Searching in Alfred


Despite the fact that Spotlight has come a long way over the last year or so, I still use Alfred for launching applications and searching for content on my Mac. The Powerpack feature (which I will cover in a forthcoming post) helps to cement my relationship with it, however there are some built-in options which I believe are simply unparalleled within Spotlight. 

NOTE: Launchbar, Alfred’s main commercial rival, is fantastic too however I haven’t used it since I migrated across to Alfred. To try it again in any detail would involve time I don’t have, so a lot of the features I outline could well be useful in this application as well)

I want to cover the various Search features you can find within Alfred, as that is the primary use-case for the application. A lot of these are set to defaults and I’ve modified a couple, however I don’t think it hurts to walk you through what is there and how it can help you. 

Search Preferences


In the Search tab, you’ll see that Quick Search is enabled. This allows me to quickly search for a file using either a single quote ’ or the spacebar prior to the text that is inputted. This is by far and away the quickest way to find files on your device. 


I’ve also shortened the keywords for openingrevealinglooking inside and searching for tags. There just isn’t the need for typing the whole word in. For example, the screenshot below, you can see that I have searched for all files with the tag Website Images. 

I use the shortcut for looking inside files a lot. This is for when you don’t know the name specifically of a file, however you are sure of some words that are contained within. If I type in followed by the word, Alfred will present a list of files that contain that keyword. 

Don’t Show helps filter results out. I don’t need to be shown the categories that are ticked in the image below when I use the open, reveal and look inside keywords. Contacts are displayed just by typing in the first few characters of the card anyway (I use this a lot for getting Contact info, like email addresses etc). Also, you can limit the results you get in the Result Limit box. 


There are some great tips here that people just don’t know. For example, were you aware that just pressing the forward slash / key in Alfred will take you to the root directory? Or ~ taking you Home?


*Fuzzy Matching allows for a looser set of search results. They do not have to be case sensitive, for example. 

You can opt to use ← or → to navigate folders in Alfred as well as the ↵ key to open the results in Finder. 

You can also select a shortcut combination to use for displaying the previous path that was displayed in Alfred’s file navigation view. Handy if you find yourself coming back to the same point repeatedly. 


The buffer is a way of being able to ‘queue’ files up so that you can perform the same action on them all. A great example of this is emailing them all as attachments. I use this when I have several images or files that need to be sent to a client. Pressing the ⌥ with an arrow modifier (for example, ⌥ and ↑) will perform a different action. 

⌥ ↑ - adds a file to the buffer ⌥ ↓ - adds a file to the buffer and moves to the next item in the selection ⌥ ← - removes the last item from the buffer ⌥ → - actions all items in the buffer. as you can see, I’ve added three images to my buffer using the shortcut command. I’m now in a position to do something with them. I click ⌥ → to choose my action and I can happily go from there. 

I tick the box to clear the buffer after the action has been completed however I don’t set it to automatically clear after five minutes. 


Show Actions determines which key will be used to show the Actions panel for a result. You can also order the actions by last used, per file type if you so wish. I don’t select this, I prefer to use Alfred’s predictions to fix the order of action. It hasn’t failed me yet and is extremely powerful. 

You can disable actions that appear in the Actions menu if you wish using the Default Actions box. 

Lastly, there is a File Selection shortcut. This shortcut can be used in Finder and, when pressed, will open up the Actions pane for the highlighted file, within Alfred! 


You can *Escape the path on ‘Copy path to Clipboard’ action - something I don’t require and you can also perform a Quick Look on files by pressing ⇧. I If you browse for an AppleScript, you may wish to run it directly from the Alfred search as opposed to opening it for editing, so there is a tickbox to set that particular action. 

In order to improve the performance of Alfred, you can Use file type icons for files on external drives instead of using icons for the files themselves. This prevents the need to spin up external drives unnecessarily. 

And there we have it - file searching within Alfred.