Clipboard History with Alfred

Note: this is your last chance to win a free Alfred Powerpack!

If you want to enter, you should own a Mac, since you’ll need one to actually use Alfred!

To enter, do one of the following:

  • follow me at @harpaa01
  • Subscribe to icanthascheezburger via email
  • Subscribe via RSS at the link above and leave a comment with your email address (I won’t publish the comment)

If you also mention one of these posts on Twitter or Mastodon or Micro.blog (and mention me so I can see it) you’ll double your chances.

Winners will be randomly selected on Wednesday. I don’t want to reveal too many numbers here, but let’s just say you’d have really good chances of winning if you entered.

homer simpson saying he likes those odds


Copying and pasting is a nice little productivity boost that you get when using a computer, but the fact that you can only ever have one thing in the pasteboard at a time is kind of limiting.

With Alfred, you don’t have to feel limited in this way: enter Clipboard History.

alfred clipboard history

This is the kind of feature where you first hear about it and your reaction is an unenthusiastic “hmm, neat.”

But I promise: once Alfred is keeping your clipboard history and you actually get used to it being there, it’s liberating.

It’s easy, just invoke Alfred, type in the keyword to get to the clipboard viewer (mine is c) and hit Enter, and you’ll be greeted with recent Clipboard items.

“What was that URL I had a few minutes ago? Oh, no worries, I’ll just grab it quick.”

Ever feel a little bit hesitant to delete some text from your document? Just ⌘X and you can cut it with confidence that it’s right there if you change your mind, even if you copy some other text to the clipboard later.

Got a list of different things you are going to copy from one file to another? Don’t keep cmd-tabbing back and forth; just copy them all in sequence, then use Alfred to get the one you need, right when you need it.

The clipboard history is searchable, so even if you don’t 100% remember when you copied something, or even if you don’t quite remember exactly what the text was, you can quickly find it.

If you copy images to the clipboard, Alfred handles that too!

By default, Alfred won’t keep sensitive items in the clipboard history, like things copied from your password manager or the Keychain.

But wait, there’s more!

Keeping recent clipboard items is great, but what if you just have some snippets of text that you frequently want to include in documents?

Alfred’s got you.

Enter snippets!

alfred snippets

You can give snippets of text a name, and then when you’re searching the clipboard history, you can search for the snippet of text by name.

And if you want to use Alfred as a basic version of TextExpander, you can also add the ability to automatically expand snippets when you enter the keyword.

These snippets are highly useful, and you can import them from the web. I’ve imported a collection of emoji by name, for instance.

You should use Alfred!

This is my final post in this Alfred series. I’ve shown you how to do a variety of things with Alfred, and it’s still hard for me to describe exactly what Alfred is for, because Alfred can be used for anything you really can imagine setting it up to do.

But at the end of the day, Alfred buys you back some time in your day, a few seconds at a time. Sometimes when you use it, it buys you back a few minutes. But it helps you do things without effort and without thought.

And when you’re in “the zone” and Alfred can keep you in the zone by making it possible for you to do something like type in the glyph for ⌘ without having to dig into the character viewer, Alfred just gave you back more than just that couple seconds.

I don’t spend tons of time using Alfred (and you shouldn’t!), but I invoke it many times a day:

CleanShot 2020 08 31 at 18 39 51 2x

And if Alfred kept track of my usage across every device I’ve used it on, it would no doubt tell me that I’ve used Alfred at least fifty thousand times since I first installed it 10 years ago, almost to the day.

Thanks, Alfred!

Building Custom Jigs With Alfred

note: I’m giving away some Alfred licenses!

Because I love Alfred so darn much, I’m giving away Alfred Powerpack licenses to some lucky readers. If you want to enter, you should own a Mac, since you’ll need one to actually use Alfred!

To enter, do one of the following:

  • follow me at @harpaa01
  • Subscribe to icanthascheezburger via email
  • Subscribe via RSS at the link above and leave a comment with your email address (I won’t publish the comment)

If you also mention one of these posts on Twitter or Mastodon or Micro.blog and mention me you’ll double your chances.

I’ll pick winners next Wednesday, September 2, 2020!


