50 Mac Essentials #26: Alfred



Before I sing the praises of Alfred, allow me a moment to pay homage to its ancestors: LaunchBar and Quicksilver.

These were the applications that pioneered super-fast keyboard launchers. LaunchBar came first, a respected and very stable paid-for product. Quicksilver followed, with its own very different approach, stringing commands together to create “sentences” – get this object, do this action with it, append the results to this other object.

Both were excellent applications. LaunchBar is still going strong, but Quicksilver has faded from the limelight somewhat. (Its creator now works on Google’s very similar Quick Search Box product.)

Now, enter stage right: Alfred. A similar idea with similar execution and many similar features, Alfred is an excellent alternative to either Quicksilver or LaunchBar, and comes with some of its own unique features.

You can, it’s true, do a lot of quick launching and finding via the Spotlight search menu at the top-right of your screen, and indeed that’s what I would recommend most beginners start with.

Spotlight is an excellent tool, but after a while, some more advanced or ambitious users will find it lacking in some areas. That’s the time to download and try out Alfred. It’s much faster than Spotlight, it’s optimised for the keyboard rather than the mouse, and the Powerpack of optional extras is a compelling package.