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00 Alfred Logo.jpgIn the previous article Alfred - A Free Alternative Launcher To Quicksilver & QSB [Mac] Alfred - A Free Alternative Launcher To Quicksilver & QSB [Mac] Read More we talked a little bit about Alfred, a free alternative application launcher for Mac. While it’s not yet up to par to its seniors like Quicksilver and QSB 10 More Things You Can Do with Quick Search Box [Mac] 10 More Things You Can Do with Quick Search Box [Mac] Read More , Alfred has the potential to eventually be a serious rival to them.

And as promised, in today’s discussion, we’ll dig deeper into Alfred’s usage and see how it can optimize your daily Mac experience.

Basic Usage

As an application launcher, using Alfred is similar to using other launchers: you hit the keystroke combination, and then type in the command/search string. As you can see from the picture, Alfred has a bigger display than QSB.

00 Comparison of size.jpg

The default keystroke for Alfred is “Option + Spacebar”, but you can change it into your own chosen combination if you want to by going to “Preferences – General – Essential“.


01a Changing the Default Key.jpg

However, Alfred has its own tricks which makes the app different from the rest. After doing a search, you can go directly to one of the results by hitting another keystroke combination: “Return” for the first result and “Command + Specified Number” for other results.

01b Key Combination.jpg

For old time Quicksilver and QSB users, you can still use the arrow keys to navigate through results.

Quick Access To Dictionary

If your work requires you to always have access to word definitions, then Alfred might be able to give you a quick solution.

Summon Alfred and type in “Define” followed by the word that you want to look up. Alfred will come up with several suggestions and you can quickly open any of them in the Dictionary using the keystroke.

02a Word Definitions.jpg

I myself like QSB’s way of accessing Dictionary better than Alfred’s, but that’s just my personal preference.

02b QSB Search Bar.jpg

Quick Calculator

Alfred can also serve as a quick calculator. Using it as such is as simple as hitting the “=” key in Alfred’s search field followed by the calculation that you want to do.

03 Quick Calculator.jpg

But before you can do the quick calculation, you’ll have to first activate the “Calculator” function under the Experimental tab in the Preferences window.

03b Calculator Function.jpg

Quick Access To The Web

The one thing that I like most about Alfred is its ability to quickly access/search the many sides of the web, starting from Google to Twitter to your own chosen sites.

The list of accessible sites and the commands used to activate them are there on the “Preferences – Web” and as discussed in the previous part, you can customize the command simply by clicking and retyping.

04a Standard Sites.jpg

To make the picture clearer, let’s see an example. Suppose you want to go with the default command and not change anything, here are the steps to shorten an URL using the “” service: press “Option + Spacebar” to activate Alfred, then type “bitly” followed by the URL that you want to shorten. Hit “Return” to complete the process.

04b Shorten URL.jpg

You can add a search function to your favorite sites by customizing them in the “Preferences – Web – Custom Sites“. Click the plus (+) and start filling in the necessary fields.

04c Alfred Custom Sites.jpg

However, there’s one thing that you should pay attention to: the “Search URL” field. You should use this pattern for the URL: http://your_fav_{query} where {query} will be the blank that you will fill with search strings later.

A trick that I use is to add a Google search specific to a site, and the Search URL will therefore look something like this:{query}

Where “the_URL” (sans quote) will be the address of the site that you want to search on and %20 is the substitute of blank space.

So, the URL for a Google search of the MakeUseOf site will look like:{query}

Don’t forget to click the “Add” button after everything is done.

04d Alfred Customized Search.jpg

And here’s the result:

04e Search MUO.jpg

The Growing Butler

Above are the things that I could share regarding using Alfred based on my early experiments with it.

So far I think Alfred is a good app, but it still can’t replace my current launcher. Alfred still hasn’t played the leading role. For now, it’s just the supporting actor. But being a beta app, Alfred will surely become better and better as time goes by.

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