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.

spotifious_nataly_dawn

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.

workflow_templates_arrow

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.

Your Brain at your Fingertips: Using Evernote with Alfred Workflows

Last week, we celebrated Alfred’s 4th birthday by giving away licenses and subscriptions for some of our favourite Macs apps. We’ll be featuring these apps over the coming weeks, as well as sharing the best Alfred workflows to make the most of each one. Today, we’re taking a look at Evernote.

evernoteI’ve always had a brain like a sieve, so I usually write everything down with the assumption that I’ll otherwise forget it. The issue with this system (or lack thereof) is that all of these paper notes, clippings and text files get jumbled up or lost.

The basic idea of Evernote is simple really; Remember everything by putting it into Evernote then forgetting about it. File these ideas into notebooks, tag them, and even find them based on the location you were in when you made the note. Access your account on your Mac, on your phone or on the web. The nifty thing about Evernote is that the more you use it, the more useful it becomes.

Whether it’s a photo of the “10 year warranty” receipt for a frying pan I’ll otherwise lose next week, or a link to a vintage pattern I want to knit, every scribble goes into Evernote for future reference. That Tetris-themed crochet blanket may never happen, but I’ll know where to find my design ideas if it ever does!

Using Evernote with Alfred Workflows

To keep Evernote at your fingertips, Carlos A. Sztoltz has created a fantastic workflow we’ve been using daily alongside Evernote.

Once you’ve downloaded and installed the workflow, you can search your Evernote content with the keyword “ens“, which searches all notes fields.

alfred_evernote_workflow_search_crochet

Need to add a note note? You can do this without leaving Alfred, with the keyword “enn“. The syntax even allows you to include details of which notebook you want the note to be filed in, or what tag to attach to it.

alfred_evernote_workflow_new_note

Find all items by tags with “ens #“.

alfred_evernote_workflow_tags

There are many more useful keywords, which you can discover by looking at the handy workflow help notes by typing “en?

I’ve barely scratched the surface of what Evernote and this particular workflow can do, so I’d love to hear how you use them.

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.

Interview with Kitt Hodsden: Laziness Is A Virtue

Today, we begin a new series of interviews with Alfred users who have created brilliant workflows or integrated Alfred into their everyday flow in unique ways, inspiring us to become more efficient and clever with our time.

Our first interviewee is Kitt Hodsden, hackerdojo co-founder, previously Engineer at Twitter, and the 47th laziest developer in the world.

Hi Kitt, tell us about yourself!

My name is Kitt Hodsden (@kitt and http://ki.tt/) and I’m the 47th laziest developer in the world. I say lazy in a Larry Wall “Three Great Virtues of a Programmer” sort of way.

I embrace this virtue, give talks about automating and streamlining workflows, and take great delight in finding easier and more efficient ways of completing tasks.

How long ago did you discover Alfred? How did you find out about it?

I’ve been using Alfred since Chris Messina mentioned it back in 2010:

I didn’t upgrade to the Powerpack until early 2012, but there’s no turning back now that I have. I was a Quicksilver user for years before switching to Alfred.

I talk about Alfred in all of my “Automating Your Workflow” talks, and have installed it on every OS X installation I work on, including work, home, and family members’ computers. I’m a big fan.

How Do You Use Alfred For Automation?

“Any process I have done more than three times and may have to do again, becomes an Alfred workflow.”

Some of my workflows require scripts to access remote servers, but even those are triggered by Alfred.

As an example, for the past year, I had been building auxilliary websites for Twitter, including https://blog.twitter.com/ and https://business.twitter.com/. During development, we would reset our development servers with production data frequently, as most Drupal developers do. My reset was five keystrokes with Alfred: ⌘ space r d enter. A notice would pop up 20 seconds later and I’d be on my way. For my coworkers, that process involved dumping the production database, importing that database locally, reseting the web server, clearing any caches, a few other steps, then loading or reloading the site in the browser. I was much faster, and less reluctant to reset my development server as a result.

