Improving Efficiency With Alfred

by Drew Barontini

Alfred is a powerful efficiency application for the Mac. I use it to launch applications, search sites on the web, create custom workflows, and a whole lot more. I’d like to focus on a few, specific aspects of Alfred usage: Custom Searches and Hotkeys.

I’ve written about my Alfred Setup, so read that article, if you’d like more details into the overall setup.

Custom Searches

Custom searches in Alfred allow us to to open a URL — optionally passing in a query — to use in a site search:

With this custom search in place, we can then do the following:

Rather than providing a search query, I create searches to operate as bookmarks:

For example, here I have a custom search to visit http://www.codeschool.com. To get to it, I bring up Alfred, type cs, and hit enter.

I have a large set of prefixed keywords to visit various sites. Here is a collection of Code School-related URLs:

And you could do this for any URLs you frequently access.

You might ask, “Why not just use browser bookmarks?” The benefit of this approach is you can perform the action from anywhere. You don’t have to be focused on the browser to do so.

Hotkeys

The second aspect of Alfred I’d like to talk about is hotkeys. Specifically, creating a custom workflow for toggling the visibility of applications via hotkeys.

Workflows require the Powerpack, which is a paid feature of Alfred. I highly recommend it.

As a quick example, here are a few hotkeys I use:

  • alt+c: Toggle Google Chrome
  • alt+k: Toggle Slack
  • alt+m: Toggle Airmail
  • alt+t: Toggle Spotify
  • alt+z: Toggle Tweetbot
  • alt+i: Toggle iTerm2
  • alt+e: Toggle Evernote
  • alt+d: Toggle Todoist

Setting up the workflow

In order to set up the “Hotkeys” workflow, follow these steps:

1. Create a new workflow

Click the plus (+) button in the bottom left of the Workflows screen and select Blank Workflow:

Fill out the appropriate metadata:

2. Add a hotkey trigger

Click the plus (+) button at the top right of the Workflows screen and select Triggers > Hotkey:

3. Add the action

Click the plus (+) button at the top right and select Actions > Launch Apps / Files:

Drag the application you want to toggle into the pane and click Save:

Be sure to check the Toggle visibility for apps option.

4. Connect the trigger and action

Drag the connector from the action to the trigger to connect the two.

And that’s it! You can add as many hotkeys as you’d like. I do recommend, though, you keep it to a small set of applications you use the most.

That’s All, Folks

Improve your Alfred efficiency with custom-search bookmarks and application hotkeys to focus your most-used applications. Even small changes like these can improve your efficiency. Go forth and Alfred!