26 Nov 2012 - Münster (by James)

How to use Alfred more productively with the Powerpack

Alfred really is one of my favourite programs. Since I installed it back in July, I've used it around 2,700 times – that equates to a daily usage of 22 times per day. We looked at this great little app back in our OS X productivity roundup, however Alfred is so much more than a simple way to launch applications. If you grab the Powerpack extension, which is completely integrated with OS X, you'll get an even greater range of features from this useful little app. What's in there? Let's take a look.

A mini player for iTunes

Minimise iTunes and you get a postage stamp sized player where you can pause, rewind and fast forward a song and not much else (oh, you can change the volume as well). But Alfred gives you a much better mini player (iTunes has to be running first but it'll launch it for you if it's not) which allows you to search for songs, albums, artists and playlists, as well as play random albums and genres.

You can also rate songs from the mini player and to launch it, all you need to do is assign a global hotkey (mine is Left Cmd + Right Cmd at the same time) – make sure it isn't the same one you use for Alfred itself! I find myself using the mini player quite a lot as its accessible straight from my keyboard and allows me to change songs quickly without having to search through my iTunes library (it's also a lot quicker as well). I also find myself discovering old (and sometimes embarrassing) classics through the Random feature!

Global hotkeys for your favourite apps, sites and files

Global hotkeys make launching your favourite apps, sites and files even easier, and with Alfred you can assign almost any action to a global hotkey so it can be used from whatever app you are using. So you could launch Mail with, say, Cmd + M or Word with Cmd + W – so long as the hotkey doesn't interfere with the application you are running (a useful way to check out all the keyboard shortcuts in a program is by using CheatSheet).

Alfred provides you with loads of different presets for hotkeys, such as open paths or URLs, run AppleScript and system commands (such as shutdown, standby, log out and so on) and it even integrates with iTunes as well (if you like rating songs then you could set Cmd + 5, for example, to rank a song as 5 stars). If you use these effectively then it really can help save some time – just make sure you write them all down first so you don't get confused!

An advanced file system search

I'll put it out there now: I'm not a fan of Spotlight. With my computer it's slow, clunky and seems to be constantly indexing something, so when I do want to use it I have to wait a while before all the files and folders on my computer are indexed properly. With Alfred's Powerpack, you can search for files or folders on your computer quickly and do a lot more than you can with Spotlight.

If you hit the right arrow key then you are presented with a list of actions for that particular file, such as move, delete, email to and copy. You can also create custom actions as well.

I really like this touch (especially emailing files straight to contacts, which has saved me so much time recently) and if you learn the default shortcuts (which are usually Cmd + 1-9 for most actions) then you can really save some time in the long run.

Extensions, baby

Extensions are great – we love them here at fruux – and with the Powerpack you get access to the hundreds of extensions created by the Alfred community specifically for the app. There's absolutely loads of them (you can browse through the list here) and they are all organised via different categories: music, web, productivity, actions, control your Mac and so on.

Most of the extensions are run via scripts in Alfred and if you get the right ones (they are all free, by the way) then it can really speed things up when you're using your Mac.

But wait, there's more!

Yes, it's true! With the Powerpack you get a load of other goodies, such as full Address Book searching (plus the handy ability to create an email to a particular contact straight from Alfred) as well as some more themes to spice your Alfred experience up a bit, searching through e-mail (which is supported in Mail.app, Sparrow, Mailplane, Postbox 2 and 3 and some versions of Outlook) and searching through your 1Click passwords in 1Password (which we recently featured when I looked at how to be more productive on OS X). All of these handy little features really do come in useful and once you've bought the Powerpack, you'll really wonder how you did without it!

Convinced yet?

I hope that I've shown in this article that although Alfred is a fantastic app, there are so many more useful features you can add through the Powerpack. It's available for the mere price of £15 (around €18.50) and what's more – there's absolutely no subscription fee to pay either. Just part with your dosh once and it's yours for life. There really are some excellent features in the Powerpack which will save you a lot of time in the long run and I personally think that is a real worthwhile purchase, which you will use almost every single time you use your computer.

About James

Nothing pleases James more than the smell of the countryside and the atmosphere of his university city of Birmingham. Follow him on Twitter.

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