Quick View with Alfred

Quick View with Alfred on macOS

I’ve been using Alfred on macOS to locate and open files for years now. It’s quick, efficient and just the sort of tool any serious Mac user should use. One thing I didn’t realise though was that when searching for files, you can perform a Quick View in the same vein as the native Finder application. 

All you have to do is type in your search keys as normal and when the potential results are listed, press or ⌘+Y to bring up the Quick View. 

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When I found out about this, I did a quick search online to see how many other ‘one-key’ shortcuts were available within Alfred that I had neglected over the years and I was pleasantly surprised! I’m going to play with some of them and report back on the ones I think you may find most useful. 

Fallback Searches with Alfred

How many times do you find yourself searching for web content a day when you’re on your Mac? Ten times? Twenty? More than fifty? OK, it’s a rhetorical question, we know it’s a lot however it’s only recently that I’ve stopped defaulting to Google for every search I make. If I need to check the definition of a word, I go to Google first. When I watch something on TV and recognise an actor, yet can’t remember for the life of me where they are from, straight back to Google again. Who are my favourite football team playing this weekend? Once more, straight to Google. (OK, sometimes it’s Alexa, but she seems to have the hump with me a lot of the time and refuses to understand my wonderful British accent).

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How I Use: Alfred to open OmniFocus Items

Regular readers will know that Alfred and OmniFocus are two of my most used applications. Alfred is my application and document launcher, whilst OmniFocus is my To-Do list manager of choice - or, as we like to call them at Think Productive, my second brain. 

Recently, I discovered a great Alfred workflow that allowed me to open OmniFocus project and tasks directly from my launcher window. This can be incredibly handy because you don’t need to have OmniFocus as your primary window, (or even running!), to obtain information. I had an instance yesterday where somebody asked me what the state of play was with regards to a certain user’s migration to a new mobile phone network. All I had to do was open Alfred, type in the abbreviation followed by the user's name and OmniFocus opened, with the project I needed sitting in front of me. 

I won’t run through all the scenarios that this workflow will help with - I just need to show you how to install it and list the default abbreviations that you can use, so here goes. 

Installation

Here is a link to the OmniFocus forum post that discusses the workflow. I’ve linked here, as opposed to the GitHub repository directly as there needs to be some serious kudos given to rhydlewis for the work he has done to get this up and running. 

Click the link, download and install the workflow as you would do normally. It’s quick and easy. 

Shortcuts

Once installed, open the Workflows section in Alfred and you’ll see the default shortcuts and flow paths listed. 

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To give you a one shot summary as to these shortcuts and what they do, feel free to copy and paste this list below into Apple Notes, DEVONthink or whatever for ease of use:

.s - Search OmniFocus

.sa - Search OmniFocus for active tasks only

.se - Search OmniFocus for processed and inbox tasks

.g - Search OmniFocus for flagged tasks only

.ga - Search OmniFocus for flagged active tasks only

.n - Search OmniFocus for tasks via note contents

.na - Search OmniFocus for active tasks via note contents

.ng - Search OmniFocus for flagged tasks via note contents

.d - List overdue and due OmniFocus tasks

.r - Show 10 most recently modified OmniFocus items

.ra - Show 10 most recently modified non-completed OmniFocus items

.p - Search OmniFocus for Projects

.pa - Search OmniFocus for active Projects

.i - Search OmniFocus Inbox

.f - Search OmniFocus for Folders

.lf - List all OmniFocus Folders

.lc - List all OmniFocus Contexts

.c - Search OmniFocus for Contexts

.v - Search OmniFocus for Perspectives

.lv - list all OmniFocus Perspectives

I hope you find the above useful!

Creating Custom Searches with Alfred

 

I use Alfred for a lot of different things. It’s an app launcher, a currency converter, dictionary, calculator - in short, I try to use it as my shortcut for anything and everything that I do on my Mac. 

