I am a MacPower User wannabe, and am trying to up my game. I’m tempted to just by all the apps you guys talk about (Hazel! Keyboard Maestro! Text Expander!), but I’m trying to pace myself. I have purchased a few, and I just got a SetApp subscription so I am starting there. I am going to methodically try to utilize the apps I have access to already before I buy anything new.
So I’m starting with Alfred (it’s free!) and I’ve already run into a snag. Do I need to purchase a PowerPack? Can I learn how to use it well without it? I have 1password and it seems like that is an integration I would get with a PowerPack? I’m already lost. Any guidance you all could give me would be appreciated. And any Alfred tutorials I should be looking at?
You do need the PowerPack for the 1Password integration, but as a PowerPack user, I have never used it. I find the 1P menu bar app and browser plugins to serve my needs.
I do love the other stuff you can do with PowerPack, though. In particular, I use the clipboard manager constantly throughout the day, I’ve got some custom web searches set up, and I’ve downloaded a bunch of Alfred workflows from the web.
However, you can do lots of great stuff without it. Launching apps, searching the web, etc. The free version alone is an improvement on Spotlight, and you’ll quickly get used to using it to launch applications without LaunchPad or your Applications folder or even the Dock.
For me, Alfred is by far my most used tool from among those you mentioned. I think you’ll find it to help in all sorts of ways.
If you’re interested in Alfred, get the Power Pack. It will give you workflows, forum support, and a bunch of other features. The devs are awesome and it gets regular updates. As for tutorials, use the forum, it’s very active. They also have good support documentation.
Alfred is great, and I prefer to use it with the PowerPack. However there is something to consider with every tool, what exactly are you hoping to accomplish with it?
The 1Password integration is a powerpack feature, and it’s definitely nice to have! I have several workflows set up which make life easier - like clocking me out at work and shutting my machine down all together
You reminded me of something I do everyday with Alfred that it is a built in feature: “ejectall” to eject all removable media. I have so many things I do with Alfred that have just because second-nature.
I think the best way to know if you need PowerPack is to take a look at some of the lists found here or on Packal. See if workflows stand out to you and make you say “I NEED THIS!” That was how I pulled the trigger on PowerPack. Similarly, on the other apps you’re interested in, it’s best to figure out the things you’d like to do and/or things you know can be done in a more automated way before buying apps to do so. That way you can really get your money’s worth.
That was super helpful! Thank you! We’re definitely in a similar boat! Good luck to you!
@RosemaryOrchard would there be any possibility of starting a category for novices? I think it would be valuable to several of us “mac intermediate users” (just me?). Or should we just continue to ask questions throughout the forum in the various categories as they are pertinent?
Exactly. “Novice” at what? Using the software that’s most often prescribed on the show? Because there are plenty of people on here who don’t have KM, Hazel, TextExpander, etc. Novice at knowing the ins and outs of what you can get just from settings/system prefs? There’s an episode or two every couple months that focus a lot on at least the settings specific to a topic.
@caitlin If you’re not using anything that you feel makes you a “power user,” the first thing I’d recommend is looking at your needs. I was using a handful of great apps before I discovered MPU last year, and there’s some tools I know I will eventually buy that I still haven’t picked up yet, because I don’t feel my needs at this moment warrant buying them.
With that said, Alfred is a great example of an app that you don’t know you need until you’ve used it, and I feel that the biggest parts of the functionality are locked behind the PowerPack.
I’d recommend rebinding Alfred to ⌘space and unbinding Spotlight, because Alfred’s file browser (and actions!) are SO much more powerful. I still need to open Finder for some file actions (though there’s many I accomplish all in Alfred), but opening Finder is easily done from an action (after pushing the right arrow key)
I wouldn’t be getting much out of custom websearches if I wasn’t using Safari to be honest, but the powerful file features and workflows are very much worthwhile on their own. It also has a good clipboard manager if you don’t feel the need to have one that syncs with iOS (I don’t) and a good starting place for text expansion if you don’t need something as powerful as TextExpander.
Workflows are where Alfred really shines for me though. I use it to add reminders, Fantastical events, add to Omnifocus, quickly add notes to and search in Bear, convert units, calculate dates, and pull up some more advanced links than the custom websearches are capable of doing. There are all sorts of other great uses for workflows beyond what I have running, and the best part it I just downloaded others’ code. I didn’t have to learn anything to use these. I have enough system shortcuts bound already, that I much prefer if I can pull something up or input something with Alfred, and many times I don’t have to even open that app to make my input.
