Don’t Miss A Date with Fantastical 2 and Workflows

icon_512x512@2xThe Flexibits team have just released Fantastical 2, updating their already brilliant calendar app.

Fantastical 2 brings a new full calendar application for OS X Yosemite and uses its very useful natural language parsing. This means that you can enter your entry in the same way you’d say it, and Fantastical will make sense of it and create an entry for you.

If, like me, your muscle memory leads you to popping up Alfred anytime your brain wants to make a note, add a calendar entry or a reminder, these few workflows will satisfy your needs once you’ve installed Fantastical 2 on your Mac.

Add a Calendar Entry to Fantastical 2 via Alfred

With Robert Böhnke’s workflow, you can add an Calendar entry by typing “cal” followed by your natural language entry. Fantastical will do the rest of the leg-work to add the entry to your calendar.

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Download the workflow on Github

Add Reminders

You can also add Reminders using Jono Hunt’s Reminders workflow. This workflow uses a few keywords to allow you to add the reminder to the most appropriate list, using the same Fantastical natural language parser.

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For example, Jono’s workflow allows to to do the following:

  • Typing ‘w finish the report’ would add that task to the list named Work.
  • Typing ‘r pick up dry cleaning sat at 6:30pm’ would add that task to the list named Reminders with an alert set for 6:30pm on Saturday.
  • Typing ‘g milk’ would add that item to the Groceries list.

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Alternatively, you can use “+r” as a keyword to see all your lists.

You’ll then get a Notification Centre notice that the item has been added to your Reminders list.

Download the Reminders workflow

Launch F2 using the “calendar” keyword

Workflows don’t get much simpler than this, but a workflow doesn’t have to be complicated to be useful.

Veteran Alfred user Ryan Block contributed this workflow to launch Fantastical 2 using the keyword “calendar”, so that you don’t have to remember the app’s name in order to launch it. Of course, you can top up this workflow with any other useful keywords for your own use.

Download the workflow on Packal.org

With these workflows and Fantastical, you’ll never forget an appointment or task again!

Connecting Your Remote using Bluetooth

Connecting your Alfred Remote to your Mac using a Wi-Fi connection is the fastest and most reliable way. However, there are occasions where this may not be possible, either because your devices can’t be on the same network or there is no Wi-Fi network available.

In cases like these, Bluetooth can be used to pair your iPhone/iPad to your Mac, allowing you to use Remote without relying on a network.

bluetooth-pairing

The Bluetooth connection is a great alternative for these occasions where there’s no suitable Wi-Fi, but comes with a few caveats; Bluetooth itself is a slower way to connect so you’ll find that icons can take some time to load on the first connection to a new Remote. Once set up, it’s quite fast at dispatching actions to your Mac.

It is also reliant on your Mac and iPad/iPhone staying in close proximity to each other, so your Remote will need to be kept within a few feet of your Mac for reliability.

With these points in mind, it still provides a very convenient alternative to the Wi-Fi connection. Bluetooth pairing only takes a few seconds to set up, and we’ve created a handy tutorial on setting up Remote using Bluetooth.

Tutorial: Launch a URL in 3 browsers from Alfred or Remote

When working on a web design project, the most time-consuming part is often testing in various browsers. To solve this problem, I created a little workflow that would allow me to quickly launch a URL in three browsers at once by tapping an icon on my Remote.

In this tutorial, I’ll show you how you can create this workflow in just a few minutes. I also hope it will inspire you to find those small-but-repetitive jobs in your own day that you can replace with workflows or Remote actions to become more productive and less burdened by tiresome tasks.

Creating a Remote action is a two-step process; First, I’ll create the workflow itself, choosing the actions I want it to perform. Then, I’ll add it to the Remote page.

If you’re completely new to workflows, take a look at this tutorial on creating a workflow without a single line of code, which goes in a bit more detail to get you started.

Creating a workflow to launch in multiple browsers

The first step is to create a new workflow. I started with a blank workflow, gave it a name and icon. I then added one “Keyword” input and three “Open URL” actions from the + in the top right of the workflow page. I connected my keyword to all three actions, then proceeded to set each one up.

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When setting up the keyword, I assigned it the keyword “test” with a required argument, which will be the URL I’ll type or paste in.

