[tweetmeme]A new app has shown up, and it’s all about speeding up your workflow. A launcher. Now why would we need yet another launcher? The Mac platform is flooded with these things, with QuickSilver, Launchbar, and Google Quick Search ruling the roost. Well at least that was my initial thought when I visited the Alfred app page. But Alfred is something different, something fresh. It’s still to early to say, as the public beta just launced with version 0.4. It’s so early that the beta didn’t even work on my iMac, so I had to put the MacBook to work. I’m glad I did.
I like the way Alfred is built. It’s built to be simple. When you invoke it, Alfred shows up a giant search bar in the middle of your desktop. Type in something, and it’s large letters. Definitely gives it a much simpler and friendlier approach. Let’s take its most obvious task—launching applications. Unlike QuickSilver, which spits out a secondary list, or some of the others which throw up tons of results, Alfred’s large UI means you can see what’s happening at a glance. Easy shortcuts to get the second or third result.
Alfred can also run a google search for any term you enter. If you type in “Amazon MacBook Pro”, hitting return will run an Amazon search for that item, as is clearly shown in the list of actions. You can directly open up a twitter profile, or IMDB the name of an actor. It’s quite intelligent too. So if I type in Photoshop, the only available action would be to launch Photoshop (well, in addition to a Safari bookmark with the keyword Photoshop in it). But the moment I add “tutorials” to the text string, it changes its actions to run a Google search. I’m sure there will be times when you want to run a Google search for just “Photoshop”, and wouldn’t be able to, but I’m sure 99% of the times it will get it right, thereby providing a cleaner user workflow. Lastly, Alfred’s user interface workflow is definitely built to scale, and we’ll see some more powerful and substantial features trickle in—developer Andrew Pepperrell is already bubbling with joy waiting to open the feature floodgates.
Alfred probably won’t replace QuickSilver or Launchbar for power users. Those apps will always have more power under the hood, and will probably be more efficient in any given workflow. But there’s definitely demand for something simpler, something lighter, where you don’t have to think, and Alfred is that. Like I said it’s still an early beta, but I like what I see. Silly name aside, I think Alfred might just have something to contribute to the Mac ecosystem, maybe not now, but if its developers push it, it could grow into something quite powerful. Software addicts definitely need to give this beta a go.