Tutorial: Creating an Alfred Workflow Without a Single Line of Code

When we designed the Workflows feature in Alfred v2, our objective was to give users who are not programmers the freedom to create their own workflows. This meant creating a platform that would allow you to drag and drop objects, connect them together and tell Alfred what to do or search without writing a single line of code.

Today’s tutorial will walk you through creating a very simple workflow using Objects – without a single line of code. We’ll create a search for images which then opens your chosen result in Safari. We’ll then wire a hotkey so that you can bring up the search with a custom hotkey.

Why should you use Workflows?

I alluded to this in the previous tutorial about importing and setting up workflows created by other users; Alfred’s core set of features are intended to suit the more general needs of users with features like the Clipboard History, Theming, iTunes Mini Player, etc.

However, in YOUR work day, there are tasks you repeat frequently that you might want to do more efficiently and quickly. This is where workflows are useful; you can create quick ways to trigger actions.

Without a single line of code, you could:

  • Launch your “morning links”: Launch all of your important daily websites with a single hotkey or keyword.
  • Set hotkeys for applications: Rather than type the name of the apps you frequently need into Alfred, set a hotkey to launch it instantly.
  • Filter your search: Remove clutter by filtering your search to only PDF files in your “Work” folder with a keyword
  • Give nicknames to applications: Add the nickname “browser” to Safari, Chrome and Firefox to bring them all up in a search.
  • These are just a few examples, you can do so much more!

Let’s start simply with our image search workflow.

Creating your Workflow

There are two ways to start creating a workflow; You can either use an existing example or template, or you can start with a blank slate and pick your own workflow objects. The examples are a great way to see what can be done with a workflow.

To choose a template, click the + button at the bottom of the workflow sidebar and pick the most suitable template for your needs. You’ll then be able to modify it or connect additional objects to it to do exactly what you want it to do.

To create a new workflow from scratch, select “Blank Workflow” instead.

workflow_example_menu

Give your workflow a name, description and include your own identifier details. You can also drop an image into the image well on the left to give your workflow an icon.

workflow_details_completed

Adding Objects to your Workflow

If you’ve started with a blank workflow, you’ll need to add your first object. For our “Open an image in Safari” workflow, the first object we need is a “File Filter” input. Click the + button in the top right of your workflow and choose Inputs > File Filter.

In my File Filter object settings, I’ve filled in some details and dragged in the four image types I want to include into my search results; jpg, gif, png and tiff files.

workflow_file_filter_img

If you want to search a particular folder, you can use the second tab to narrow down the search scope, but in this instance, we’ll keep the default search scope.

The second object is the “Open File” action. Search for Safari using Alfred, and drag Safari from Alfred’s results into the second box of “Open File” to specify which application the images found should open in.

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Finally, let’s add our third object; the Hotkey Trigger. Set a hotkey of your choice.

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Connecting Objects Together

The only remaining step is to connect our objects together.

Hover over the first object to see the handle appearing on the right edge. Drag a connecting line from it to the left handle of the second object. Do the same connecting the second object to the third.

workflow_connecting_handles

And that’s it, you’ve created your first workflow!

Type “img” into Alfred, followed by the name of an image file you want to search for, then hit return to open the image in Safari. Alternatively, use the hotkey you’ve just set to bring up the workflow.

workflow_file_filter_icon

Exporting and sharing your workflow

Once you’ve finished creating your masterpiece, you can export it to share it. Right-click the workflow in the sidebar and choose “Export…” to create a .alfredworkflow file you can share with fellow Powerpack users.

You can download the “Open an image in Safari” workflow created for this tutorial.

We’ll be publishing many more tutorials over the coming months, so follow the blog by email by clicking the “Follow” button in the blog sidebar or follow us on Twitter.

 

A Hat Tip to Campaign Monitor

A few weeks ago, a few members of the Campaign Monitor team teased us with a cheeky picture of a mysterious purple box winging its way to us. “What might it contain?”, we wondered.

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This week, the box arrived containing an absolutely gorgeous handmade wool bowler hat to celebrate Alfred’s 4th birthday. It’s even got Alfred’s purple ribbon!

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It’s difficult for me to write about Campaign Monitor without sounding like an advertisement, but there aren’t many tools out there I look forward to using as much as their email platform. You see, for many years, before Alfred was born, I sent campaigns every day using badly designed, antiquated tools – and I still bear the scars! Switching to Campaign Monitor has made creating and sending email campaigns so much more pleasant that I haven’t looked back in about 8 years.

My favourite part of the newsletter process comes after I’ve hit the “send” button (holding my breath, hoping I haven’t forgotten anything). I’m rewarded with the Worldview report, where I can watch pins drop all over the world as you lovely people open our email and click on links. It never gets old to see real-time stats – and yes, I do wave as I recognise the names and faces of our long-time users popping up!

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Beyond the technology, the people who are behind Campaign Monitor are inspiring, fun and mighty clever - something you can sense through every interaction with them and the product.

On the subject of newsletters, you’re already subscribed to our Alfred newsletter, aren’t you? You can subscribe to our newsletter here or in Alfred’s General preferences tab in-app. We only send a few emails a year, and I promise, we’ve got some very nice surprises for you this year.