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I double-clicked each of the “Open URL” actions, adding {query} as the URL; This means that the text I type after my “test” keyword will be passed on as the URL each browser needs to launch. Of course, I also choose a different browser for each one, so that it launches in Safari, Chrome and Firefox.

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I now essentially have a functioning workflow, as I can type test http://alfredapp.com into Alfred and press return to launch it in all three browsers.

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However, as I want to use this workflow in Remote, I also need to add a Remote trigger object. I connect this Remote trigger directly to all three “Open URL” actions; I’m not connecting it to the “test” keyword as I want the action to launch the browsers, not pop up Alfred with the “test” keyword.

In this case, I decided that I want the Remote action to use my current selection in OS X as the {query} argument. You could choose to use the current clipboard content if you prefer or choose to use text and enter a fixed URL if you’re always testing the same site. I’ve also given the trigger a unique identifier, an icon and a name.

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Adding the action to your Remote

Now that I’ve added a Remote Trigger to the workflow, I can add this action to a Remote page. To do this, I go to the Remote tab in Alfred’s preferences on my Mac.

I want to add the action to an existing Remote page; Clicking on an empty space brings up the list of actions I can add to my Remote. Under Run Workflow Trigger, my “Launch in 3 browsers” workflow contains the single action created earlier.

And here we go, there’s a new action on my Remote page called “Test all browsers”. Tapping it from my iPad will make my Mac launch the URL I’ve selected in OS X in the three browsers I want to test in.

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Tweaking workflows to your own needs

You can download the workflow I’ve created from Packal, or follow the steps above to create it yourself. You can also grab the icon I created for the workflow or create your own.

When creating or importing an existing workflow, don’t forget to customise it to your own needs. For example, I could add a hotkey, similar to the Remote trigger, which launches the workflow with either the OS X selection or clipboard contents. I could add multiple keywords where various pre-defined sites are launched if I know that I’m always testing the same few websites.

I hope that this tutorial will give you a glimpse into how flexible workflows and Remote actions are, and how you can ease the pain of repetitive tasks by creating your own workflows.

Want to see anything in particular in the next tutorial? Tweet us (@alfredapp) your ideas and I’ll cover a few over the coming weeks :)

How We (and You) Use Alfred Remote Every Day

Yesterday was an absolute hoot – thank you to everyone who bought Alfred Remote on launch day! And thank you for all the wonderful tweets, blog posts and comments you’ve made. It’s great to hear that so many of you have immediately adopted Remote into your Mac life.

As Alfred and Remote are so flexible, there are many ways you can put them to best use to suit your own lifestyle. In this post, I shine a light on some of our favourite uses for Remote so far, as well as a few you’ve shared with us so far.

Pair up your Remote to your Mac

Grab your iPad or iPhone and pair it with your Mac. It should only take a moment to check your Mac and iOS device are on the same Wi-Fi network, and pair your devices by following the steps in the Remote tab of Alfred 2.6’s preferences on your Mac. They’ll then be able to securely communicate with each other.

Get the right setup

You’ll also want to set up your iPad or iPhone to be comfortably accessible so that it becomes a quick-fire command centre while you’re working.

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Yes, my desk is always this tidy… ahem…

We’ve got a few iPad and iPhone stands we love; In the promo video and the photo above, you can see the stand Andrew and I use daily. It’s the Anker stand, which is small and understated, and works for both the iPad and iPhone.

The other stand we occasionally use is from Just Mobile; It’s stable and stands a little higher, which is great for the old iPad 2 that sits in the kitchen and primarily serves as a music controller.

So long as your iPad or iPhone can run iOS 7 or 8, it’ll make a great Alfred Remote, so dig out those older devices that are going unloved at the bottom of your drawer!

For your convenience, we’ve included an option in your iOS Settings, where you can choose to prevent your device from sleeping when Alfred remote is active. It’s particularly handy if you’re planning on sitting at your desk all day with your iPad plugged in, and want to keep your iPad awake.

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Fill up your own pages

To get you started, we’ve included some default Remote pages, including a page of popular Apple apps, System Commands, common folders and bookmarks. However, Remote really comes to life once you start swapping out apps for YOUR favourite ones, and creating pages for things you use daily.

For designers and developers

Create a page or two containing your most used apps, folders for your main projects, a bookmark for API documentation you need to use many times a day, and an action to launch your current URL in all of your browsers to allow you to quickly test your work.

