LaunchBar vs. Alfred 2

LaunchBar is one of the ten light automation utilities (Macademic Ninja Kit), which make academic work on a Mac fast, smooth and enjoyable. I have been using LaunchBar for over 3 years and it has become so natural that I feel literally paralyzed when I approach a Mac without LaunchBar. Nevertheless, earlier this year I  switched from LaunchBar to Alfred 2 after the latter was covered in MacPowerUsers Episode 133. Both utilities allow fast launching of applications, with Alfred 2 offering a nicer UI and ability to develop more complex workflows. However, after a couple of months I am back to LaunchBar. Here are three reasons why:

1. Instant Send

When you select an object (e.g. a file in Finder or text on a web page) and press the Instant Send shortcut (by default – holding down the ^␣ key combination or double-pressing the ⌘ button), the Instant Send function is activated. The subsequent action depends on what command you type. Most often I use the following commands:

    • MAIL followed by  opens a new Mail message with blank recipient field and your selection as the body of the message (or selected files as attachments to the message);
    • NAME (or a few first letters) followed by  does exactly the same, but the email of your given contact would be inserted as the recipient of the message; (these two options are invaluable for sending files from Finder without using your mouse);
    • FOLDER (or a first few letters) enables you to Move, Copy or Alias the selection to a particular folder.

Screenshot 2013-09-30 16.04.29

I know that something like Instant Send should be available in Alfred 2, but I could never find this function and was increasingly irritated by the sudden clumsiness of emailing files.

2. Calculator

When you activate LaunchBar and start typing numbers it works as a calculator. It is invaluable for simple quick calculations. Now, Alfred 2 has a similar behavior, but the difference is that in LaunchBar pressing  displays the answer in large type, whereas Alfred immediately (without  being pressed)  displays the answer in small type just beneath the equation. Somehow it just does not work for me – I would like to see my answer after I clearly indicated that the equation is finished (of course, LaunchBar allows to copy it to the Clipboard and do some other operations).

3. Playing music
Screenshot 2013-09-30 20.57.52

LaunchBar’s ability to play music was a decisive factor for me. I just need to press the standard Search shortcut (^␣), then start typing the name of any Playlist, Artist, Album, Song or Genre from my iTunes library and press ↩ to play whatever I want.

Although Alfred 2 can also play music, one first needs to launch iTunes (or rather a special Alfred player linked to iTunes) and only then select  music. A small thing perhaps, but I could never get used to it and was always distracted when all I wanted was to start a playlist and turn to  work.

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About Aleh Cherp

Aleh Cherp is a professor at Central European University and Lund University. He researchers energy and environment and coordinates MESPOM, a Masters course operated by six Universities.
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10 Responses to LaunchBar vs. Alfred 2

  1. Dellu says:

    I have never tried Launchbar, even if I heard about it a lot. I am alfred for the last one year (since I get my mac). The Instant Send feature seems handy: I am not sure if it is different from the result I get in Alfred when I click the right arrow (Tab in my case) key on my keyboard though.

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  2. Aleh Cherp says:

    As far as I understand you use the right arrow/tab when you have already selected a file in Alfred through Search. In Instant Send you don’t need to search for the file. You just point to it and then you can immediately send it. So it fits into my workflow because I often want send the files which I have already identified and see in Finder. Sometimes I would not be even able to locate them in Search because I don’t remember their names. Makes sense? Or do I misunderstand something?
    Well, all in all, it’s a question of taste, as always. I am sure Alfred is great, but I’ve discovered it does not cut it for me because of these three features.

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  3. dbrv says:

    Actually Alfred 2 does have an equivalent of Instant Send. It requires you to set up a workflow entitled, I think, “Show Alfred with Selected Text” and assign it a hotkey. This workflow comes standard with Alfred 2 and it places the selection on the Alfred command line, where you can copy, move, or send it if it is a file or search for it on Google, Wikipedia, etc. if your selection is just text. So you can send files from Finder. Doing it in Alfred 2 is clunkier than in LaunchBar involving calling up the Alfred menu through the right arrow. My problem with Alfred is that moving or copying does not allow you to write over a preexisting file. So I can’t work on a file on my work computer and put the revised file on my home computer with Alfred, if it is already there.

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  4. Aleh Cherp says:

    Aha, thanks! I managed to find and add that workflow. The right arrow does not work for me though. I guess I need to add some more to the workflow?

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  5. dbrv says:

    I haven’t had to add anything to the workflow. I select the file, activate the hotkey, press the right arrow and get a menu of choices and their associated keys command+# depending on how you’ve set it up. This only works for me if I select one file. Multiple files do not seem to work through Finder. I have moved and copied multiple files using the buffer, which is Alfred’s version of LaunchBar’s ClipMerge or Quicksilver’s comma trick, but it’s not as fast as Instant Send.

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  6. Dan Gibbons says:

    Actually, Alfred 2 has ‘send to’ functionality if you’ve picked up their Powerpack (which costs around £17 / US$ 28); you can select any item in the Finder, press (in my case) alt-Space, and the actions panel for the selected file/folder will pop up automatically. See http://support.alfredapp.com/features:file-search for more info.

    Workflows in Alfred 2 are the main reason that I was converted back from LaunchBar – Alfred also seems to use less system resources too, which is always nice!

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  7. pbmorgan1602 says:

    I’m pretty much the same. After that MPU I really gave Alfred 2 a go. Bought the Powerpack etc. But after two weeks I was back to Launchbar. I enjoyed tinkering with the Alfred workflows but I found I didn’t use any routinely. It also seemed that Launchbar just gets to the files and folders I want smarter and faster. I am a very long time Launchbar user so I think my familiarity with it was also a factor.

    I’m enjoying the new Snippets feature of Launchbar too.

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  8. Stephen says:

    I prefer Alfred 2 for the PowerPack functionality. Alfred provides a platform upon which to build “applications”, which I find quite appealing. I even wrote a workflow for Zotero that allows you to search, open, and cite your Zotero items. You can export Markdown formatted citations of items in your library, or even export full Markdown bibliographies of Zotero collections or tags. This workflow, called ZotQuery (http://bit.ly/1adTjAB), and others put Alfred 2 over the top in my opinion.

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