10 Great Uses for Alfred’s Hotkeys

One of the best tools in the productive Mac user’s bag of tricks is undoubtedly hotkeys. We can all remember that first lightbulb moment where learning the basic shortcuts in OS X gave us that instant productivity boost!

With Alfred, you can kick this keyboard control into high gear. In this post, I’ve gathered ten of my favourite uses for hotkeys, so take a look at how you can improve your workday by adopting these tricks and creating a few handy hotkeys of your own.

In order to use some of the features below, you’ll need the Powerpack.

1. Launch applications, files or websites

Start your day with focus by using a hotkey to launch the websites, applications and files you need. For example, this workflow launches Mail and Safari, the Alfred forum and my to-do list text file, which makes it easy to kickstart my day while having my first coffee of the morning.

You can connect hotkeys to almost anything in a workflow, so there’s no need to pop up Alfred and type a keyword.

morning links workflow

2. Use the Cmd, Ctrl & Alt modifier keys with Return

When using Alfred’s search box, pressing return will open the application, file or website you’ve selected. Using modifier keys, your return key can do more. Press the modifier keys and you’ll see your results’ subtext change to an alternative action.

modifierkeys

You can change what each modifier key does in the Advanced preferences tab.

3. Launch Alfred with a File Filter

Let’s say you frequently search for PDF documents on your Mac. You can drastically speed up your search by using a hotkey to jump straight to a file filter workflow; No need to launch Alfred and type the keyword for your PDF search workflow.

Press your assigned hotkey to pop up the search box with the file filter already active. Your filter is identified by its icon on the left of the search box.

pdffilter

Download my PDF File Filter Workflow to see how simply you can create your own filters.

4. Large Type

Press Cmd + L to show any text in Alfred in large font across your screen. Handy for seeing phone numbers from across the room (or to share silly messages with everyone behind you in class!)

largetype

5. Paste as plain text

Paste text from the clipboard as plain text without showing the Clipboard Viewer with this handy little workflow.

6. File selection

Found a file in Finder you need to take action on? Select the file and pop up Alfred’s File Action panel with the Cmd + Alt + \ hotkey.

You can even create your own actions and add them to this panel with a “File Action” workflow object for tasks you repeat often.

fileaction

7. Speeding up hotkeys in workflows

This isn’t a hotkey as such, but a way to make your existing workflow hotkeys perform their task even quicker.

To ensure that hotkeys always work smoothly on your Mac, Alfred waits a few milliseconds before letting the modifier keys (alt, cmd, ctrl) go before performing the action associated to your hotkey combination. If you want to speed this up, you can change the trigger behaviour to pass the modifier keys through and give you faster hotkeys.

Right-click on the hotkey field in your workflow object to show the hidden menu below.

hotkeys-settings-fastest

8. Get to the Preferences quickly

Like most OS X applications, Alfred uses the standard Cmd + , (Cmd + comma) to open its preferences, so you can quickly put into action the new things you’ve learned here.

9. Contextual hotkeys

When setting a hotkey in your workflow, you can specify when you want the hotkey to be active by including or excluding applications. Just drag the related apps in!

contextualhotkeys_fade

10. File Buffer

If you need to take action on multiple files at once, the File Buffer is the best way to stack up the files you need before performing an action on all of them.

Use Alt + Up arrow to add a file to the buffer from Alfred’s results and Alt + Right arrow to take action on all of them. For the full set of File Buffer shortcuts, go to the File Search > Buffer preferences or have a look at the File Buffer support page.

Fancy discovering more great productivity features? Have a look at our Tutorials section for tips, tricks and workflows you’ll love.

Tutorial: Clipboard History and Snippets in a Snap

Everyone has an Alfred feature they couldn’t be productive without. For me, it’s Clipboard History.

Clipboard History is a Powerpack feature that has saved me hours of searching for links I’d copied or re-typing text. More than once, it also saved my bacon when my browser or text editor crashed, taking down with it all of my unsaved writing. Thankfully, anything I’d previously saved in Alfred’s clipboard was readily available for me to paste in again.

If you’re not already familiar with Alfred’s clipboard, this tutorial post covers setting up and customising your Clipboard History settings, as well as creating Snippets for your most frequently used bits of text. Even if you think you’re familiar with this feature, you might discover new and useful tips.