In my next post, I’ll also show you how you can power-up your Remote by launching multiple actions with a single tap with the help of Alfred’s workflows.

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For music fiends

You’ll find the iTunes control page bundled with Remote, which gives Powerpack users to control iTunes; Play tracks, start random albums and rate your . However, if you’re keener on Spotify, Vincent de Saboulin has also produced a fantastic Spotify workflow which gives you a huge amount of control over your music.

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We’ve also seen screenshots of a Beats music workflow in the wild, so essentially, if your favourite music player supports AppleScript, it may be possible to create a control panel like this for it.

For the busy people!

Whether you’re a writer, project manager or anyone else who works with a lot of information, there are no doubt repetitive, uninspiring tasks you waste time on every day. Alfred 2 for Mac takes you a long way to improving your productivity with fast file search, clipboard history and an unbelievably broad range of workflows created by our community, but Remote can help you even further.

As well as modifying the Applications page to contain your most used ones, create a page of clipboard snippets to avoid re-typing commonly used bits of text like your office address. Build a page of links to your blog administration page, your site stats, your webmail and so on,  to save from having to remember the URLs.

Numerous workflows are also beautifully useful for writers, project managers and data wranglers; We’ll be featuring some great Remote-friendly workflows soon.

Power-up with Workflows

In the next post, I’ll take a look at how you can launch multiple actions with a single tap. This allows you to customise your actions further, making Remote fit your unique lifestyle even more.

In the meantime, we’d love to see how you use Remote. Share photos of your Remote and your desk with us on Twitter (@alfredapp) and we’ll do a round-up of the best photos in the next few days!

Getting Work Done with Slack, GitHub and Pinboard

Working smart is not the same as working hard. Alfred workflow creators know the difference, and have created some fantastic workflows to give you that extra efficiency boost when using teamwork tools.

These workflows were all updated in the past few weeks, so take a look at how they can help improve your productivity.

If you’re not yet familiar with workflows, you’ll need a Powerpack license to take advantage of this, as well as many other of Alfred’s great range of features.

Slack

slackfred-iconSlack is a team communication platform, and is quickly gaining popularity with teams where staff members might not be working in the same office yet need to keep in contact. The Slackfred workflow by Frank Spinillo allows you to search for files added by your team, usernames and room names. It lets you quickly set your presence as “active” or “away” and more.

It simply requires an API token, and you’re up and running with no further setup. If you’re an everyday Slack user, download the workflow from Packal.

GitHub

octocat.png,qitok=hzLMdciR.pagespeed.ce.aN7ODPBInhGitHub needs little introduction for developers; It’s the favourite code management platform for millions of users. While working on your own software, or even your latest Alfred workflow, you may end up with quite a few code repositories. This workflow also uses an API token to get you started.

With this handy workflow by Edgar Suarez, you can quickly search through your GitHub repositories and open them.

In fact, there are many GitHub workflows on Packal, of various degrees of complexity, so if you have a different task in mind, take a look. You might find a suitable time-saving workflow for your needs, or be able to fork an existing one to turn it into your perfect workflow!

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Pinboard

Pinboard is a bookmarking service, superbly useful for saving and tagging links to documentation you’ll need in the future.

This Pinboard workflow, created by Carlos A. Sztoltz, allows you to search, add and delete Pinboard bookmarks. Enter your API token and the workflow will cache your bookmarks locally for quick access.

Custom searches for your bug tracker of choice

If you’re using a web-based bug tracker, it’s likely that you can also use a custom search. Whether it’s JIRA, Bugzilla or any of the dozens of bug trackers out there, many will allow you to create a simple keyword-based search. Add it in Alfred’s preferences, under Features > Web Search, by clicking “Add custom search” or learn how to create your own custom searches with this tutorial.

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For a pleasing look and quick access using a hotkey, I transformed the custom search into a simple hotkey-based workflow:

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Many of the workflows above can be downloaded on Packal, where you can find many more excellent productivity boosters. In fact, as of today, there are over 375 workflows on Packal, as well as over 70 colour themes you can import with one click. If you’ve created something useful, you can also submit your own as a contributor.

