Interview: Alfred Picks Up Where Quicksilver Left Off

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Alfred is a new keyboard launcher in the spirit of Quicksilver, Butler and LaunchBar.

A (free) beta was released last weekend by the UK-based team who’ve developed it.

If you’ve ever used any of those other keyboard launchers, Alfred will be instantly familiar. You invoke it using a global shortcut, then type whatever you want to find. Type an app name to launch it, or type “google” then your search term to search Google.

It has built-in shortcuts for searching Google, Amazon, eBay, Wikipedia, Bing, Twitter and plenty of others. It can also hunt down specific files or folders on your hard disk.

What it can’t do – yet – is the complex “noun-verb” style command that Quicksilver devotees loved Quicksilver for.

One thing that impresses me most about Alfred is its speed. Most keyboard launchers need to spend some time indexing your drive before they can be helpful, but Alfred was up and running in seconds. If it did do any indexing, it must have done it in the background without bothering me.

Curious to know more about the hows and whys behind Alfred, I contacted the team and spoke to Vero Pepperrell.

She’s been a Mac user since childhood, and has been an avid Quicksilver user for years. But as Quicksilver development slowed down, she and her husband Andrew looked around for something to replace it.

The trouble with alternatives like Butler, Google Quick Search Box, and LaunchBar, she says, is that they’re not simple enough out of the box.

“Butler, for example, requires a certain understanding of what you’re doing. We wanted something anyone could use immediately. I wanted something my dad could use.”

So Alfred was born. Designer Oliver Kavanagh – a friend of the Pepperrell husband-and-wife team – was brought in to “make the app look amazing”.

The future is already mapped out, says Vero.

“At the moment we are planning that it should remain a free app,” she says. “And we will be opening it up to third-party developers who want to create plug-ins. All the extra stuff, like controlling iTunes, will be stuff we’ll want Alfred to support in time.”

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About the author

Giles TurnbullGiles Turnbull is a freelance writer in England. He also writes for the Press Association and The Morning News. You can find out more at his website, and follow him on Twitter @gilest.

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