Alfred

Alfred for macOS is an excellent digital assistant that can help with a range of daily competing tasks, whether you’re disabled or not but if you are it’s a great accessibility aid.

part of my toolchain

the very first piece of software I install

Continuing the toolchain series of posts, detailing how thoughts get from the inside of my giant head out into the world and onto the Internet like this I’d like to introduce you to Alfred. Alfred is almost the very first piece of software I install on any new Mac (after the accessibility stuff, obv!) because it’s simply one of the most useful applications I use on a daily basis, think of it like a digital assistant that can do pretty much anything.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I’ve had Alfred so long that I can’t really remember, but I think I was given a lifetime ultimate user license after I wrote something nice a few years ago as a little thank you from the guys that write Alfred. That’s not why I wrote this post, it’s not a paid endorsement and I think I’ve actually bought a couple of licences accidentally because I forgot that I had a lifetime user license! But, if we don’t pay for small independent firms to make single use awesome bits of software like this then they will just cease to be.


Workflows

emails, phone calls, spell checking, calculating numbers and stuff, finding files, renaming files, moving files…

With that out of the way let me address the term “pretty much anything”. Yes, I know this is a very woolly, hand wavy technical term but in this case it happens to be true! Alfred is capable of sending emails, starting phone calls, spell checking, calculating numbers and stuff, finding files, renaming files, moving files, and that’s not even ten of its core functions. It can do way more, and is only limited by what you need it to do and your ability to implement those functions, really.

If Alfred doesn’t do what you want or need out of the box then you can download one of the many Workflows, which are plug-ins that are easy to install and extend Alfred in many many different ways. There are far too many workflows to list here but to name a couple you can control Spotify, search your Google Chrome Bookmarks and control the LastPass password manager all from within Alfred. These are just three examples of the hundreds available.


Forums

the community are really welcoming

If you don’t find what you’re looking for on the Workflows site, you could head over to the forums and simply ask if somebody will help you with your problem (which they probably will!). There’s also the comprehensive Help section you could look through as well. If you’re a programmer it’s incredibly easy to create workflows yourself, and if you’re not a programmer the learning curve really isn’t that steep to creating your own workflows. And like I say, the community are really welcoming and the people that make Alfred are also very lovely so I’m sure you’ll get the help you need.


Accessibility

a great application from an accessibility standpoint

On top of all of this Alfred is a great application from an accessibility standpoint, it can reduce clicking on multiple icons and searching through menus to simply opening Alfred with a speech command or keyboard shortcut and getting straight to doing what you need to do. But it’s Alfred’s openness which is its strength, you can tailor it to your particular disability, that’s what makes it so important to me. As an example, here’s my usage chart which you can see in the Alfred preferences page showing how much I use it.


Clipboard History

how did I ever live without Clipboard History

I’ll leave you with my killer use for this application… Clipboard History. How in the name of evolution did I ever live, or does anyone for that matter live without the ability to search through everything they have copied and pasted recently? I have absolutely no clue, and I honestly can’t imagine using my computer without the Clipboard History nowadays.


Keep up the good work Alfred, and all of you reading this should immediately go and Download Alfred and then shell out the small amount of money it costs for a Powerpack. You will not regret it.

As always, if you get stuck just hit me up on any of the usual channels including Twitter, Facebook, via email or in the comments below and I’ll help if I can.