Cheers,
Vero

Tutorial: Importing and Setting Up Alfred Workflows

In recent weeks, we’ve published a few posts on some of our favourite Alfred workflows. Some are very simple and others are more complex, but they’re all created using Alfred’s building blocks, the workflow objects.

This tutorial will help you understand what a workflow is, how to import an existing Alfred workflow and set it up to get started with it.

What are workflows?

Alfred has an extensive set of features, both in the free core version – searching your Mac and the web, calculations, dictionary – and in the Powerpack – clipboard, theming, iTunes Mini Player and more.

Yet, we know that you like to customise things even more and control your Mac even more deeply. This is where workflows come in; This Powerpack feature allows you to speed up repetitive tasks and save time by performing many actions at once, even if you’re the only person in the world who needs to perform that task. Who doesn’t want to get work done more efficiently?

You can import workflows created by fellow Alfred users and you can create your own. Here, we’ll look at importing existing workflows and setting them up. In the next tutorial, we’ll look at creating your own from scratch and sharing them with friends.

You’ll find workflows in various places on the web:

  • On this blog, where we often feature some of our favourite workflows
  • On Packal, a fantastic repository for workflows and themes, created by Alfred user Shawn Patrick Rice
  • On the Alfred community forum, where many users share their workflows & discuss their ideas
  • Developers of other Mac apps have created workflows, so you’ll find many more by searching for workflows and the name of your favourite Mac apps

You can also download the very simple file filtering workflow I’m using as example in this tutorial.

Remember that you need to be a Powerpack user in order to use advanced features like workflows, so be sure to activate your license or purchase a license to get started with workflows.

Importing a Workflow

Once you’ve found a workflow you like, you can simply install workflows by double-clicking the workflow file. The workflow files end with .alfredworkflow.

alfred_workflow_import

You can add the workflow to a category, then click “Import” to finish importing. You’ll now see the workflow listed in the left sidebar of your Workflows preferences pane.

Occasionally, you might come across Alfred extensions (ending in .alfredextension); These are the precursors to workflows and date back from Alfred version 1. You won’t be able to import these directly into version 2, but you’ll find that the most popular ones have been re-published as v2 workflows by their creators.

Setting Up Your Workflow

Once imported, most features of your workflow will work instantly. A quick look at the workflow will show you what keywords you can use.

alfred_workflow_keyword

In this example, the keywords are “new” and “old”. Typing the keywords into Alfred will show you what action you can perform with them. In this example, the keyword “new” allows you to filter files to only show documents you’ve modified in the last 3 days.alfred_workflow_keyword_newWhere workflows contain hotkeys, the hotkeys are stripped out when you import the workflow, to ensure that these don’t clash with your existing hotkeys. You can set these easily by double-clicking the hotkey object to show the drop-down where you can set your hotkey.

alfred_workflow_hotkey_setting

Hit save, and that’s your hotkey set!

alfred_workflow_hotkey

What’s next?

The world’s your oyster, son! You can add workflow objects and connect them together to add more ways to search your files. You can change keywords and hotkeys to suit your needs. Or you can modify the file filter by double-clicking it to change what file types are searched or the search scope to search only specific folders on your Mac.

In the next tutorial, we’ll have a look at creating your own workflows and exporting them to share them with friends.

 

Fill Your Head with Tunes: Using Spotify with Alfred Workflows

Over the past few weeks, we featured a few of the apps we really love using with Alfred. While working on each one of these posts, I was listening to music using the service I’m featuring today: Spotify.

To say that we use Spotify a lot would probably be an understatement. At the end of 2013, Spotify released a “Your year in review” page, where you could see some mind blowing aggregate stats for its millions of users, the year’s most popular Monday songs, as well as some of your own usage metrics. Ahem, it turns out that we listened to over 30 non-stop days of Spotify music over 2013.

spotify_usage

It’s fair to say that Spotify pretty much fuels our week musically. Some clever Alfred users created workflows that gives you control of Spotify on your Mac. There are a number of great workflows, and below are two popular ones; a simpler one and a more advanced one, depending on how you like your workflows!

Remember that you’ll need a Powerpack license in order to use workflows.

A Simple Workflow: Spotifious

Spotifious by Ben Stolovitz is a great yet simple workflow that allows you to search and browse music on Spotify. Once you’ve set your hotkey, you can bring it up to see what’s currently playing and browse Spotify’s catalog.

It’s brilliant and requires no setup at all, other than using an up-to-date version of the Spotify app for Mac. The only downside is that searching can only be as fast as Spotify can respond to your query, so you sometimes have to wait a moment before your results appear.

Download the Spotifious workflow from Github.

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An Advanced Workflow: Spotify Mini Player

This workflow is Vincent de Saboulin’s Spotify Mini Player and gives you an even smoother search experience for your Spotify playlists, including showing artwork thumbnails as you browse.

It requires a bit of legwork to get started as you’ll need to sign up for a (free) Spotify developer account, but once you’re up and running, it’s the quickest and prettiest way to search. After setting up the workflow, it took roughly an hour for my library to be scanned and the artwork to be downloaded, but the results were beautifully presented and very fast.

