Mac Automation Tips

Automate Tasks and Get More Done

Alfred

10+ Ways to Use Alfred to Increase Your Mac Productivity

Even if you already use Spotlight, and now Siri in macOS Sierra, the productivity app, Alfred still has seriously important time-saving and click-savings features that you should be using on your Mac.

As a follow-up to my webinar I presented about Alfred, I thought I’d put together a collection of tips for new users of the program. Below I write about the Alfred features I use the most, including  how I use Alfred with other Mac automation applications.

Most of these tips are based on the Powerpack features of Alfred, which I highly recommend you  upgrading to if you haven’t already.

Alfred powerpack

Triggering Alfred

Alfred is mainly triggered by using assigned a shortcut, such as Command+Spacebar. You can change to another configuration if you like.

Alfred hotkey

However, though I use the above shortcut for triggering Alfred, I also trigger its window using a Keyboard Maestro string trigger. When I want to keep my hands squarely on the keyboard, I simply type “alff,” which triggers the shortcut macro.

I use a similar trigger, “clb” which first triggers Alfred, and then inserts the keyword for the clipboard history feature in Alfred, which I describe next.

Occasionally, if my hand is already on the trackpad, I use a BetterTouchTool finger gesture to trigger Alfred as well. I especially use the  3 Finger ClickSwipe Up when I want to open the clipboard history and select an item to paste.

alfred-preferences-alfred-preferences-friday-september-30-2016-at-6-50-02-pm

And finally, using Dragon Dictate, I can simply issue the voice command, “Alfred,” to also trigger it. However, I don’t use this trigger much anymore since after the recent release of Dragon Dictate 6, I haven’t been able to voice dictate text in the Alfred window.

Clipboard History

I mostly use Alfred for its clipboard history feature. Though I have the clipboard manager, iClip (affiliate link), parked on the left side of my screen, I can sometimes access and paste previously copied items a lot faster as I type using Alfred.

Alfred clipboard history

This feature is especially useful for retrieving items I copied a week or two ago, such as URLs, article titles, and snippets of text.

Google Searches

Alfred makes it super quick to keyword and image searches as I type. If I quickly search for an image, I simply trigger Alfred and then type, “imm” followed the keyword. Presto, that trigger will go straight to the Google image page and do the search, saving me several clicks and typing.

mac_automation_gagbzn

Similarly, I can do a Google “lucky” search, which will present the top search results for my typed keyword.

Website Search

Alfred can also trigger searches inside specified websites. When I need to quickly search my blog, I trigger Alfred, type the keyword, “mat,” followed by the search term, and boom, it opens to the results page, saving me a few clicks and mouse movements.

mac_automation_0bgm59

Note: you can use this code (http://www.macautomationtips.com/?s={query}) to create the custom search for Mac Automation Tips.

Quick Calculations

No need to pull out a calculator when I need a simple calculation. Alfred quickly recognizes when you want it to calculate a number based on how you input the data.

calculation_action

Email

When it comes to searching for emails in Apple’s Mail, it requires a few too many steps, and it’s not that quick. That’s why I use an Alfred workflow for doing email searches and for sometimes sending an email to particular person.

Alfred Email triggers

The workflow allows for searching emails with particular subject line (emsubj) or attachment(ema),  from a specified sender(emfrom), or creating a new email to someone (em). If you need to, you can change the keywords that trigger action to remember it better.

Trigger Shortcuts

Though many of the workflows for Alfred can be somewhat complex for general Mac users, don’t let that stop you from creating simple workflows, such as triggering a hotkey or menu item of an application.

For example, I sometimes need to change my desktop wallpaper for desktop video recordings or webinars. I have a few Keyboard Maestro macros set up to quickly change to my default wallpaper, and another one for the Apple’s Galaxy wallpaper. Both macros have assigned hotkeys, which I can trigger using two Alfred workflows.

Alfred workflow

Normally I trigger those macros using a Dragon Dictate voice command, but what to do…what to do if Dragon Dictate is off, and I don’t want to turn it back on? Well it’s simple, trigger Alfred and type the assigned keyword to change the wallpaper.

When it comes to Mac automation, I always want to have more than one way to trigger the same action.

Show Trashcan

There are occasions when I need to locate an item in my Mac trashcan. If my hand is already on the keyboard, I simply trigger Alfred and type, “trash,” and up pops the folder.

Show trashcan

This command is of one of a dozen System commands that you can trigger, including ejecting disks, logging out your account, and quitting all your opened applications.

Contacts

Alfred’s Contacts is another feature I’ve started using more. I can’t count how many times I’ve actually opened Mail in order to copy someone’s email address.

alfred-demo

Using Alfred, I can simply type a contact’s name, and up pops the contact’s address and phone number. And based on my custom setting, all I have to do is hit the return key to have that address automatically copied to the system clipboard.

Alfred custom settings

 

Other Actions

Alfred can trigger dozens of other actions, including opening and copying files, doing word expansions (similar to how it’s done in TextExpander), presenting word and term definitions, triggering Terminal commands, controlling iTunes, and much more.

The challenge to using Alfred is remembering all that it can do. Before you search email, look for a folder, or look up a contact’s phone number, try to remember that these actions can be performed using Alfred.

If you use Alfred, please share some of your favorite features and how you use the program in your daily workflow.

 

 

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5 Comments

  1. Michael

    I am using Alfred 3. I downloaded the Mail.app search and whenever I type an argument, like “em michael” it opens a google search searching for “em michael” The trigger is recognized but any arguments open a google search. I am on sierra and alfred 3. Any ideas?

  2. I like the clipboard trick. I have a clipboard manager but I think I’ll be able to make use of Alfred for that task. Nice to learn something new.

    • Thanks. I still rely on iClip because sometimes I can’t remember what I copied in the pass. Plus, I use iClip as a notebook for storing all types of clippings for the work I do. Thanks for dropping by, David.

  3. Michael

    I’ll send you images via email

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