What are your favorite Alfred workflows

Alfred or Keyboard Maestro: Which Works Best for You?


Automation programs Keyboard Maestro and Alfred, including Power Mac with extended BetterTouchTool automations Power with extended BetterTouchTool automations I used BetterTouchTool back in 2011 and since then it has been one of the three best Mac applications for increasing my productivity and streamlining my workflow. While BTT can be used by anyone, it can increase your Mac workflow and productivity by reducing redundant tasks. But what is the difference between each program and which one will work best for you?

Both programs saved me a lot of time and save hundreds of clicks and keyboard shortcuts every day to get things done. Although both can perform similar functions, I use each program for specific purposes.

If you're new to any of these programs, you can read my review of Keyboard Maestro Automate Everything on Your Mac with Keyboard Maestro [Mac] Automate Everything on Your Mac with Keyboard Maestro [Mac] I've written several articles on Mac automation including one MUO Automation Guide to get started with Apple's Automator and the built-in OS X capabilities to create smart folders, playlists, albums, and mailboxes. But ... Read More And A Collection Of Advanced Workflow Features By Alfred How To Build Your First Workflow System In Alfred 2.0 [Mac] How To Build Your First Workflow System In Alfred 2.0 [Mac] Computers should get things done faster become and more efficient. This is where the award winning Mac Productivity application, Alfred, comes in. With a few keyboard shortcuts and / or keyword commands, Alfred enables you to quickly, ... Read More

Create workflows

The power of KM and Alfred comes in the form of workflows, which consist of one or more computer actions activated by an assigned trigger. Alfred includes actions to launch files, open specified URLs, perform Google searches, issue system commands, and run scripts.

While the Alfred Actions are extremely powerful, KM includes hundreds more, reflecting all kinds of computing tasks, including controlling applications, copying text and images to system and custom clipboards, running scripts, integrating with Chrome and Safari, window manipulation , iTunes control, posting notifications, sending email messages, inserting text and recording actions. Check out the full list of promotions.

For example, a simple workflow can be created in Alfred to open a number of URLs and applications via a keyboard shortcut.

KM can do the same thing, but it also includes actions for activating any menu item in an application, hiding or exiting an application, or automatically relocating an application's front window. For example, you can set up a workflow to open an application and automatically start a new file or document. You can even save the new documents to a specific folder automatically before using them.

If you are new to Alfred and KM, don't let the workflow screenshots overwhelm you above. No programming skills are required to create workflows. All you need to do is put together actions that, in principle, mirror the actions you manually performed on your Mac. KM can also record actions and create a workflow based on the recordings.

Triggering workflows

Alfred triggers workflows mainly via a hotkey or keyword, but KM workflows (called macros in KM) can also be accessed from other applications, time and day, macro and menu palettes, a USB device, an assigned wireless network, a mounted drive and more.

For example, when I start the MarsEdit writing program, it also starts Photoshop and Dragon Dictate, which I use to write articles. When MarsEdit starts it also starts a custom KM palette with two options for the type of new document I want to set up.

I also have a range of workflows that I used in MarsEdit to do happy Google and MakeUseOf searches, embed the foremost Safari or Chrome url in MarsEdit, and change my desktop to a white background for some screenshots. By the way, the palette is configured so that it only appears when MarsEdit is the front-most application.

Check out this KM workflow I created and used to upload articles written in MarsEdit to WordPress. It shows how KM mirrors what I would have to do manually without the workflow.

Both Alfred and KM can do web searches, but I find Alfred to be faster and more specialized for these types of actions. I can use Alfred to do a quick keyword search in MakeUseOf or do a happy search which usually downloads the exact page I need on the keywords I give it. I have linked Alfred workflows with a KM workflow to trigger searches by entering a character string or using a hotkey.

This may sound confusing, but once you become familiar with the actions and features in both programs, you will find that they can mirror most of the actions you manually take on your Mac. The only thing they can't do is read your mind and take action. We are not there yet!

copy and paste

Both programs contain clipboard functions that can keep a history of everything on your Mac. I prefer the Alfred History Clipboard, not only because it's better designed, but because it allows you to browse the list of clippings by simply typing or using an assigned hotkey.

But even in this case, I am using KM and an assigned string trigger ("clb") to activate the Alfred clipboard instead of a hotkey so that I can practically select and paste a copied text without taking my fingers off the keyboard . I also use a KM macro that automatically copies any text or object I select with my trackpad to the system's clipboard. This often eliminates the need for the system shortcut to copy selected text.

KM contains additional functions for copying and pasting content. It contains so-called custom clipboards, where you can copy selected text to a specific clipboard, where it can be pasted if necessary. As an example, I'm using a workflow that copies the name of an application (or a word or group of words) I'm writing about to a special clipboard. I even use a string trigger to quickly select and copy the application name.

Then when I want to paste the copied name as I write, I just enter the assigned string "fh". That means I don't have to create a TextExpander or Alfred snippet for a word that I only use for a single article. It also means I can still use the standard clipboard for everything else. When I copy a new word to the named clipboard, it overwrites the previous one. It can take a while to get used to the workflow, but it saves time.

There are dozen of uses for named clipboards and variables in KM that are beyond the scope of this article. I've written about using custom clipboards on Mac automation tips in the past, check out for more information.

Which one is best for you

If you work on a Mac all day, I suggest that you learn to use both applications. But if KM is more than what you need, Alfred should be enough to launch applications, do Google and website searches, control iTunes, and automate other tasks like sending tweets and creating reminders Sending Tweets, Reminders, and More 10 More Alfred Workflows for Sending Tweets, Reminders, and More If you're a Mac power user, the Alfred Application Launcher is a powerful way to get it all done with click-saving workflows and a few quick keystrokes take care of. Read More 6 Amazing Alfred Workflows Make You More Productive 6 Amazing Alfred Workflows Make You More Productive Now that users and developers are able to expand Alfred's skills by adding their own workflows, it seems like an "application launcher" too its bit limiting. Continue reading .

And if you're using both programs, you might want to download this Alfred workflow that actually searches and runs your KM macros. KM also includes a search function, but you might prefer the design of this Alfred workflow better.

To learn more about these and other Mac automation programs, download our free Mac Automation Guide and join the Mac Automators Google+ community.