Alfred for Creatives — Speed Up Your Workflows and End Fake Work

When you’re working in your day to day you might have come across little annoyances and fake tasks and thought to yourself thinking there has got to be a better way!

Im talking about when you:

  • Copying files, dragging and dropping, finding them, moving them
  • Entering text you use all the time, dates and names that are on the tip of your tongue
  • Copy pasting one line from document to document

These seemingly small tasks really really add up, and they open the window for you to become distracted and take you out of your flow state, this is a hidden cost that makes you do fake work for a part of your day,

For the longest time I accepted these annoyances and just thought that is the way to computer works, I thought people that spent hours trying to get rid of these inefficiencies were crazy productivity nuts, and they might be, but today I will show you how to circumvent all of that building and researching workflows and snatch a couple of my most used techniques, and we are starting with Alfred, a productivity app for Mac.

We will learn how to

  • Manage files quickly
  • Run file actions like resizing images
  • View clipboard history
  • Copying multiple lines of text at once
  • Text expansion
  • And we will take a look at some of my favorite workflows

Lets tackle these fake work tasks once and for all:

Step 1: Install Alfred and replace spotlight

When you first install Alfred you can access the preferences up in the menu bar.

I recommend replacing the built in MacOS spotlight keyboard shortcut so that it triggers Alfred instead. CMD+Space.

Now clicking CMD+Space will bring up the main Alfred interface. From here you can find files and folders.

If you have the Quick File search option ticked you can separate finding folders and apps by just starting to type and by adding an extra space to the beginning of the search.

From here you can select a file and do CMD+Option+/ to bring up the file options and here you can easily move files to other folders via a command line like interface which is so much faster than dragging and dropping or copying manually. Here you can also run workflows which we will get to in a little bit. Options in this dialogue box are determined by the file options screen:

Step 2: Keyboard History

One of my favorite features is the keyboard history viewer that is super robust and just works so well. I’ve mapped it is Control+Option+CMD+V, but many have it at CMD+Shift+V.

It does previews of html colors, lets you visualize images that you’ve copied in the past and is super handy for text I have copied in the past like names and addresses. It’s kind of a repository of things that i’ve used previously that i can bring up really quick. A lifesaver on a day-to-day and worth the price of Alfred alone.

For the clipboard there are a few more tricks I use.

Alfred’s clipboard appending feature is the best thing ever. Every time you CMD+CC (command and tapping the C key twice) you add to the clipboard on a new line. Additionally, say you’re operating with a lot of text and you’ve been copying for a while and you realize damn i should have been appending these. Normally you would go into your clipboard history and then paste in each of these individually but luckily there’s a script for pasting the last N amount of entries in your clipboard. So awesome.

Step 3: Text Expansion

One of the operations i do on a daily basis is naming my files the current date. I use it as sort of as a primitive versioning system but also as a communication tool to say to my stakeholders “This is when i shipped this file”. The text expansion features of Alfred works great, you simply type in the keyword assigned and Alfred expands it to the text you please. Here are a few that I use:

“ddate” with the snippet {date:yyyy-MM-dd} gives you: 2020-11-17

“dddate” with the snippet {datetime:full} gives you Tuesday, November 17, 2020 at 2:37:25 PM Pacific Standard Time :shrug: with the snippet ¯\(ツ)/¯ gives you ¯\(ツ)

Workflows:

Workflows are little scripts that you download, double click, open in Alfred and they let you customize Alfred in a numerous ways. Here are some of my favs:

Bluetooth Connect by EarthPyy

https://www.alfredforum.com/topic/12187-bluetooth-connect-—-connectdisconnect-paired-bluetooth-device/

One of my favorites is the bluetooth connect where you do CMD+Space to bring up the Alfred interface and then bt to toggle the connection to any bluetooth device. So much faster than going up to the bluetooth control menubar and finding the right one in the list, clicking connect, hopefully it connects…. so much faster.

Resize Image by Acidham

http://www.packal.org/workflow/resize-image

Lets you resize an image right from the file actions menu. NB: The workflow doesn’t do any extra compression or copying, it just destructively resizes the selected file. Perhaps you want to do a copy of the file before you resize.

Emoji Search by Ryan McGeary (https://twitter.com/rmm5t)

https://www.alfredforum.com/topic/11126-alfred-emoji-search-emojis-by-name-or-keyword/

emoji search is one that i just installed not sure how much i’m gonna use this yet but it is kind of handy to do e and then your searching emojis and it does have some kind of a fussy search so even though i do house there’s also daw so there must be some kind of dictionary there in the background working for me

Hide desktop by Andrew Boyd (https://boyd.dev/)

https://www.packal.org/workflow/hide-desktop-toggle

Handy if you’re screen recording or doing something where you want to hide your crazy mess of a desktop. Toggle Hiding of the desktop contents via the Alfred bar or via a hotkey without bringing up the Alfred interface

Paste N Clipboards by Bhishan Poudel (https://twitter.com/bhishan_poudel)

https://www.packal.org/workflow/paste-n-clipboards

Paste the chosen amount of previously copied items from keyboard. Lets you collect content from many different sources and paste with one simple keystroke. Genius.

To find more workflows head on over to

  • packal.org
  • alfredapp.com/workflows

In Closing

I hope you see the benefit of never having to type in the current date again, never looking for a name or a line of text that you just copied — having all the information close at hand, pasting in or using your mouse or tablet when it could be a keyboard stroke away.

Really quickly, Once you start using these techniques you will start to get little boosts of serotonin as you know that you are plowing through a task that used to take 10x the time.

To really make this work for you personally I recommend you Be aware of time inefficiencies in your day to day to catch these things, write them down — then when you have a minute look at workflows and shortcuts that can eliminate them.

I know from experience that it is really hard to catch some of these things because you are blind to the inefficiency as you have become proficient in doing it wrong. So have patience and an open mind. This is scratching the surface of what you can do, which is part of the magic of Alfred, you can make it fit your unique workflow.