As mentioned earlier, find a problem and then use Alfred to automate it. I use Alfred when I want to shorten a process that I repeat.
I can type an Alfred search term such as “movie lord of the rings”. My workflow will open a multiple window in Safari showing ‘lord of the rings’ in Amazon, Walmart, Wikipedia, Rotten Tomatoes, and IMDB. I use this search when I want to check prices and see movie reviews.
I’ve been using Alfred for years, but I don’t really have any idea why. I’m pretty sure all I do with it is launch apps and feel cross that it isn’t loaded yet right after a reboot. I’ve built custom things to open all the sites I need to pay my bills, for example, but I haven’t found those to save the time it would take to keep them maintained, and I’ve never managed to train myself to use it for things like searching google since it saves no time over using a browser.
Granted, since I’m not using spotlight, it could be that spotlight does something irritating I don’t know about and I’m having an optimal experience, but I’m thinking of removing Alfred to see if I miss it. As much as I enjoy MPU, I’m sure it’s sold me on gadget apps which, like real gadgets, can turn into clutter if you don’t need them.
I’ve been a powerpack user for… at least 10 years… before the 1.0 launch in 2011. I can’t live without Alfred and when I use a non-alfred computer I’m LOST.
Main Alfred/powerpack features I use on a daily (or multiple times per weekly) basis:
Text expansion (email signatures, addresses, portions of addresses, my first and last name, spelling corrections, and since I transcribe a lot of interviews I have a lot of expansion for complex and frequently used words and transcription conventions, I have the current date in various formats, several stock email replies, etc.)
I have a workflow that toggles my work VPN on/off
I have a workflow that searches Google Schoolar for a given query and enables my work VPN at the same time if it isn’t already enabled.
I have a workflow that searches the library catalogue at the university I work at.
I have a workflow that forces mail to check for messages after a hotkey sequence.
I have a workflow that forces pasting clipboard as plain text
I have a workflow that empties the trash in response to a keyboard shortcut
I have a workflow that responds to a hotkey combination and opens a new finder window.
I have a workflow (downloaded from the Alfred Forums) that passes a query to DEVONthink’s Search window.
I use it to open apps more than any other method
I make extensive use of the clipboard manager, I find that massively indespsinble. I always forget this isn’t on every computer so when I’m helping someone out I’ll copy a few things to the clipboard, hit Alfred’s clipboard manager shortcut, and wonder why the clipboard manager hasn’t opened!
I have custom/fallback searches for apple maps, amazon, and Wikipedia that get used several times per week.
I use it to eject my external drives several times a day.
I use its various file manipulation features to move files around A LOT (e.g., from my downloads folder to an appropriate destination, etc).
Special search just for system files.
Special search just for PDFs
Special search for files tagged a certain way
A few workflows I downloaded from Packal/the Alfred community, but many I did myself – even the more complex ones are built out of relatively simple bits (e.g., the custom searches), and at a maximum a couple lines of AppleScript easily found on Google (e.g., my VPN ones are about 3 lines of AppleScript).
When I first started using Alfred I really just used it as an app launcher and for some built-in custom searches.
But over the last 10 years, as new features have been added and my needs have grown, the list of things that I rely on Alfred for has grown immensely, especially in the last couple of years.
I had been using textexpander prior to Smile changing it to a subscription model, but my expansion needs are fairly modest and couldn’t justify the increase in price (not a dig at Smile/Textexpander!), though I miss the more advanced features like being able to select different options within snippets, etc.
Alfred is as powerful as you want to to be. I don’t know if it’s better or worse than say, quicksilver or launchbar, but it’s the tool I use. It’s a bit of TextExpander, a bit of keyboard maestro, and a bit of quicksilver/launchbar/spotlight all rolled into one, so it is what you need it to be.
Strongly recommend even if you just want a slightly faster and less cluttered Spotlight. It won’t take you long until you start making use of its many other features!
I’ll just throw this question in here since it’s quasi-relevant and the feature is mentioned right in @davemacdo’s initial reply: while Alfred is a powerful spotlight replacement, can it be set up to do everything Spotlight can? For example, I use News Explorer as my RSS reader and all of its items are integrated into Spotlight; for example, if I have an article titled “Mac Power Users Launches New Forum”, if I open spotlight and search “mac power forum” it will pull up a link right to that article in News Explorer. Is this sort of deep content (and by association, metadata) searching exclusive to Spotlight, or can Alfred tap into it too?