Here’s a look at a Mac utility which you could easily use many dozens of times a day and wonder how you got along without it. If you launch apps, search the web, and search your Mac, then you’ll appreciate this free tool that does it better– but does even more than better if you have the money.
The Butler Does It
I like to think of Alfred as a Mac butler. I tell it what to do with a few keystrokes, and it does what I ask almost instantly. Alfred is free, but becomes even better with a little extra cash. Alfred is a keyboard app for the Mac. That means it can be summoned by a few keystrokes. What it does is launch apps, search your Mac or the web for files or pages.
Alfred makes it easier to keep your hands on the keyboard for specific functions like calculations, spelling, emptying the trash, restart or shut down, and much more.
Of course, using the keyboard makes Alfred perform all those tasks, but remembering keyboard shortcuts can be difficult, so you can still point and click.
Alfred seems to be able to think about what you want to do, and learns which apps you use most, and prioritize them in the pop up listing. That means Alfred can do all this and more:
- Find apps and files from the keyboard
- Search the web with customer keywords
- Perform quick calculations on the fly
- Spell and define words as needed
- Enter basic System Commands
- View the Mac’s clipboard history
- Control iTunes
- View recent files and documents
Yes, that’s right. Alfred can control Mac apps, including iTunes.
Or, use Alfred to search for files on your Mac. Simply start typing when Alfred opens up and you can browse files, folders, bookmarks, contacts, music in a playlist, and much more. Alfred learns what you like. It can search through the web, too, including quick looks at Maps, eBay, Wikipedia, Amazon, or any popular search site you prefer.
The key to using Alfred is the Preferences list. Set up functions for everything you want Alfred to do. Once you’re done, you’re done, and Alfred does the work and does much– but not all– of the above for free.
Regardless, you control the functions by assigning them to Alfred, so it searches sites you prefer, launches the apps you use the most, but also digs into your Mac’s apps to find files, photos, documents, contacts, even website bookmarks.
Add the extra Powerpack to Alfred and you get some of the above functionality and more functions.
Alfred is a cleverly done app that anyone can use, and in many ways is better than Spotlight and the Dock. The only caveat is how Alfred is used. It’s keyboard centric, but that’s step one to becoming a Mac power user.