Goodbye Spotlight, hello Alfred

May 24, 2020 — 3 mins read

Spotlight has let me down for quite some time now, giving me non-relevant results, prioritising them in the wrong order, and just caused many mistaken app launches. Last week, I went out looking for a solution.

Many developers recommend Alfred, which has been around for more than 10 years now. I tried it in the past, but its styling didn't really fit in and it didn't seem any better than Spotlight.

My opinion of Alfred has changed dramatically once I purchased the powerpack and started tweaking the layout and setting up workflows. This app, with the proper configuration, goes way beyond Spotlight - especially for developers.

It needs a Powerpack

The Powerpack provides you with two essential features (among others):

  • Workflows: little add-ons, that tie into a website, application or some algorithm. They enhance the query syntax with stuff like Github searches, convenient application shortcuts or just simple unit conversions.
  • Themes: I find the default Alfred themes a bit rough, they do not really match my personal preference. With themes, you can style everything to your liking.

I think these two features show the true power of Alfred. They are supported by an online repository named Packal, providing you with many pre-built workflows and themes.

My setup

Often, developers share their Alfred workflows and gather them in Github repositories for others to find them. As a Laravel developer, I picked the workflows relevant to me. As for the theme, I found one that looks even better than Spotlight itself. So, without further ado, here they are!

Github Repos

Really useful for any developer using Github. This allows you to browse your Github repositories by prefixing your search command with a simple "gh".

Link: https://github.com/edgarjs/alfred-github-repos

Homebrew & Cask for Alfred

Mac users should use this package manager. It even allows you to install Alfred! This workflow allows you to install, update, and remove packages. And a lot more!

Link: https://www.packal.org/workflow/homebrew-and-cask-alfred

PHP Docs

Every PHP bit of documentation, right under your fingertips. Simply type "php" followed by the command you're looking for.

Link: https://www.packal.org/workflow/php-docs

Laravel Docs

Like PHP Docs, but for the Laravel documentation. "ld cache" will instantly look for Cache in the docs.

Link: https://www.packal.org/workflow/laravel-docs

Jetbrains - Open Project

When you're using PHPstorm, this can be really useful. Opens PHPstorm projects by simply typing "phpstorm <project>".

Link: http://www.packal.org/workflow/open-phpstorm-project

Colors

Tired of doing color format conversions in Google? Type a color in a random format, like #B1BB1C and this workflow will present 10 alternatives.

Tip: follow the installation instructions closely to work around the security prompts.

Link: https://www.packal.org/workflow/colors

Powerthesaurus

Lost for words? Not being a native English speaker, I am sometimes unhappy about some word or formulation. A thesaurus usually helps me out.

Link: https://www.packal.org/workflow/powerthesaurus-search

Theme: Total-Clean (by Thanasis)

It took quite a while to find the right theme. Many come with oversized fonts, something I don't really like. Some are really pretty, like the glass-themed ones, but aren't really legible.

I ended up with Total Clean. It has a good font size, a nice, thin looking font, adopts the system colours and has a good contrast.

Link: https://www.packal.org/theme/total-clean

Bless that keyboard!

With this new setup, I am looking forward to improve my new found productivity. Use the keyboard, avoid the mouse - that's the order of things. You might want to give Alfred a try as well. You can download it for free, but the really powerful stuff comes with a price. I think it's well worth it, though.