I like to watch experienced craftspeople do woodworking from time to time, and the more I watch good ones doing their work, the more I realize it has a lot in common with software development as a craft.

One such similarity is that woodworkers will often see opportunities to make themselves more productive by building little custom tools for themselves such as jigs to help hold a piece of wood in place, or to help make consistent cuts when doing some repetitive work.

Here’s a common enough use case: I have a projects folder where I keep all my programming projects. I very commonly want to just open one of the folders in that projects folder with my editor of choice.

Alone, Alfred makes this not too difficult:

alfred accessing a project folder

That isn’t bad.

But we can do it faster with a workflow.

This workflow has two components: a script filter input and an action that runs a script.

This is the script filter:

script filter

The code for the script filter:

I’m not that good at Bash scripting and I lifted this code from some other Alfred workflow years ago. But to customize it, you’ll want to change the directory where it says cd ~/projects to match the directory you keep your projects in. You can also customize the text to say whichever editor you plan to have projects open in.

The action script is set up like so:

script action

The script reads simply /usr/local/bin/mate ~/projects/{query}. Your editor will be a different binary. If you use VS Code and you’ve set it up to launch from the command line the path to the binary will be /usr/local/bin/code instead.

With everything set up, let’s see how it looks:

alfred script filter workflow in action

Not bad!

Alpha Lima Foxtrot Romeo Echo Delta

Ever been on the phone with customer service and you need to spell something out, and you think “man, I wish I actually knew that NATO alphabet so I could spell out letters using words and sound like a military badass”

Alfred lets you be that badass. You’ll need a third party workflow for this. Download it and add it to Alfred, and once you do, just type nato into Alfred followed by the phrase you want to spell to the person on the phone. And if you press Enter it will display in large type.

demonstrating using Alfred to display Nato alphabet words

I don’t always need this, but when I do, it’s useful. And if I ever do need it, it’s just a couple keystrokes away.

Now, go forth and look for an excuse to say “niner” to someone.

Want an Alfred license?

Because I love Alfred so darn much, I’m giving away Alfred Powerpack licenses to some lucky readers. If you want to enter, you should own a Mac, since you’ll need one to actually use Alfred!

To enter, do one of the following:

  • Follow me, @harpaa01 and DM me to say you want a PowerPack
  • Subscribe to icanthascheezburger’s email newsletter
  • Subscribe to the RSS feed, then also leave a comment with a way for me to reach you (comments are moderated and I won’t publish it)

To double your chances, share a link to this blog post on your Twitter account (mentioning @harpaa01). And if you have over 100 followers your chances are tripled.

I have gotten zero takers so far on this, so an Alfred Powerpack literally could be there for the taking!

Searching the Web Far and Wide with Alfred

This is a use case that got me addicted to application launcher style apps before Alfred even existed (back then Quicksilver was all the rage).

It doesn’t take that long to Google something; you just go to an open browser window and type something in the address bar and hit Enter. If you’re savvy with your keyboard shortcuts you’ll know that ⌘L will focus your keyboard on the address bar so you don’t even need to lift a finger from the keyboard.

But that still takes a second, especially if you’re not in a browser right this minute.

Alfred’s got you covered. Look no further than the Web Search feature:

alfred web search settings

The best part: this doesn’t just work with Google; you can search just about any site on the web that supports search. You can jump right into a Google Image Search, for instance (my shortcut for that is gim), or search Amazon for something.

performing an Amazon search with Alfred

Instant Bookmark Access with Alfred

I use a lot of different web apps throughout my work day, and I can’t be bothered to navigate to them all the time.

Using Alfred to launch apps on my Mac is great but it’s too obvious a use case to be worth a blog post.

However, Alfred does integrate with major web browsers to give easy access to your bookmarks.

Alfred Web Bookmarks settings

(looks like Firefox isn’t supported out of the box but you can install an Alfred workflow to make these work).

From there, all you have to do is invoke Alfred and start typing the name of the bookmark and you’re off to the races.

I have a few different GitHub-specific shortcuts, such as one that takes me to my notifications page (I named that one ghn), one that takes me to the issues I’ve written (myissues), and one that shows me my current pull requests (myPRs). Alfred will automatically suggest the best match in real time so I usually just have to type the first few letters and then hit Enter.