Download the Spotify Mini Player workflow from Github.

spotify_workflow

For those who can’t use Spotify yet

As Spotify isn’t available in all countries, those who are still waiting for the service to launch in their country can choose from the wealth of great workflows for other music services.

For example, users have created workflows for Last.fm and Rdio, and there is of course, Alfred’s integrated iTunes Mini Player.

What’s your favourite guilty pleasure song? If you tell me yours, maybe I’ll tell you mine ;)

Password Protected: Using 1Password with Alfred

Over the past few weeks, we featured a few of the apps we really love using with Alfred. Today, it’s an app I simply couldn’t live without: 1Password.

Not familiar with it? 1Password is an immensely helpful app in an era where we require passwords for every site we use, yet our memory can only hold so many at once. It allows you to contain all your passwords, credit cards, license codes and secret world takeover plans behind one master password. With a convenient iOS app, a browser plugin on your Mac and Alfred integration, it’s quick and effortless to log in to your favourite sites.

The integration with Alfred uses the 1Click Bookmarks to present you with the sites you can log in to when you type “1p” followed by your search term.

1password_bookmarks_search

Enabling 1Password Bookmarks

There are a few steps to take to get started. Note that you’ll need a Powerpack license for Alfred and 1Password installed to use this feature.

The first step is to install the 1Password browser plugin for your favourite web browser.

Enabling integration in 1Password (For 1Password 4 users only)

If you’re using 1Password 4 (released October 2013), perform this step. If you’re using 1Password 3, jump to the “Enabling 1Password integration in Alfred”. Open 1Password’s preferences to the Advanced tab and check the box that says “Enable integration with 3rd party apps”. This is essential for Alfred to be able to read your 1Password bookmarks.

1password-integration-checkbox

Enabling 1Password integration in Alfred

For users of all versions, in Alfred’s Features > 1Password preferences, enable 1Password bookmarks by checking the box. You’ll now be able to launch your bookmarks by typing “1p” followed by the name of your bookmark.

features_1password
See? There’s no need for Post-it notes with scribbled passwords, or heads filled with half-forgotten passwords. This is the quickest way to launch and log in to your favourite websites, all while keeping you perfectly secure. :)

Keep in Sync: Using Dropbox with Alfred

Last week, we celebrated Alfred’s 4th birthday by giving away licenses and subscriptions for some of our favourite Macs apps. This month, we are featuring each one, as well as sharing the best Alfred workflows to make the most of them. Today, we’re taking a look at Dropbox.

dropboxOver the past few years, Dropbox has become a fairly ubiquitous service; whether it’s sharing work documents, syncing your 1Password keychain or sending photos to friends, it’s the first port of call.

Dropbox to sync your Alfred settings

You know you’re using a good syncing service when you completely forget about it because it’s working so seamlessly.

If you’re a Powerpack user with more than one Mac, you can sync your settings using Dropbox. This ensures you can use your workflows, snippets and themes on your Macs and take advantage of any customisations you make. Of course, certain settings are specific to each of your Macs, including your main Alfred hotkey, search scope, current active theme – so nobody at work needs to know about the Pikachu-yellow Alfred theme you use at home! ;)

You can set this up in Alfred’s Advanced preferences; Start by setting up your primary Mac, letting your settings sync up to Dropbox. When setting the sync folder on your second Mac, wait until Dropbox has fully updated with the primary Mac’s settings, then choose the same folder and Alfred will begin to use the same preferences file.

Dropbox workflows

File filter to search Dropbox only

If you use Dropbox to store backups of files that are also on your Mac somewhere else, searching can get a little confusing. This is where file filters come in handy.

This file filter workflow took me a few seconds to create; it simply limits your search scope to the ~/Dropbox/ folder, so that the only files returned are those you’ve stored on Dropbox. You can customise it to your needs by adding specific files types (e.g. only PDFs or folders) or choosing a more specific scope (e.g. your Public Dropbox folder only).

Download the File Filter to Search Dropbox Only workflow.

This workflow was created using one of the many templates you can find in Alfred’s Workflows preferences by clicking the + in the bottom left.

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Screenshot & save to Dropbox

This workflow is a very ingenious and handy one by Carlos A. Sztoltz. It allows you to take a screenshot on your Mac and immediately store it in a public Dropbox folder, all while creating a shortened URL and copying it to your clipboard. This is at least as awesome as riding your bike with no hands. While standing on your head. And juggling fire.

It requires a little more setup than the workflow above; you’ll need to type “setupss” to tell the workflow which folder to save screenshots to, and add your bitly or Brb.bz details if you want to use URL shortening.

Once you’re set up, you can use hotkeys or keywords to take a screenshot of your screen, a specific window or a selected area. The screenshot will be saved in the folder you’ve set and a URL copied to your clipboard.

screenshot_dropbox_workflow

You can download the Screenshots 1.1 workflow, and find out more about its features here.

You’ll need the Powerpack to use workflows; You can purchase a license to get started with workflows like this one, and many more great features.