I have many of the of-course-I-use-Alfred-this-way uses also: application launcher, 1password for my site passwords, clipboard history, and keep adding to them by watching the workflow forum. Being a Drupal developer, I also use Alfred to control drush, the Drupal shell, commands as needed.

What Are Some Other Tools That Make Your Life Easier And More Productive, Whether Digital Or Physical Things Or Habits?

My timer is by far my most useful tool. I frequently set my timer for 27 minutes, and sprint to complete whatever task I have set for that timespan. When the alarm goes off, I jot down where I was in my task, do some exercise such as 40 jumping jacks or 20 pushups, reset the timer and go again. I find the short time and the brief spurts of exercise keep me focused.

I’m currently using Timebar from my friend Mark Christian for timing because I like the subtle visual countdown it provides. My physical timer and phone both get a lot of use, too. I’ll be giving Daniel Bader’s Timer a try too.

I use Grunt a fair bit for automating a number of front end web work tasks. I’ve recently started playing with Andrew Cantino’s Huginn, an open-source IFTTT. We’ll see how far I can automate my work with that one.

I also find that watching how other people work exposes me to new tricks and tools. Partner programming is a great way to learn a new shortcut, workflow or script that a coworker else uses to ease development. Unsurprisingly, all the people I partner-program with have Alfred installed. *grin*


Don’t miss future interviews and tutorials on the blog: Subscribe to our newsletter or follow us on Twitter to keep in touch! :)

A Look At More Brilliant Workflows

Since the v2 release, we’ve updated our blog to a simpler, cleaner look. We are also planning on making much better use of it with interviews, feature guides and much more over the coming months – so keep an eye on it for fun Alfred features. :)

Over the past few months, the Alfred community (that’s you!) have created some truly brilliant workflows. We’ve highlighted a few of our favourites before, but here are some more gems we’ve dug up for you.

Workflows are a Powerpack feature, so if you’re not yet a Powerpack user, you can either upgrade your v1 license or buy a new license.

Weather

David Ferguson (jdfwarrior) has been working tirelessly to help users with their own workflows on the forum, but has also created a great Weather workflow which shows you conditions and forecast.

If you’re wondering if it’s BBQ and ice cream weather, check out the Weather workflow.

weather_cambridge

Spotify Workflows

If you listen to Spotify all day, as we do, you’ll love these Spotify workflows.

The original Spotify workflow was created by Jeff Johns (phpfunk) and allows you to control Spotify with a thorough range of keywords. Have a look at the basic commands and download the workflow to get some summer tunes going!

For a different twist on the same theme, Spotifious by Ben Stolovitz also allows you to control Spotify, launching from a hotkey. Find out more and download Spotifious on the forum.

main menu

OmniFocus Workflow

Need to be more efficient with your work tasks? If you’re an OmniFocus fiend, you’ll be able to manage your tasks from Alfred. Surely that means you can leave early and go grab a beer?

Download Marko Kästner’s OF Task Actions workflow

OF-TaskActions

Firefox & Chrome Bookmarks Search

This isn’t a workflow, but a very useful integration worth sharing.

Out of the box, Alfred searches Safari bookmarks, as Chrome and Firefox don’t support Spotlight search by default. However, we really like Brow by Tim Schroeder as an alternative way to get native integration for bookmarks search in these two browsers.

Once you’ve installed Brow, Tim provides a guide to adding your Brow bookmarks to Alfred, so that in a few seconds, you can search your Chrome and Firefox bookmarks within Alfred!

TinyPNG File Resizer

Benzi Ahamed’s TinyPNG resizer filters files on your Mac for .png files, then uses tinypng.org to shrink the file size of the file you selected. Handy way to save time!

Download the TinyPNG file resizer workflow

This is just a little taster; you’ll find many more workflows on the Alfred forum. Once you start creating your own workflows, you’ll also be able to get help from fellow Alfred users if you have any questions.