Using Clipboard History

One Alfred user called the Clipboard History “the best feature he never knew he needed”; It gives your OS X clipboard a memory so that you can dig through the links, addresses and other useful bits of text you’ve copied recently, making them easier to find and use again.

clipboardviewer

By default, the Clipboard feature is disabled for privacy reasons. To enable it, go to Alfred’s Preferences under Features > Clipboard > History, and check the box next to “Persist for”. You can then choose from the dropdown how long you’d like Alfred to remember your clips for.

You can then show the Clipboard Viewer with a hotkey (Cmd + Alt + V by default) or by using the keyword “clipboard” in Alfred’s search box.

clipboardsearch

The Clipboard Viewer contains the text snippets you’ve copied; You can search by scrolling through the latest 50 clips or by typing a part of your clipped text to narrow down your search to see the relevant clips.

As Alfred strips the formatting from the copied text, you can paste to the currently focused app by selecting the item you want in Alfred’s Clipboard Viewer and hitting the return key without worrying about rogue formatting being pasted in. You can also copy the text back to your current clipboard with Cmd + C.

In the Clipboard preferences, you can choose which applications Alfred should ignore. By default, Keychain Acccess, SecurityAgent, 1Password and Wallet are ignored to ensure that no passwords are saved to your history. You can add to this list if you use a different password manager or want any other applications to be ignored.

Using Snippets

If you often use the same clipboard entries or find you’re typing out the same information frequently (e.g. your address or a particular URL), you can save these bits of text to Snippets.

clipboard snippets

You can create these in Alfred’s preferences, under Features > Clipboard > Snippets. Press the + button (or Cmd + N) to create a new snippet, or double-click an existing one to edit it. Give your Snippet a name and a keyword, then type or paste in the snippet text.

snippet

You can use placeholders within your snippets, so that dynamic content is entered. In the example above, {clipboard} would be replaced with the text in my clipboard.

The Date and Time placeholders use your OS X defaults. You can change these in your Mac’s System Preferences > Language & Region > Advanced in Mavericks (or in Language & Text > Region settings in OS X 10.8):

  • Date: {date}, {date:short}, {date:medium}, {date:long}, {date:full}
  • Time: {time}, {time:short}, {time:medium}, {time:long}, {time:full}

The Clipboard placeholders allow you to quickly format the text while pasting it by uppercasing, lowercasing or capitalising the contents of your clipboard. Using {clipboard} by itself simply pastes the text as plain text.

  • Clipboard: {clipboard}, {clipboard:uppercase}, {clipboard:lowercase}, {clipboard:capitals}

Advanced functionality

Once you’ve set up your Clipboard and Snippets, there are a few additional handy settings you can use.

Advanced users may want to turn on Clipboard Merging, which allows you to append the latest copied clipboard entry to the previously copied text by holding Cmd and double-tapping the C key. You’ll need to switch this on in the Merging preferences.

Your snippets can also be synchronised if you have more than one Mac; Simply go to Alfred’s Advanced Preferences to set up your Dropbox sync folder, and your snippets and many more settings will be synced between your Macs. You can also follow our detailed tutorial on syncing your settings.

You can find more Alfred tutorials here on the blog and on our support site. The forum is also filled with great tips, workflows and custom themes from fellow Alfred users.

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. :)

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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]

Two new custom themes for Alfred version 1.2

Last week, we invited Alfred users to submit their own custom themes for version 1.2. You contributed in droves with over fifty themes to choose from! With your help, we have now picked the themes that will make it into the Alfred core.

Coming soon to your theme selection

Two themes from this competition will be added to Alfred; Dark and Smooth and Pistachio.

Dark and Smooth is a gorgeous deep grey theme with dark blue for the selected result, and was created by Brock Angelo.

Pistachio is the second theme we chose and was created by Chris George. Andrew and I liked this theme as it adds a bit of colour to the range of themes available!

The themes you loved

The creators of the themes you loved most will receive a Powerpack license upgrade and some very special Alfred goodies in the post too.

The first special mention goes to Javier Esquivel’s Elegant theme which received the most votes and looked fantastic.

Unfortunately, we were unable to add it to the default themes as it doesn’t display well over other windows due to its high level of transparency (for example, over text here), making search results difficult to read. If you’d like to use it and perhaps tweak the opacity levels, you can install the Elegant theme.

The Sleek Professional theme by Greg Cruz was also very popular but exhibited the same issues when displayed over a busy background. Install Sleek Pro if it’s the one that stole your heart.

