Alfred 2Alfred, one of my favourite productivity apps for the Mac just saw a major upgrade. Alfred 2 is a complete redesign of the app that includes numerous enhancements as well as a major new feature called Workflows.

Among other things, Workflows can be used to assign keyboard shortcuts to frequently accessed applications, folders, websites, web searches and system commands. As a general rule, it’s much faster to control your Mac using the keyboard than it is using the mouse or trackpad. Setting up and learning keyboard shortcuts takes a little investment in time, and it’s an investment that quickly starts to pay dividends.

The main challenges people have when it comes to hotkeys are:

Keyboard Conflicts — Hotkeys must be chosen careful to prevent conflicts with the hotkeys that come with the apps you use as well as system-level hotkeys. The key (pardon the pun) is to choose keyboard combinations that are unlikely to already be defined elsewhere.

Remembering Hotkeys — It can also be a challenge to remember a long list of hotkeys. One solution is to use standard conventions when assigning hotkeys and to use these hotkeys regularly so that they become ingrained. In many cases, using the hotkeys consistently for a few days is all it takes to develop the muscle memory that makes using them automatic.

The following video introduces recommended conventions and walks you through the process of defining hotkeys in Alfred 2. Please note that you’ll need to purchase the Alfred PowerPack before proceeding as the Workflows feature is not available in the free version of Alfred.

Alfred Hotkey Conventions

The conventions referenced in the video are:

Launch Application: ⌃ + ⇧ + key
e.g. ⌃ + ⇧ + T to launch TextEdit

Open Folder: ⌃ + ⌥ + key
e.g. ⌃ + ⌥ + C to open Clients folder

Open Website: ⌥ + ⇧ + key
e.g. ⌥ + ⇧ + L to open LinkedIn website

System Action: ⌃ + ⌥ + ⌘ + key
e.g. ⌃ + ⌥ + ⌘ + ⌦ to empty trash

Web Search: ⌃ + ⌥ + ⌘ + key
e.g. ⌃ + ⌥ + ⌘ + G to search Google

Show Clipboard History: Double-tap ⌘

Show Documents Folder: Double-tap ⌃

Show Desktop Folder: Double-tap ⌥

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20 Responses to Alfred 2 Hotkeys Screencast

  1. Brett Nord says:

    Thank you for creating this screencast. Very helpful to see you walk through the steps of creating workflows that I tend to do often! This will make it much smoother. Good work.

  2. […] TechnicallySimple: Alfred 2 Hotkeys Screencast […]

  3. Michael Aaron says:

    Great job on this, Tim! Really useful stuff.
    Do you have a link to download these workflows (if we are ok with doing it exactly as you do)?

    • Tim Stringer says:

      Thanks Michael! I thought about including a link to the workflows, but given that everyone’s folder structure, apps, favourite websites, etc. vary so much I didn’t think it would be that useful overall.

  4. jimmy says:

    Great info in here! I was a big Quicksilver user and switched to Alfred last year. This update gets me a little closer!

    (one little nag – please get a shock mount for your mic or put your mic stand on a towel so we don’t hear every trackpad click through the mic. It can be very distracting.)

    • Tim Stringer says:

      Glad to hear this was useful, Jimmy! And point well taken on the clicking sound. I’ll address this in the next screencast I record.

  5. cantab says:

    The icons for your workflow looks awesome. Where can I get them?

  6. Timm says:

    Hi Tim, thanks a million for this, very useful!

    One comment: I think it makes sense to check the ‘toggle visibility for apps’ box for the app hotkeys. In case people miss it on their screens while configuring those.

    Thanks again, this really helped me a lot, I transferred a lot of stuff directly, but also re-did a workflow I had because you made me aware of a built-in feature.

    Cheers!

    • Tim Stringer says:

      Glad to hear you found this useful Timm…and thanks for the mention on your blog! Interesting idea to use the hotkey to toggle visibility if the app is in the foreground. My personal preference is for the hotkey not to do anything if the app is already in the foreground and to use ⌘+H to hide the app.

      • Timm says:

        True, that works as well. But with one disadvantage: If there’s an app in fullscreen, ⌘+H doesn’t bring you back to the desktop you were on before. With ‘toggle visibility’ enabled, the app shortcut does. I find that very useful for peeking at Reeder for example, that’s sitting in fullscreen around all day.

        And also without that, this ‘peeking’ aspect works nicer with pressing the same shortcut twice instead of using one for launching and another one for hiding.

  7. […] TechnicallySimple: Alfred 2 Hotkeys Screencast […]

  8. […] you’ve watched my Alfred 2 Hotkeys screencast, you know that I’m a big fan of shortcut keys. I maintain that it’s a good idea to […]

  9. Mike Stok says:

    Thanks for this screencast, it gave me the push I needed to buy the Alfred Power Pack and make Alfred a load more useful to me.

  10. guoc says:

    I really like these tips. I was trying to switch to LaunchBar from Alfred. This is the only reason I couldn’t leave Alfred. But now I have another solution. With [Karabiner](https://pqrs.org/osx/karabiner/), I can use space bar to replace these modifier keys combinations. e.g. hold space bar and press S to launch Safari, hold space bar and press ` to open home folder, etc. This is my config file. I hope you like it. https://gist.github.com/guoc/822a5488bd852e59a871

    • Tim Stringer says:

      Thanks for your comment and for sharing your Karabiner config file. I’ve played with Karabiner in the past and it looks like a great app. Since recording this screencast, I’ve switched from Alfred to LaunchBar. Both are great apps, but LaunchBar has some power user features I really like. I use the same conventions for keyboard shortcuts in my current workflow, but now implement them using Keyboard Maestro.

  11. Rick Mathes says:

    Tim, I’d love to know which power features you like in LaunchBar. I’ve long used LaunchBar and Keyboard Maestro and love them both. I explored Alfred 2 when it came out and decided that I didn’t need it. I took another look with the launch of Alfred 3 and decided to get it along with the Powerpack to play with it and there are some workflows that I really like that I can’t replicate elsewhere. For example, in Alfred 3 I can search for any task in Omnifocus, I don’t have to go to Omnifocus and switch to the appropriate perspective. Or there’s a powerful workflow for searching in Evernote directly from Alfred. Haven’t figured out how to do that in Launchbar.

    And, structuring simple workflows is easier in Alfred than in Keyboard Maestro for certain things. For example, I have a few different comics that I like to view daily. I now have an Alfred workflow to open a new browser window and then 4 tabs in that window, one for each of my comics. Could probably have done that in KM but it was easy in Alfred once I figured out basic workflow principles.

    My guess is I’ll keep using Launchbar for web searches (better than Alfred for this) and finding/manipulating files, will keep using Keyboard Maestro for a lot of things (I probably have 50-100 shortcuts in KM), but I’ll definitely make use of workflows in Alfred.

    • Tim Stringer says:

      Thanks for your feedback, Rick. I’ve decided to stick with LaunchBar for now, but Alfred is also a great choice (and I use the Alfred Remote feature when leading webinars for easy access to apps). I’m planning to produce some content for Learn OmniFocus that will provide some practical ways to use OmniFocus with both LaunchBar and Alfred. Stay tuned!

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