Tutorial: Setting Up Your Own Fallback Searches

There’s something almost magical about Alfred learning to predict the result you want most when you type a few characters; It’s the perfect and easy way to search for apps, folders, contacts and other results that live on your Mac.

However, sometimes, you need to do a quick web search. The usual way to do this would be to type “wiki” followed by your search term to launch the relevant Wikipedia page, or type “youtube” to search YouTube. But there IS an even quicker way to search your most-used sites: Fallback searches. They’re the list of search options you see when you search for a keyword that doesn’t match a result on your local Mac.

The default fallback searches are Google, Wikipedia and Amazon, as these are the most commonly used web searches. If you’re a Powerpack user, you can customise these to your favourite sites or actions instead.

Here are my fallback searches; Wikipedia, the OS X dictionary, YouTube, Amazon and Etsy. (and yes, I’m searching for beer)

Screen Shot 2014-08-11 at 14.41.07

You can change your fallback searches in Alfred’s preferences under Features > Default Results, where you’ll see a “Fallback Results” button. Use the + button to add web searches, custom searches and workflow triggers. You can then drag and drop them to reorder them.

fallbacksearch prefs

My fallbacks are a mix of default web searches (Wikipedia, YouTube and Amazon), custom searches (Etsy) and workflow triggers (Dictionary search).

Create custom searches for your favourite websites that aren’t part of Alfred’s default web searches, or create fallback triggers in workflows for actions like “Show definition for {query}”.

Once you’ve arranged these in the order you want, your fallback searches will appear anytime you type a keyword where Alfred doesn’t find a local search result! :)

Enjoyed this post? Take a look at the tutorials for more tips and tricks on making the most of Alfred.

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.

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.

workflow_open_file_specify_open_with

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

workflow_hotkey_example

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.

 

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.