V2 Sneak Peek: Refining the Preferences

One of the big benefits of doing a major release and, in fact, a thorough rewrite of Alfred is that it has allowed us to rethink many of the basic aspects of the software. In version 2, a great example of this is the reorganisation of the Features preferences.

Finding features more easily

As v1 grew organically over three years, with features added over time, we’d often get users asking “Where can I find feature option x?”, even though the feature options were there. Let’s face it, the features preferences had become a bit messy.

With a clear view of what v2 would contain, Andrew was able to restructure the preferences to make the grouping much more logical and approachable for a new user, while keeping the advanced preferences that suit many of Alfred’s current users. One of the many examples of this reorganisation is visible in how web and custom searches are now merged together.

Web searches and Custom searches

V2 Preferences reorganised

Previously, the web searches and custom searches were split between two tabs. They essentially serve the same purpose; launch a search with a keyword and open your most used websites, with or without a query.

They’re now consolidated into a single tab which can be both searched and filtered. You can hide the default web searches you’ve disabled or type to find the searches you’re interested in.

Every preference pane is receiving the same careful love and attention to ensure that using v2 is as natural to use as possible.

Time to relax and have a mince pie

Over Christmas, we’ll be spending less time online and more with family and friends. This means that it may take us a little longer than usual to respond to your tweets and emails – but we’ll keep an eye out for any urgent emails, of course!

2012 has been a brilliant year, and 2013 promises to be even more exciting. Have a great Christmas, take a break so that we can all start the new year with renewed energy!

Cheers,
Vero

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.

Alfred 1.3.1 Released: Notification Centre for Mountain Lion Users

Today, Alfred 1.3.1 has been released. The main new feature of this release is especially for Mountain Lion users; you can now use Notification Centre instead of Growl for extensions and general Alfred notifications.

Another handy improvement for Powerpack users is that when copying/moving files, Alfred will remember the destination folders, making it easier to move files next time!

This release also includes some nice bug fixes and little improvements, which you can find in the Change Log. Note that if you’re already using pre-release build 261, there’s no need to update as this is the same build. Otherwise, check for updates in-app or download version 1.3.1 from our website.

Wishing everyone a great weekend,
Vero

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Back to School: Custom Searches & Extensions for Students

It’s that time of year; Meeting new fellow students, cracking open the first page of a new notebook, heading to class and getting ready for the school year ahead.

Or maybe I graduated too long ago and forgotten that, in reality, it’s more along the lines of grabbing a large coffee to stay awake through class and hoping that the new professor isn’t too weird.

Whichever way you plan to start your school year, Alfred can help you get things done better and faster with web searches, custom searches and extensions.

Default web searches

Alfred comes packed with useful default searches to help you be more productive. Start your search with the keyword “wiki” to search Wikipedia – but remember to check your sources!

DuckDuckGo is a super useful tool that lets you search a vast number of search engines with the !bang shortcuts. Start with the keyword “duck” and see just how flexible it is. If you’re using the Powerpack, you can set DuckDuckGo as your default fallback search, so that you can use the !bang shortcuts without the “duck” prefix – even better!

Need to translate text? Type “translate” and paste the text or URL of the page you want to translate. Hit return and Google Translate will work its magic.

Custom searches

Custom searches give you the ability to add searches for anything you might need frequent search access to. For example, search your Delicious bookmarks library (replace our username with your own) or search Pinboard for your own bookmarks.

Creating these is very quick yet can save you a lot of time, so have a look at our help page on creating your own custom searches for internal wikis, study resources or almost any site. Check out the fan-run Alfred Tips site for many of the favourite custom searches out there.

Extensions

If you really want to kick it up a notch, the Powerpack allows you to use extensions, along with many other great useful features like Clipboard History and 1Password integration.

While writing essays, use Dave Ferguson’s Word Counter to track your progress.

If you’re a fan of Evernote, as we are, you’ll find a wide range of Evernote extensions for adding notes in our extensions gallery.

Sweating bullets before your first class presentation? Can’t help you there, but you can use Seb Clarke’s Caffeine Manager to switch on Caffeine.app with a keyword to make sure your laptop doesn’t go to sleep mid-presentation, leaving you to concentrate on keeping your classmates awake!

Entertainment

The school year, of course, isn’t all work and no play. Sneak a bit of fun into the classroom with Kailey Lampert’s Hangman extension. Start by typing “hangman new”, then see how good your vocabulary and guessing skills are! [Kailey and Alfred take no responsibility for time having disappeared when you next look at the clock!] 

Need to get something ordered? Use the “amazon” keyword followed by your search term for quick access to your local Amazon online store.

If you’re like me and can’t study without music, you’ve got plenty of options. The iTunes Mini Player, part of the Powerpack, gives you keyboard-based access to your iTunes collection. If you prefer Spotify or Rdio, some Alfred users have created some brilliant extensions for each one of them, which you can find in the Music page of the Extensions gallery.

Whatever you may be studying and whether you’re starting or finishing this year, may it be a great year! Learn everything you can, meet everyone you can and enjoy yourself. Oh and leave a comment to share your own custom searches, extensions or favourite ways to start the school year :)

Cheers,
Vero

[Image credit: Kate Ter Haar on Flickr]

Powerpack Giveaway Winners

In the past week, CacheFly & Leo Laporte have been doing a giveaway for 20 Alfred Powerpack license codes. Today, we are announcing the winners of the giveaway, as well as giving everyone who didn’t win an awesome 20% discount on the Powerpack single and family licenses.

If you’ve missed the giveaway, it’s not too late to get the 20% discount code. Sign up on the TWiT giveaway page before 1st August and you’ll receive an email containing your discount code instantly.

We’d also like to say a huge thank you to CacheFly and Leo Laporte & the TWiT team for their collaboration in this giveaway. If you’ve yet to listen to This Week in Tech or any of fantastic shows they create, you should check them out.

Announcing the winners

The 20 winners of the giveaway will be contacted today with the details of how they can claim their Powerpack license code. They are:

  • Nied Hui
  • Eric Unzicker
  • Rob Kreisel
  • Korey Haug
  • Andrea Calvetti
  • Jacob Feinstein
  • Oleksiy Kovyrin
  • Erwin Riley
  • Etseve Graells
  • Elliott Bowles
  • Matt Collins
  • Brooke Gravitt
  • Nathan Walker
  • Max Wolf
  • John Green
  • Brandon Ruschill
  • Marek Zhibo
  • Reginald Hollins
  • Jennifer Liang
  • Leif Brogren

Congratulations to the winners and thank you to everyone who participated!

Cheers,
Vero