I love productivity tools. There are so many of them available for OS X and testing them is very happy making. But I’ve found one tool really stands out from the rest as truly transformative and that’s Alfred. In this post, I discuss some of the cool things you can do with Alfred, which uses hot keys and keywords to give you access to your apps and helps you be more productive at both work and play.

Getting Started

When installed and run, a little hat icon sits in your menubar. You can click that icon to toggle Alfred and access preferences, but that’s not really how it’s meant to be used. Instead, you toggle Alfred with a keyboard command, ALT + SPACEBAR. A text field displays onscreen awaiting your next command. From here, the magic begins.

Goblin King singing Dance Magic Dance

The best way to learn what Alfred can do is to explore the Preferences dialog which you access typing CMD + , when Alfred is active (meaning, it’s input bar is in view).

Main Alfred preferences dialog window

Learn some basic shortcuts

If you start poking around the preference dialog, you’ll find there are tons of hot keys and keywords you can use to speed up things you do everyday, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed. I’ve found the best way to integrate Alfred into your daily workflow is to pick a small set of commands and practice using them until they become second nature. To start, I recommend using Alfred to launch applications and run basic system commands like restarting your computer.

Open all the apps!

To open an application with Alfred, just type Alfred’s hotkey (ALT + SPACEBAR) and then type the name of the app you want to run. Alfred will display a list of things on your computer matching what you typed. If the app you want to launch is the first result in the list (or the only thing displayed), just hit enter and the app will launch!

Alfred input dialog

If Alfred matches a number of items based on what you typed, hitting enter will launch the first item in the list. If you look at the result list, you’ll see you can launch those items with a shortcut as well (CMD + <#>). You can also use the up and down arrows to navigate through the result list. Hitting enter will launch the selected app.

List of results in the Alfred dialog

For example, in the result list above, CMD + 2, will open Photo Booth.

Do all the math!

When you need to do simple calculations, don’t use the dashboard calculator or main calculator app, just type = in the Alfred input dialog. Now you can do quick math! The result is displayed directly below the input dialog. Hitting enter will copy the result to the clipboard.

Alfred input dialog

Execute system commands like a wizard!

Running common system commands via Alfred is so fast and efficient, you’ll wonder how you ever functioned before.

Harry Potter

Remember, all you have to do to use these shortcuts is hit your Alfred hot key followed by the shortcut and then hit enter. Here are some useful commands:

screensaver Runs your screensaver
emptytrash Empties your trash
logout Logs you out
sleep Puts your system down for a nap
lock Locks your computer when you need to walk away from you desk
restart Restarts your machine
shutdown Shuts down your machine
hide <application> Hides that application
quit <application> Closes that application
forcequit <application> Closes an unresponsive application
quitall Closes all the apps you have open

Next Up - Workflows, Navigation, iTunes, Web Search and More!

Click around at menu items with your mouse no longer!

This post kicks off a series on Alfred and helping you become a power user of this fantastic tool. In the next post, I’ll cover more useful commands that allow you do to things like send a person an email, get word definitions, and explore your file system. In future posts I’ll talk about Alfred’s paid upgrade, the PowerPack, and the very worthwhile features it unlocks. Get ready for productivity!