If you haven’t been using Alfred, the amazing app launcher (and much more) on your Mac, you’ve been missing out. It started out as an app launcher, a la Quicksilver, but continued to get improvements and additions over time until now, version 2.0 can do a ton of things on your Mac, all with a quick hotkey press on the keyboard.
Let’s take a look at one of the most basic things Alfred can do for you: launching apps. Once you’ve upgraded to or downloaded Alfred version 2, you can import your version 1 settings, and be ready to roll.
Once installed and running, Alfred will work immediately as an app launcher. Open the Preferences from the menu bar Alfred icon, and you’ll see the General pane. Make sure “Launch Alfred on startup is checked, and then make a note of the Hotkey. The default is Option-Space, but change mine to mirror a key combination I’ve been using since Quicksilver: Control-Space. Either way, this key combo will activate Alfred, and let you type in any app (or document) by name.
Start typing the name of the app you’d like to launch, and a list of ten apps that start with the letters you type will appear. The list will refine itself as you type. For example, if I type an “s” into Alfred, I see Safari, Skype, Spotify, and so on. When I type in “a” as the second letter, the list reduced down to Safari and then contacts I have that start with Sa.
When you see the app or document you want to launch at the top of the list, you can hit the return key to launch it. If your app is farther down the list, hit the Command key and the number on the list (the second app is Command-2, the third Command-3, and so on).
Back in the Preferences, click on the Features tab at the top, then the Default Results icon in the left hand pane. You can check or uncheck all the file types you’d like Alfred to search or ignore. If you don’t want to filter through a bunch of Contacts when you activate Alfred, uncheck the box next to Contacts.
Now you’ll be finding and launching apps like a pro, never really having to use aliases or the Dock if you choose not to. Alfred is the best way, in my opinion, to take control of your Mac’s application launches, letting you find and run apps without ever having to take your hands off the keyboard.