Automation Possibilities with Alfred

I am new to the automation world, though I have long been exposed to the idea and methods of automation through @MacSparky’s podcasts. I am ready to start automating. Naturally, I am drawn to Alfred as an automation platform based on user reviews and personal research. I know it is not as powerful as TextExpander and Keyboard Maestro, but I don’t think I need that power just yet.

Dear Alfred users, I would like to know your insights on using Alfred for automation / text expansion. What are some the the things you use it for? Its strengths and weaknesses as an automation tool? Or anything else you’d like to share about it. :slight_smile:

I was recently informed that Alfred 4 is soon to be released and promises greater automation capabilities among other “improvements.” Any thoughts on this?

[P.S.—It is my hope the Automators community will benefit from this discussion. If it is redundant, please point me to another discussion where these things are tossed around, and I will happily move my questions there. Thank you.]

Although it’s now no longer maintained, is a great place to get inspired/find helpful workflows. Most of my personal uses of Alfred are as wrappers over apple scripts and shell scripts, particularly ones that don’t really need a terminal window to be open. A very helpful feature is setting your own fallback searches.

I’ve been using Alfred since before the 1.0 release. The most important thing to know is that Alfred works with a user-initiated paradigm - i.e. it acts in response to your command. It’s not made for scheduling automated tasks or to act when a device mounts, a folder is added to a folder, etc. – for that kind of stuff you’ll want Hazel.

Also - after moving all my text expansion from TE to Alfred, I realised that for my uses Alfred is much more powerful - see


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I am a very happy Alfred user since over 7 years. I am still discovering new things I can use it for.

As a start I’d suggest going through all the features in the preferences screen step by step. Try to understand what they’re doing and if that’s of use to you. I needed to take it slow, otherwise I couldn’t remember all of the power.

There are simple ones - like bookmark search - that I just recently started using. As a web developer we’re using a lot of web tools. And I could just type the URL in the browser, but then I still have to click through to the project I actually want to look at. So now the project start pages are all bookmarked, and I open them using Alfred search.

Snippets - totally useful. I also love the contact search and the email <contact name here>.

Well and then of course: workflows. Download some stuff from the web to try out what’s possible, look what they’re doing and start tweaking. There’s so much cool stuff out there. BUT: definitely look at the code that you download before running. You’re allowing any code to run on your system.

Examples I like (those are not necessarily the exact ones I am using, but explain the use case)

(I can only put two links in a post: open last downloaded file, convert colours for developers, …)

Like @dustinknopoff mentioned before, I am also often using Alfred to trigger all kinds of scripts. One of the reasons is that I can’t really easily see recent changes to a workflow and get an older version back. Dropbox makes sure I don’t loose anything, but I still prefer git for versioning. So I keep the script in git, and move most of the functionality into the scripts.

This leads to one of the downsides of Alfred: all workflows rely on how well written the scripts are that are part of the workflow and which environment they’re running in. node, python - I am using ruby. They all have their respective challenges, though most current workflows just wok. And while the UI of Alfred is nice to initially understand what’s going on, lots of functionality is hidden in the script files, so it’s not that obvious to understand.

Ah, and my colleague maks CAPS LOCK the Alfred key, so no key combo necessary.

Enjoy, it’s a lovely tool!