Released yesterday, Alfred 1.3 is a major update to the popular desktop application aimed at “increasing your productivity” on OS X. Started as a simpler app launcher, Alfred has, in fact, evolved into a much more powerful — yet always accessible — solution that goes beyond the simple definition of a “launcher”, like Spotlight would be. I use Alfred on a daily basis to browse my file system, compose email messages, search the web and even look for my favorite songs on Rdio. Alfred was once a launcher, now it’s much more. In my workflow, it’s an app that makes the core features of OS X work better for me.
I particularly appreciate the improvements brought in version 1.3 as they address a usage scenario I often find myself dabbling into: selecting multiple files in the Finder to move them to another location. For instance, in writing my Mountain Lion review, I took a lot of screenshots; those images had to be cropped, resized, and re-composed to fit the layout of my article. Once edited, I had to move them from the Desktop — where OS X creates my screenshots — to a sub-folder in Dropbox, which, through a custom script, they are uploaded to our CDN, returning a URL. With Alfred’s new File Buffer functionality I saved precious minutes I would have otherwise spent opening the Finder and navigating with the trackpad.
The File Buffer is basically a virtual “shelf” that can temporarily host files you want to act on. Configurable in Alfred’s Preferences, you can set the Buffer to be cleared after actioning items, or after five minutes if items you selected haven’t been used.
File selection is integrated with Alfred’s existing navigation capabilities. In Alfred, you can browse your Mac’s file system with the keyboard, finding documents and folders you need and choosing from a set of actions to do stuff with them. These actions include, by default, an Open command, Reveal in Finder, Copy Path, Move, Copy, and more; they are entirely actionable with the keyboard, so you’ll be able to, say, unzip a folder and forward its contents via email to a contact without lifting a finger from the keyboard. Furthermore, you can assign favorite locations — in my case, Desktop and Dropbox — to a hotkey, and tell Alfred to open them in its own navigation, rather than the Finder’s.
With the Buffer, you can now select multiple files and act on them at once. So while writing, I was able to bring up the Desktop in Alfred, select multiple screenshots, move them to Dropbox, then launch the .txt file where image URLs get appended to. The Buffer was a huge timesaver, and, for the future, I hope Alfred will make it easier to create custom actions (right now, here’s how you can do it) and specify custom locations for the Copy and Move commands (you can type a folder’s name to instantly bring it up).
When working with the File Buffer, I often select images that I want to move or delete. Alfred’s navigation window features a thumbnail preview for files, but sometimes that’s too small to really see whether or not I’ve selected the right file. Thankfully, version 1.3 introduces support for Quick Look through the Shift key or by hitting Command-Y on a selected file. Quick Look works both in default results and the File System navigation.
Version 1.3 brings many other features, improvements, and fixes as well. There is now better integration with 1Password, a new way to show more results, a compact mode, and a “quit all” command to quit all running apps. Make sure to check out the full change log for a complete list of changes.
Alfred has become an essential piece of software in my daily workflow, and I’m glad I decided to give it a chance two years ago. You can download version 1.3 from Alfred’s website, and unlock all the app’s functionalities by purchasing the Powerpack.