-releases every 2 to 3 weeks and a general beta release every 4 to 5 weeks… Even so, posting these tidbits brings a response that I would liken to when I was younger, gently and methodically prodding the back of my dad’s seat on a car journey…

“Are we there yet, are we there yet, are we there yet…?”

While I absolutely LOVE the enthusiasm from the users for Alfred’s development, creating and releasing native software isn’t an easy thing. Just because a screenshot looks complete doesn’t mean it’s ready for everybody to use. The UI may not even be wired up or functional, or it may have quirky or missing behaviour, resulting in software that does not yet work properly.

I pride myself on the quality and stability of my releases so I simply will not release something until I am entirely happy that YOU, our fantastic users, will also be happy with it… I re-learnt this lesson 100 times over by releasing the iTunes mini player too early. I spent more time supporting this unfinished feature by email than I did trying to improve it for the 0.7.1 release.

Think of the software release cycle as baking a cake. You put some ingredients in, you mix them up, maybe add a few additional ingredients that weren’t in the recipe to make the cake extra special and then you start baking.

After spending all this effort making the cake, the last thing you want to do is take it out of the oven too early and ruin it.

With that in mind, just remember that I have big plans for Alfred, and even BIGGER plans for the Powerpack. Be patient and don’t make me get the cake out too early, as it will be oh so much more delicious when it’s ready. :)

Cheers,
Andrew (@preppeller)

Alfred 0.7.1 Brings iTunes Improvements

We’ve just released the latest update to Alfred, making it (hopefully) even more helpful to you. The big changes have taken place in Alfred’s iTunes integration so let’s have a look at just how much you can now control your music experience only using the keyboard.

iTunes Mini Player in Alfred

Within the Powerpack‘s iTunes Mini Player you now can:

  • browse your music collection by Genre, Artist or Album, navigating as you would within iTunes itself
  • play music from a Playlist (currently only basic functionality but we’ll be working hard to make it better in future releases)
  • play a Random Album – depending on how adventurous you’re feeling, it can be either truly random or you can play a random album from a certain genre or by a certain artist
  • reindex your music library by clicking on the lightning bolt – this is especially useful if you’ve recently changed or updated your music collection
  • use updated shortcuts to get even quicker – the basis for these is always “Alt + Cmd + __”. Use down arrow in that space to play/pause a currently playing song, left and right arrows to move to previous and next song, up arrow to play a random album. You can also rate your songs by using “Alt + Cmd + number from 1 to 5″.

For a complete list of what’s new, you can have a look at the change log.

Like what you’re seeing? Our next few releases will focus on user experience improvement rather than completely new features. We’ll polish and tidy up the recent features and tweak some of the older, established features. As ever, Alfred is in very active development and there’s lots more to come, so hold tight.

The Powerpack & 0.7 beta now available

Following a solid week of testing and tweaking, the Powerpack was released for general availability on Monday. The feedback we received from you has been mindblowingly positive and you seem to be having as much fun using the new features as we are.

For those who missed the details of the 0.7 release, you can find out more on our redesigned website. There, you can still download the core Alfred app for free as well as buy the Powerpack.

To help you find your way around Alfred, our lovely Anna has created a few screencasts.

Bookmark our Vimeo page to see more videos as we record them!

We’re listening: Alfred Forum

Until now, we mostly dealt with support questions either over Twitter, where answering a question in 140 characters was sometimes tricky, or by email.

To help you find answers to your questions when we’ve got our heads down developing new features, and to give us somewhere to answer your questions properly, we launched a Get Satisfaction forum.

There are already some great conversations going, like “What is your favourite custom search in Alfred?”, so what are you waiting for? Join with your Twitter, Google or OpenID. It takes two seconds and you’ll be in good company, we promise!

What’s coming next

What? Did you really think we were going to kick back and relax now?

There are a few small bugs which we’re tackling for 0.7.1, but mainly, we’re looking at further feature improvements. In particular, iTunes will be much improved, with support for playlists and NAS drives (Network Attached Storage, in other words, hard drives on your network but not attached to your computer directly).

We’re also starting to plan 3rd party integrations and the plugin architecture. In the future, this plugin architecture will enable you to write your own plugins for Alfred, extending it to do anything you like.

On that note, we’re putting a call out for a developer who can create a plugin for Alfred to make Hannah a sandwich. ;)

Overall, our users have been brilliant over the recent weeks, providing us with tons of helpful feedback during pre-release and since general availability. A huge thank you to everyone who has helped us spread the word about Alfred – we couldn’t do it without you!