Got any questions about creating workflows? Let us know on Twitter (@alfredapp) so that future tutorials can cover the topics that interest you the most! :)

9 Alfred Features You Might Not Know Exist Yet

Lately, I’ve seen a few tweets from Alfred users who discovered a feature they hadn’t tried before, and immediately found their discovery life-changing. We always get a kick out of your friendly tweets, the best of which we add to our favourites.

Whether you’re new to Alfred or have been a power user for years, take a look at the great tips from recent tweets. A number of these features are available in the core version of Alfred, available for free, and Powerpack-only features are denoted with [P].

Weather web search

It’s unavoidable, the whole northern hemisphere is hurtling towards winter. Find your local weather by typing “weather” followed by your location and see whether you should dig out your hat and mittens or reach for the shorts and sandals one last time. (hey, let me dream a little!)

File Buffer [P]

A lesser known feature, the File Buffer allows you to stack up files before taking action on all of them at once. Especially handy to move multiple files to Dropbox in a single action, for example.

It’s never too late to learn how to use the File Buffer!

Alfred’s built-in Calculator

Simple, yet effective.

Quicklook

Quick way to check you’ve found the right file. Particularly useful when looking at obscurely named screenshots!

Force Quit keyword

System Commands are a brilliantly handy way to control your Mac.

Clipboard History & Merging [P]

Even if you’re aware of Clipboard History, it bears repeating.

But you might not yet have discovered clipboard merging, a handy way to append a copied item to the previous one.

1Password bookmarks integration [P]

Terminal commands [P]

Put your sunglasses on and you’ll feel like you’re in a scene out of Hackers.

Large Type

And finally, this is truly technology at work.

Use Cmd + L to show text in large type on your screen, whether it’s a contact’s phone number, the result of a calculation or asking your other half whether they want pizza for dinner.

I can’t help but finish this post by giving a huge shout out to all the lovely +38,400 people who follow us on Twitter and make us smile every day, as well as to WordPress.com for making it so simple to include your tweets in this post. Any tips of your own you’d like to add?

5 Tips To Make Workflows Work Harder For You

Workflows are a great way to extend Alfred in ways that fit your particular needs and the frequent tasks in your personal routine. In this post, I’ve gathered a few valuable tips on organising and managing your growing collection of workflows.

Sync your workflows

NsntJZzYPbAY4hb-v2mPIxYuSjcFKtg0rpCJgw5vIsoIf you have a Mac at home and that you’re lucky to have an enlightened boss, you might have a Mac at the office too. If you use Alfred on both, you can sync your Alfred settings – including your workflows – between your two Macs using Dropbox. Create a new workflow at work (or a theme, custom search or snippet) and it’ll be automatically synchronised with your Mac at home.

Jump to the Advanced tab in Alfred’s preferences to set synching up, or take a look at the tutorial on syncing using Dropbox for a walkthrough on syncing your settings.

Categorise and filter your workflows

As your collection of workflows grows, you can organise them into categories. There are a few default categories to get you started, but you can add your own so that you can quickly locate all your music-related workflows, for example.

Once you’ve assigned your workflows to categories, you can filter to show a single category by clicking on the magnifying glass at the top of your list of workflows.

Find out more about creating workflow categories and filtering on our support site.

Show which hotkeys are in use

If you’re a hotkey fiend but your memory sometimes fails you, you can see at a glance all of your workflow hotkeys in the workflows list. You can toggle this view by clicking on the magnifying glass and checking the “Show hotkeys” box under Display Options.

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As well as showing the hotkeys, there are other Display Options; Show categories, show workflow creator’s name and only show enabled workflows.

Group actions into a single workflow

A handy way of keeping track of similar actions, such as hotkeys used to launch applications, is to add them to a single workflow instead of creating a new workflow for individual hotkeys.

For example, below is the workflow I use for launching applications like browsers and tools I need frequently. To add these hotkeys, you simply need a “Hotkey” trigger connected to a “Launch Apps / Files” action.

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You could do the same for a collection of file filter workflows or any other actions you’ve grouped together, making it quicker and easier to locate them.

Look out for workflows created by other users

As well as creating your own workflows, it’s worth taking a look at the wonderful range of workflows created by fellow Alfred users.

You’ll find some here on the blog, on the Alfred forum and on the wonderful Packal (created and maintained by Shawn Rice). Many developers host their workflows on their own websites so it’s also worth a quick Google search and a look at Github. It’s likely that if you’ve thought about it, someone has created a workflow for it! :)