Speed Up Your Design Workflow With Alfred

July 1, 2021

I'm a big fan of finding ways to speed up my design workflow on macOS. I've collected many apps, keyboard shortcuts, and techniques through the years that help me design faster.

One tool that's become an integral part of my design workflow is Alfred.

What is Alfred?

You can think of Alfred as the pro version of Spotlight. It has some fantastic features for quickly searching files and launching apps, yet it can do so much more.

I primarily use Alfred for two things:

  • As an all-purpose search
  • As a supercharged clipboard

Alfred's all-purpose search

What's search have to do with UX, you ask? Quite a lot, actually.

Every design project starts with research. The more you understand the problem you're trying to solve, the better your chances of finding a solution quickly.

Double diamond model - image by Ed Orozco UX Consultant.
The double diamond design process.

Especially during the early stages of research, your brain starts making connections to all kinds of things like previous projects, case studies, books, and podcasts.

When firing up ideas, your brain doesn't care too much about where you stored or saw that information. It wants to connect ideas regardless of their medium.

The faster you can get to the source of those ideas, the higher the chances you'll be able to retrieve them and apply them in your current project.

Here's where Alfred shines. It lets you, from a single search bar, launch a search across

  • Your computer's hard drive
  • Dropbox
  • Google Drive
  • iCloud
  • Google
  • Wikipedia
  • Dribbble
  • Unsplash
  • And pretty much anything you can think of

The ability to search across all sorts of data removes the friction of interacting with multiple website's interfaces and search methods.

For instance, if I'm unsure whether the file is in Dropbox, Google Drive, or iCloud, I would have to go to each website and run searches there.

With Alfred, however, I can search immediately from a single search field. The same goes for searching for stuff on Unsplash or Dribbble.

Alfred Google Drive Search - image by Ed Orozco UX Consultant.
Searching for files in your Google Drive straight from Alfred.

Alfred's multi-platform search not only saves a ton of time but it reduces the cognitive load of search across multiple sources.

Pro-tip, I have a macOS cursor PNG in my Dropbox that I constantly use in design mockups to explain specific interactions. I type "mac cursor" in Alfred, and I can copy to my clipboard and drop it into Figma.

Alfred file search - image by Ed Orozco UX Consultant.
Searching for specific PNG files that you use all the time.

Alfred's supercharged clipboard

Alfred has an integrated clipboard manager. It automatically stores whatever you copy to your clipboard so that you can search and use it later.

Alfred's clipboard is useful when copying color codes, storing a few images, or copying text from one source to another.

Another non-trivial advantage of using Alfred's clipboard manager is that it completely removes the worry of losing an essential piece of text that you forgot to save.

Just bring up the clipboard manager (I use ⌘ + ⌥ + ⌃ + C), and there it is.

Alfred Clipboard History - image by Ed Orozco UX Consultant.
Alfred's clipboard manager.

I use it a lot when I'm writing. Usually, I want to rearrange the order of some sections or temporarily remove a paragraph. With Alfred, I don't have to worry about using two separate text editors to copy and paste stuff around.

It's all accessible from the clipboard manager.

Alfred's snippets and text expander

Especially when doing wireframes, planning content, and working on the UI for a project, designers repeatedly use lots of placeholder data.

It's not only lorem ipsum but also dummy names, phone numbers, color codes, and specific measurements. If you don't have a design system in place, you will probably have to copy this data from Google or old files.

Alfred lets you create snippets of text that you can then use at any time. It's like the clipboard history from the previous point, but more long-term.

I tend to update my snippets with common device resolutions, HEX color codes for my personal branding, a short and a long bio, URLs to my podcast and my blog, and templates of video descriptions for YouTube and emails I find myself writing over and over again.

For instance, here's my template for introducing people.

Hi {{name1}} and {{name2}}
{{name1}} this is {{name2}}.
We've worked together at {{someplace}} a while back.
I'll let you take it from here.
Please let me know if I can help in any way.
Have a great day.

Using Alfred's snippets is a significant time-saver that I find myself using every day.

Conclusion

I've only scratched the surface of what you can do with Alfred. Another very powerful feature called literally "workflows" allows you to run all sorts of functions automatically. But that deserves an entire article on its own.

← Back to the Blog

Other Articles

Ed Orozco's Blog is a collection of Insight-packed articles on how to grow your UX agency.