Because I write and perform tasks throughout the day, I need to produce and access bits of content in a way that doesn’t slow me down. The productivity application, Alfred helps me quickly access snippets of text while I work.
Though Alfred contains several powerful features, including file and Internet search, in this article I focus on how I use Alfred's Clipboard History and Snippets features, and how I map Keyboard Maestro and BetterTouchTool triggers to quickly trigger those features.
Quick Alfred Survey
Alfred Clipboard History
Alfred clipboard history feature is the one I use almost daily because it's quick to access and the app stays hidden until you need it.
Alfred’s Clipboard History captures all your system clippings, and it can retain them for up to three months. When you trigger Alfred and type your assigned keyword for the clipboard history, all your previous clippings will appear. From there you can navigate to a clipping you want to paste into your current document.
Alfred’s Clipboard Viewer
To trigger Alfred’s Clipboard Viewer, you have to first trigger the Alfred input window, and then type the keyword for to open the Clipboard History, or you can use the assigned hotkey. As an automator, the process is one step too slow for me.
To reduce a step while I'm typing in a document, I use a Keyboard Maestro string trigger to trigger Alfred’s Clipboard Viewer. This saves me one step in the process and I don't have to look down at my keyboard to locate the shortcut combination.
As you can see in the Keyboard Maestro macro on the right, the KM triggers the assigned hotkey for Alfred’s Clipboard Viewer. All I have to do is type my stringer trigger and the Alfred window will appear and automatically open in Clipboard History view.
Navigating the History List
To navigate the Clipboard History, you can either use your cursor or the down/up Arrow keys on your keyboard. However, I can never locate those arrow keys without looking down at my keyboard. So I created a Keyboard Maestro macro that allows me to trigger the Arrows using assigned shortcuts. This way I don’t have to look down at my keyboard to locate those keys, and I can keep my hands on the home keys.
Here’s a quick video of me using my KM macro to navigate the Alfred history list.
To trigger the Down Arrow, I use my assigned ⌘+J shortcuts, and to navigate back up the list I use ⌥+J combination.
As someone who works at the computer all day, it's a huge time suck to retype text I’ve previously typed, or research URLs or other content I’ve used.
It's for that reason I try to quickly copy important snippets of text and information I might need again, or that might get removed in the process of submitting or saving the content.
To quickly save batches of text, I use another Keyboard Maestro macro and string trigger, “cll”, that triggers the ⌘A and then ⌘C shortcuts. Copied text of course gets copied to Alfred Clipboard History, and other Clipboard History applications, including iClip, which I have previously reviewed.
With my important text copied to Alfred's Clipboard History, I can do a quick search to retrieve what I need.
You can download from the Alfred website snippet collections, a collection of snippets such as Mac symbols which I use in this and other articles, an Emoji Pack, a collection of Currency Symbols, and a few others.
I save collections of snippets that I may not access on a regular basis, but I know they are there in Alfred when I need them.
You can assign keywords to paste individual snippets of text. But for snippets you don't use on a regular basis, you can simply trigger Alfred's Snippets View to search and navigate your saved snippets. All you have to remember is a word or two of the name of the collection, and then select the collection. If you know specifically what you're looking for, you simply type parts of the name and Alfred will typically present it in the search results.
View Snippet Collections
To view my Snippet Collection, I type the same string trigger I use for opening the Alfred's Clipboard History. The All Snippets collection appears at the top of the list, and when I hit the Return key it will reveal my Snippet Collections.
Alfred also keeps track of items you regularly search for and puts those items at the top of the search results, so you typically don't have to search a long list of items to find what you're looking for.
Alfred could very well be used as a text expansion application. Like using TextExpander (reviewed here) or TypeIt4Me, you can use assigned short combinations of letters that automatically get replaced by the assigned snippet of text.
In the example below, the keyword “wbt” gets replaced by the assigned url.
I don't really use the Alfred Auto Expansion feature, mainly because I already have over a thousand text expansions in TextExpander. Setting up expansions in Alfred takes more steps than it does in TextExpander. You basically have to open Alfred and manually set up an auto expansion. In contrast, TextExpander allows for doing a similar setup in a small pop-up window. But if you're not already using a text expansion application, you might give Alfred's Auto Expansion feature a try.
Lastly, Alfred also has Dynamic Placeholders. I haven't explored placeholders enough to use them. Basically the dynamic placeholders can paste data that might change each time they are used. So you could set up a text expansion that could insert the present date and time based on your configuration.
Alfred Pro Version
Note, all the features that I describe above require a Powerpack license for Alfred, which starts at £29.00. For the productivity features that Alfred offers, I think it's well worth the price. Let me know what you think of Alfred and how you're using it in your daily workflow.