One great feature is the ability to search for content on different websites directly from the Alfred input bar. All I have to do is type in google or imdb followed by the search criteria and Alfred is able to invoke those searches, all from a compact and hassle-free interface. 

There are lots of default sites and services searchable by default, easily accessible by opening Alfred Preferences -> Features -> Web Search (see the below screenshot for the list). As you can see, the most common sites are certainly taken care of. There are occasions, however, when I want to search for content within a different site. My own is a great example! Am I able to configure an Alfred search workflow to trawl for content on a custom site? 

You bet you can! 

Here’s how:

1 - Identify the Search URL

Before I can configure a custom search, I need to know how my site handles search queries. The easiest way to do this is to navigate to my site and carry out a search. I have a search text entry field on my home page, so entering omnifocus as my search criteria took me to the following URL:

http://www.myproductivemac.com/search?q=omnifocus

Dropping the Omnifocus from the end gives me the custom search URL in use on my site. I need to take that and enter this in Alfred. 

2 - Add Custom Search

Go to Alfred Preferences -> Features -> Web Search and in the bottom right-hand corner, click the option to Add Custom Search

In the resulting pop-up box, enter the Custom Search URL retrieved earlier into the first field. Fill in the remaining fields, paying careful attention to the Keyword field. This is the abbreviation you will type in to invoke the search. This needs to be unique and memorable. MPM is easy for me, so I go with this. 

You can validate the search by clicking the Test button. If successful, it will navigate to the custom site.

It’s that simple! If you find yourself performing lots of searches in sites that are not listed in Alfred by default - such as forums, discussion sites, game reviews etc, this is a great shortcut.

Timezones with Alfred

I’ve been getting into some of the workflows that are available in Alfred on macOS. There are lots of small tasks that I carry out every day, involving several steps, or web-sites to visit. Everytime this happens, I perform a quick online search to see if there is a genius somewhere who has created an Alfred workflow already. 

I wrote about how I use Alfred as a currency converter a few months back. This time, I want to quickly show you how I use Alfred as a World Clock.

The more I find myself communicating with people overseas, I realise I need a quick and easy method for identifying the time in their part of the world. CarlosNZ is well-known in the Alfred community and has created a package called TimeZones and here is a quick-fire guide on how it works. 

1 - Browse to http://www.packal.org/workflow/timezones. 

2 - Click the Download link

3 - The package will download to your default download location. Double click on this .alfredworkflow file

4 - You will see a screen that offers a description of the workflow. You can assign a category if you wish (I use Tools for this particular one). Click Import to import the workflow into Alfred. 

5 - The last real stage is to assign a hotkey. This hotkey is the key combination you can type, irrespective of whether Alfred is open, in order to display the various timezones. Assign this hotkey by double clicking on the hotkey element on the far left of the workflow. The uppermost entry box is where you will define your preferred key combination. You can see I have chosen ctrl+z for this.

5 - The last real stage is to assign a hotkey. This hotkey is the key combination you can type, irrespective of whether Alfred is open, in order to display the various time zones. Assign this hotkey by double clicking on the hotkey element on the far left of the workflow. The uppermost entry box is where you will define your preferred key combination. You can see I have chosen ctrl+z for this.

6 - You can configure extra time zones by invoking Alfred and typing timez (short for timezones). You will see there three options available to you for further configuration.

     - You can add a new city to the list. Type the name of the city and Alfred will go away, find the city and add it to your configuration file.

     - Update All Timezone info online - I haven’t had to do this at any point yet. There are a couple of times where I’ve felt I should do (namely because I hadn’t before!) yet when I run it, it merely reports that all OK and there were zero changes made.

     - Move Timezone list - you can change the default location of your timezone list if you wish - not something I’ve ever done.

Using Timezones in easy. Either enter your hotkey or invoke Alfred and type tz and you will see a list of cities.

Entering the first character in the name of a city will filter the available names. Furthermore, you can find the name of almost any town/city in the world by simply typing in (name of city) (country).

Useful? I think so.