Protip: If you work at a company that uses Okta single sign on, I recommend that you copy Okta links to each of your apps and make bookmarks of those. That way, if you’re not signed into the app, it’ll take you through the Okta sign-in process first:

copying URLs for Okta

Depending on how effectively use your bookmarks this might save you only a couple seconds, or it could save you several if you were pretty inefficient before. But over time, if you’re opening up bookmarks all the time, this adds up to decent time savings over time, and it keeps you in your flow state. Plus, the satisfaction of being able to open arbitrary bookmarks with just a couple keystrokes is incredibly satisfying.

Get a free Alfred License!

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m giving away some Alfred Power Pack licenses because I love Alfred so darn much.

If you use macOS and you’re interested, just follow @harpaa01 on Twitter and DM me to let me know you’re interested. If you want to double your chances and you’re willing to shamelessly plug me on Twitter for it, mention me with a link to this post on Twitter. And if you have 100–999 followers, your chances of winning will be tripled. Yes, that’s right, tripled! This offer also valid on my micro.blog account (but I don’t think micro.blog has DMs so just mention me)

Not a Twitter user? No problem, subscribe with your email address and you’ll be entered. Using RSS? No problem, comment on this post (make sure you leave your email) and show me a screenshot proving you’re subscribed (I won’t approve the comment so your email won’t be public).

No purchase necessary, void where prohibited, bla bla bla.

If you are actually reading this far into the blog post, your chances are pretty high; I know there aren’t many of you; I see the analytics.

Your Mac is incomplete without Alfred

Alfred is easily one of my most essential and most-used pieces of software. It’s usually the second app I install on a new Mac when setting it up (right after Dropbox, which I only set up first because Alfred’s settings are synced via Dropbox).

And yet if you hear my excitement about it and ask “What is Alfred, anyway?”, well, I can’t quite answer!

Oh, okay, well what does it do?

See, that’s also kind of tricky because it doesn’t really do much of anything on its own. It does make it quicker for me to do other things.

The simplest use case is that it’s an app launcher. Wait, I can already launch apps on my Mac, you say. “Well, what I mean is that you can launch any app from Alfred just by starting to type its name on the keyboard.” But, doesn’t Spotlight already let you do that?

“Yeah.”

“But Alfred can do waayyyyyyy more.”

And even with that, it’s hard for me to describe what Alfred can do without just listing off a bunch of completely different but useful features and sounding super scatter-brained about it.

The truth is, Alfred is fundamentally a very open-ended tool that makes it quicker and easier for you to accomplish things that are typically kind of tedious or repetitive.

For Alfred to become useful to you, you have to develop the habit of using it, and you do have to find yourself on the lookout for new opportunities for using it and customizing it to really benefit from it. You don’t have to use every single feature it offers, but once you have a general idea of what you can do with Alfred, you will develop an eye for new things Alfred can help you do more quickly.

Alfred looks deceptively simple. When you invoke Alfred with its standard hotkey, you just see a text field like this:

screenshot of the Alfred window

Looks pretty unassuming, huh?

But once you begin to type things into Alfred you find that it can do all sorts of things you ask it to do.

Oh, so Alfred is like Siri, but you type it

“Well, sort of. But on the other hand, sigh. Siri and Alfred aren’t even in the same league.”

Instead of trying to just tell you everything about Alfred that would no doubt be a dry and boring read, I’m going to make a series of short posts about things you can use Alfred for.

But wait, there’s more!

And to sweeten the deal and spread the Alfred love, I’m going to give away some Alfred Power Pack licenses to some lucky readers (confession: you probably don’t have to be that lucky; I don’t have very many readers). I’ll post rules to enter in an upcoming Alfred post, so you should subscribe so as to not miss out.

I’ll be giving away at least two licenses, and possibly more depending on how many ideas for posts I have. Also, not to put on too much modesty here, but almost no one actually reads icanthascheezburger, so if you are reading this and you want to score an Alfred Power Pack license, your odds are… pretty good!

Uncategorized
|