120: Looking at Launchers


One of the things I actually love about Raycast is that I feel like it’s easier to build “mini applications” inside of it. (Importantly, I write software for a living, so I recognize that building mini apps—especially mini React apps, since that’s what Raycast uses—might not be for everyone.)

I love that I can basically build a tiny form to punch in a bunch of information. (I don’t think Alfred has that, but I could be wrong.) For instance, I built one local extension for creating and managing new development machines at work. I also love that I can list everything’s current status and a bunch of individual actions for each item, each with their own keyboard shortcut.

One of the newer features in their developer extensions is “menu bar commands” so that you can keep things running in the menu bar. So I built a thing that basically shows me any active pull requests that I have open or need to review.

I still have both Alfred and Raycast, but Raycast feels like it gives me so much more power, as long as I’m willing to do a little work in JavaScript. (Alfred is bound to , which constantly trips me up, though. I may need to move it to something else.)

I’d love to hear if these things could be done in Alfred, though! Maybe I just missed how I’d build those sorts of things.

If you wanted to use Raycast, but didn’t want to have to go down the rabbit hole of building an extension, you should definitely look at their Script Commands. They support Bash, AppleScript, Python, Ruby, Swift, and Node, and give you some of the same features you might see in a simpler Alfred workflow, though they can’t match the complexity of some of the things you could build in Alfred.

And the last thing I wanted to mention was the extension model. I’m :100: aligned with Rosemary here. I really don’t love the “single github repository with all the extensions in it” approach. I even went through the process of releasing one some time back. It’s not too bad, but I like Alfred’s open approach a bit more. You can do things outside of the extension store, but you have to go the route of cloning GitHub repos and running npm run build in them to install them locally. It’s… not the best.

Anyways, sorry that was such a long reply, but just wanted to say that I think there’s a lot to offer with Raycast, especially if you’re already a software developer. I don’t think it outshines Alfred in some cases, but like y’all said: You can have both! :sweat_smile:


Double post for a separate topic, but I also wanted to say that y’all saved me a ton of frustration with your discussion on Home Assistant, Aqara, and Zigbee in the after show. I had just purchased a door sensor and smart outlet from Aqara in an attempt to do something like what this guy is doing:

After a few hours of getting frustrated with trying to get Aqara to show up in Home Assistant, I just took Rosemary’s advice and bought a $30 Zigbee USB dongle from Amazon. It gets here tomorrow, so I should be able to complete the task after that! :crossed_fingers:

Thanks for the prompt (pardon the pun) :slight_smile: to set up hot key combos for all three launchers I might use: Spotlight, Alfred, and now Raycast. (Pleased the latter is currently free.)

100% on the mini apps. The API for Raycast is quick and easy to get started with, and feels like developing other software or web apps. In less than five minutes, I had a fully functioning mini app that queried all post on my blog and return them to me in a dynamic searchable list with keyboard shortcut actions for copying the URL, title, description, date, etc. Made it super easy to reference other things I’ve written when interacting with others online or writing other posts.

I definitely hear how not having a simple GUI editor is a drawback for most, but Raycast feels way more friendly to me because I can just code and don’t have to fiddle with GUIs. It’s probably a false sense of security, but I also feel less locked into a system because I’m just using React and Typescript (for extensions I develop) or scripting languages (for script commands).

Speaking of script commands, they can be super helpful and require no interaction with the Raycast API. I’ve got so many of these it’s getting hard to keep track :slight_smile:

Finally, quick links are another very easy way to get started with Raycast. Because they can accept up to three query params, it’s pretty easy to create little web searches or custom URL scheme launchers.

I think in all, Raycast doesn’t feel fiddly to me and for some reason that is what made it stick.

I am very glad that the show wasn’t set up as a choice between the launchers, and I’m very happy to hear the common sentiment that you can have them all!

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Did I image David mentioning an updated omnifocus Alfred workflow? (I was listening while juggling a few other things) Anyone know where to find it? (EDIT: found it) (ANOTHER EDIT: seems plagued with issues with node 18, which I can’t resolve. How I wish Omnifocus had the keyboard shortcuts of Things already!)

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Great Episode!
I was quite impressed by the workflow to publish an extension. I think they found a realstively good solution because they ask good questions when you want to publish an extension and also test it. So no other user installs an extension that is not working very good and you can be sure that it’s not „maleware“

I published an extension for Drafts if you’re interested: Raycast Store: Drafts

Good episode, thank you!

What is general solution when you use launchers, when Stream Deck and when keyboard shortcuts and conflict panel?

I also found the workflow mentioned by David but I don’t feel experienced enough to use. However, I am sure @RosemaryOrchard mentioned she created a different approach to searching OF - wonder if she could share her workflows? That would be amazing

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I have been interested in David’s excitement about the Home Assistant. He must have gotten the last full build, because when I looked, there were only kits available. No problem. I ordered one. But shopping for the needed Raspberry Pi Compute Module- there are none available from official retailers listed on the raspberry pi website. One retailer lists an April 2024 date as the first available. There are some shady deals on eBay or even some overpriced offerings on Amazon, but finding the Module seems risky these days. This should be mentioned in any discussion of the Home Assistant hardware going forward!