Alfred – the productivity tool for Mac OS X that started off as a simple application launcher -- has now evolved in to a tool that has literally changed the way so many people now use their computers. The team at Running With Crayons has been hard at work preparing the next release of Alfred, and today they are happy to make version 1.2 available to everyone. It has taken months of hard work, but their software development team has managed to integrate some outstanding new features and general improvements in both the free Mac App Store version as well as the Powerpack version available on their website.
Without a doubt, the single greatest feature added to the latest version of Alfred is one reserved exclusively for paid Powerpack customers which gives users access to the their 1Password 1Click Bookmarks. There has already been a lot of buzz around the web after the developer preview of this feature rolled out, but to see it in action is truly amazing. There is very little to configure and Alfred will attempt to find your 1Password keychain, then store your bookmarks automatically. I was quite impressed because my 1Password keychain is in an obscure spot in my Dropbox folder; however, Alfred had no troubles finding it and accessing my bookmarks. From there, it is a simple command ‘1p’ to begin searching the 1Click bookmarks. In typical Alfred fashion, it searches as much of the criteria as possible including the name and URL of the bookmark to ensure it finds the right one.
I am certain that this feature was a popular request among users, and I love when developers take the time to not only listen to what their customers have to say, but actually deliver updates that reflect that actual desires of those using the software.
In both the paid and the free MAS version, Alfred 1.2 has brought tremendous improvements to the matching algorithm it uses to find files as the developer noted on his blog last week. Sometimes these performance enhancements are hard to visualize when you actually get your hands on the software, but I am confident you will see improved search results in this latest version.
Let me tell you a quick story to illustrate just how great the matching algorithm is in version 1.2. One of my fellow MacStories writers had sent me an iMessage consisting of only a quote that, judging by his continued conversation, it was one he expected me to be familiar with, yet I had no idea. I copied the text from Messages and pasted it in to Alfred intending to search Google in hopes of finding out whom he was quoting. Before I could hit enter, Alfred had found that quote inside a PDF that my fellow constituent had dropped in our shared Dropbox folder. I had no idea this file was even on my computer let alone the quote he had sent was apart of its contents. In the time it took me to type Command+V and hit Enter, Alfred had found the file and opened it for me. Expecting Safari to open with a Google search completed, it took a few seconds for my brain to comprehend what had just happened. Alfred knew exactly what I was searching for despite the fact I had no idea. That is great software.
Other new features in both the paid and free versions of Alfred include two new themes as well as large type support. The two new themes called “Dark and Smooth” and “Pistachio” are a couple of great looking themes that were created by actual Alfred users and then voted on for a the opportunity to become default themes in the application. There are more details about these new themes available on the Alfred website.
Now, not every new feature is going to appeal to everyone. This Large Type support was apparently highly requested among users but I have yet to find a reasonable use for it in my day to day workflow. The basics of this feature are as such -- you type any bit of text in to Alfred and then hit Command+L. Alfred will then fill the screen with that text in an extremely large font. According to the release notes, this is great for phone numbers and email address; I have only found it useful for showing dirty words to my wife from across the living room.
I also wanted to briefly mention some of the improvements on Global Hotkeys because it was partly a request of mine. Powerpack users will find a new check box option under Global Hotkey extensions that will allow any selected text to be passed to an extension when the Global Hotkey is triggered. It is hard to comprehend the usability added by this one small feature through simply reading about it so be sure to also check out David Ferguson’s video on how to use the new feature as he also demonstrates his “Drop in Pocket” extension.
Also added to Global Hotkeys was the option to paste the latest history item as plain text and the ability to assign a Global Hotkey to a text snippet. I have already started using the latter to manage my different email signatures with single keystrokes.
As with most general releases of Alfred, these are not the only new features and improvements, but they are some of my favorites. The release notes are quite exhaustive and contain all the additions in great detail. If you have the Mac App Store version then there is an update waiting you in the App Store so go ahead and grab it. If you have the Powerpack version then be even more excited because you also have an update waiting, but with even more awesome features!