And finally, out of left field came a bright and bold contender, Quick Purple, by Colin J. Kautz. If you love shades of pink and purple, this one is the one for you!

Thank you to everyone who let their inner artist out to play and created a custom theme! You can still download any of the themes created this week from our Facebook page.

Version 1.2 coming soon

The two winning themes will be added to version 1.2, which will be generally available within the next few weeks, alongside many more fantastic features. Check out the impressive change log for the list of new features and improvements coming in this next release.

Don’t forget that you can download and create your own themes and do much more with the Powerpack, so if you’re not sure which of the advanced features might tickle your fancy, check out our comparison chart between the free version and the Powerpack.

Stick around for more fun competitions, tutorials and great extensions in the coming weeks!

Alfred Powerpack and the Mac App Store (or not)

Note: Before I start, this only affects software obtained through the Mac App Store. Any software purchased outside of the Mac App Store isn’t affected by this and continues as before.

The Mac App Store and Sandboxing

The Mac App Store is currently in transition. From March 2012 (update: Apple delayed it until June 2012), all new submissions / updates need to be sandboxed.

Sandboxing is a way of protecting users from malicious or naughty software by severely restricting the access an application has to underlying resources. It also makes the app approval process easier for Apple as sandboxed apps simply cannot do things outside their own resources. While this works remarkably well on iOS (I am personally happy to be in the “walled garden” on my phone), it really changes the landscape for OS X applications.

As you know, Alfred isn’t a self-contained application like a game, graphics package or todo list. Many of the things Alfred does are to do with OS X itself… he searches, navigates and opens files and apps on your Mac, he runs AppleScript to interact with other applications, he even allows you to create and run lower-level shell or AppleScript extensions… he is basically your quick interface into the heart of OS X. This is where Alfred starts to throw his toys out of the [sand]box.

I would LOVE Alfred’s Powerpack in the Mac App Store

Having the Powerpack in the Mac App Store would not only bring me more revenue, but it’s also a trusted discovery channel for new users – I *know* Alfred would have significantly more Powerpack users by selling through this channel.

Alfred has always used safe, public APIs and been extremely well behaved. Nevertheless, sandboxing means that many of the “OS X allowed” Powerpack features mentioned above would need to be limited or removed if I wanted to continue selling through the Mac App Store from and after March 2012.

Therefore, the Powerpack won’t be going in the Mac App Store [quite yet]

Alfred’s users are most important in this decision. I want to do the best thing for users rather than maximising the money I could get from the Powerpack. As such, I will be keeping the Powerpack out of the Mac App Store until the shortcomings of sandboxing are fully understood and I can make a full evaluation of wether this suits Alfred or not.

ULTIMATELY: The scenario I want to avoid…

If the Powerpack went into the Mac App Store for v1.0 at the end of this month (which I could very well do) and then in March 2012, the Mac App Store sandboxing policy is strongly enforced, I would be unable to provide further updates through the Mac App Store without significantly changing or removing features which do not comply with the sandboxing policy.

I *WOULD NOT* want to provide an update to users that removes features which people are already using and enjoying just to get the latest version into the Mac App Store. This is a problem which may plague current apps in the Mac App Store as well as Alfred, and it wouldn’t be fair on anybody.

But what if you want the Powerpack?

Just remember, the Mac App Store is one of many ways to buy software for your Mac, and the sandbox restrictions only affect software sold / bought through the Mac App Store. Your freedom as a consumer still remains!

To make things easier for Alfred users, I have recently changed Alfred Powerpack’s payment process to use our own bespoke system based on the excellent Foxycart. You no longer need to sign up for Google Checkout to buy the Powerpack as we now accept Credit / Debit cards and PayPal directly. Foxycart is also heavily PCI and Safe Harbor compliant and we do not store credit card information, which means you can buy with the utmost confidence.

I do hope that the sandboxing guidelines are relaxed or that at least Apple provides further mechanisms to interact with OS X before March as I would love to use the Mac App Store as another way to bring the Powerpack to Alfred’s users.

Version 1.0 is just around the corner

This being said, Alfred is just about to hit 1.0, an extremely exciting time for me! He is better than ever and this is just the start of great things to come for him. Take a look at the change log to see what’s coming or, for the more adventurous, why not download the development version to have a play and help us test it :D

Also remember that buying the Powerpack now will save you some dosh as he is only £12 until v1.0 is released!

Cheers,
Andrew