Mac Productivity

How to Search the Web Like a Pro Using Alfred for Mac

Rahul Saigal 02-07-2018

You probably search the web and your Mac dozens of times per day, but do you do so efficiently?


Using a keyboard shortcut or a keyword, the ever-popular Mac app Alfred provides a quick way to search the web and your computer with tons of power. We’ll show you how to use Alfred to become a search maestro.

Use Default Web Searches

The Web Search feature makes it easy to quickly launch web searches from Alfred. It provides a wide range of default web searches including Facebook, Google, Twitter, Amazon, Wikipedia, and more. To begin a search, prepend your search term with a keyword.

For instance, to search Wikipedia, prepend wiki to the search term. Prepend YouTube to search for videos. You don’t have to remember these keywords; use them regularly and Alfred will automatically suggest them.

Alfred Mac Search Wikipedia

Pressing Enter will open a new page in your default web browser with the results for your search. To see the complete list of supported keywords and configuration details, go to Preferences > Features and click Web Search to view the list in the right pane.


Those keywords are fully customizable. Double-click a keyword and type in a new one to replace it. While it’s not possible to delete the default search, you can disable it. Just uncheck the Enabled box.

Alred Web Search Preferences

Use Custom Web Searches

Alfred also lets you set up search queries for content on specific websites. These sites are not the part of the default web search, so you must create them. To do this, you first need to find out the search URL for that site. Let’s create a custom search for MakeUseOf to explain.

Go to Preferences > Features and click Web Search. Click the Add Custom Search button located in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen. Perform a search on MakeUseOf, then copy and paste the search URL from your browser’s address bar to the Search URL box.


add custom search to alfred

Replace your search term with {query} (in curly brackets). Tick the Encode input as UTF8 option to ensure that the custom searches accept international characters. The default Encode spaces as %20 should work, though this encoding option may vary from site to site. Some might use a plus symbol between the search characters instead.

Enter a Title to set the display text of your keyword; this will show up in Alfred’s results page. Set the keyword you want to use for the custom search as well. Now type in any text and click the Test button to check that you’ve got the correct custom search URL.

setting up Alfred custom search for makeuseof


A Second Custom Search Example

Let’s take another example. If you’re familiar with the best Google search tricks The Best Google Search Cheat Sheet: Tips, Operators, and Commands to Know These special Google search tips, operators, and commands will help you narrow down your search results and always get the exact results you're looking for. Read More , you probably know about the filetype: operator to search for files of a specific type. Open Google and search for filetype:pdf [Your Query].

Google converts this search into a long and messy URL. If you want to use another site, you may need to experiment with the URL, since every website is different.

The trick is to find the query structure after q=[Your Query] and the URL pattern. Paste the URL into a text editor like TextEdit and remove all the other unnecessary UTM and analytics code.

Simplifying Google Search URL


Now paste this clean URL into the Search URL box. Fill in all the details including title, encode options, and keyword as described above. Use the Test button to check the custom search URL you’ve created.

You can also add a logo to the custom search box. It lets you visually scan the result for more efficiency.

Alfred custom search for Google pdfs

Once you create the custom search, you can share it with others. Click the Copy URL for sharing button to copy the custom search and paste it into any document. It includes all the search parameters, title, and keyword. Another user just has to click the unique URL starting with alfred:// to import the custom search.

Websites will change and evolve, so searches that work now have issues in the future. To solve this, take a look at the website’s custom search and follow the steps again.

More Custom Search Examples

Once you set up a custom search, you don’t have to waste time searching for content on specific sites. Just type a keyword followed by your query.

Here are some more search URLs for popular sites to get you started. Fill in the title and keyword fields with whatever you’d like.

Search the Dictionary

Alfred provides access to the default macOS dictionary to help you quickly spell a word or define its meaning. Use the keywords define or spell followed by a word to give it a try. As you type, Alfred will start guessing the word. Press Enter to open the word in Dictionary app.

search dictionary in alfred

To change the Alfred dictionary, go to Preferences > Features and click Dictionary. In the right pane select a new language from the Language section.

change the default dictionary in alfred

To search the thesaurus, open the Thesaurus tab within the Dictionary app. The define keyword will then take you straight to a list of applicable synonyms and antonyms. Alternatively, you can setup a custom search for Set the search URL as{query}.

Do More With Alfred Workflows

Alfred’s most basic form has more search options than Spotlight Search More Efficiently In Mac OS X With Our Top Spotlight Tips Spotlight has been a killer Mac feature for years, with Cupertino regularly schooling Redmond in the art of desktop search. Here are a few tips to help you find more on your Mac. Read More . It lets you perform basic web searches with different search engines. You can also set up keywords to search content on the websites you use regularly.

But with the Powerpack add-on available for $25, you can extend Alfred in a variety of ways. One of the most powerful is Workflows. In comparison to web search, these integrate with your favorite Mac apps and web services and display results inline.

Here are a few of the best.

Movie and TV Show Search

This lets you search for a movie or TV show and displays the movie ratings and score inline.

To use this workflow, type movie, then a movie title. Press Enter to get the information about that movie. In the same way, type TV, then a TV show title.

movie and tv show search in alfred

Search GitHub

With this workflow, you can search through GitHub. You need to log in before using it, though. Type gh > login to authenticate your account. Then you can use various commands to search GitHub.

It has commands for specific repositories, users, your GitHub account, and special workflow commands.

search github workflow for alfred

Search Any Website

This workflow is true to its name. Type web followed by a prefix to signify the scope of the search, much like DuckDuckGo’s Bangs 25 Cool DuckDuckGo Bangs That Make Google Search Look Slow DuckDuckGo's bang feature is one of its most time-saving and handy tricks. Here are 25 useful DuckDuckGo bangs to get you started! Read More .

For example, when you type web r: it will search all subreddits. Meanwhile, web t: will search Google Translate. See the download page for details on expanding these.

search any website Alfred workflow

Search Homebrew and Cask

This workflow lets you efficiently manage Homebrew and Cask packages How to Install Mac Apps in Terminal Using Homebrew Did you know you can install Mac software in the Terminal? Here's how to use Homebrew to install Mac apps easily. Read More without using the Terminal. It supports commands like doctor, info, install, list, uninstall, search, and more.

Type brew or cask and select the command you wish to invoke. You can see and install packages right from Alfred.

search cask packages through alfred

Alfred Puts Powerful Mac Searches in Your Hands

Alfred is the Spotlight search bar on steroids. With a bit of work, you can expand the free version to search your favorite websites. And search masters can get a ton of use of what the Powerpack add-on unlocks.

Once you start using Alfred, you can save both time and effort while searching the web. Just like how Alfred can replace Spotlight, take a look at other Mac apps you can substitute with powerful alternatives 9 Default Mac Apps You Can Replace With Powerful Alternatives Frustrated by missing features? We've got a few alternatives you might want to try. Read More .

Related topics: Mac Tricks, Search Tricks, Web Search.

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