Quicksilver. LaunchBar. Google’s Quick Search Box. These are all applications designed to put instant information at your fingertips. For those having been on the Mac for a while now, you’re probably using Quicksilver - it’s really one of the first applications that brought this kind of instant power to us. Some users have moved on up to LaunchBar, which combines even more powerful features into a slim search box - it’s a power user’s dream. Then we have Google’s Quick Search Box, which is half quick search, half application launcher. All of these applications however, either offer too much or too little. Quicksilver has a confusing plugins pane and lots of features still need updating. LaunchBar offers features that the casual user won’t even touch. And Google’s Quick Search Box forces you to succumb to the Google singularity (and it’s not as fast).
However, today I’m going to show you the quick search solution for everyone. I’d like you to meet Alfred.
Imagine if you took Quix and Quicksilver, melded them together, and got this simple, easy to use application designed for everyone. That’s Alfred, and he’s really great. It’s just a convenient, easy to use quick search application that launches applications, searches the web, and allows you to search shopping sites and social networks for the information you need.
Here’s how it works: pressing the control + command keys open up Alfred. He’s pretty nice looking, and in the preferences you can change his theme from a pearl white to a tuxedo black. While certainly classy, how well does he dance? I don’t have an SSD or anything, but Alfred’s search was instant. I mean, I didn’t even have to wait for it to index anything. You can just start typing, and it’s smart enough to pull relevant data. I was impressed.
And searches are blazing fast. I mean, Quicksilver + LaunchBar fast. I’m amazed by just how robust this beta app really is - I seriously had to slick my hair forward after the initial rush left me blown backwards and wide eyed.
So to initiate a search of any kind, just start typing. Usually you’ll initiate either an application search or a web search, but you can tell Alfred what to look for with a few keywords. Simply precede your search with “open” to search for a file and open it on your computer, or “find” to reveal a file. The difference between “open” and “find” is that “find” will open the Finder window and show you where your file exists. If you’re searching the web, you can precede your search with “www” or nothing at all.
Sitting here in class, I demonstrated to a couple classmates a couple searches for things in Wikipedia, Amazon, eBay, IMDB, and Facebook. As I was, my classmates were equally impressed by not only the speed of Alfred searches, but its accuracy. Like Quix, you can search these websites with just a few key words. Preceding your search with “amazon” will search Amazon’s website, while “wiki” will search Wikipedia for your favorite topic. Again, the convenience of this is just stellar.
If you’re looking for an alternative quick search application that is user friendly, fast, and not bloated with features, Alfred is the way to go. I’ve got nothing but good things to say about it thus far, and the beta is free to download at their website here.