Automating Your Home With Alfred Workflows

Technology has come a long way since the original "hand clapping" living room lights; Home automation has become a world of wonders where you can control everything, including the temperature, the mood lighting and the auditory landscape around you.

There are already great Alfred Powerpack workflows for controlling your home environment, so make yourself comfortable and take a look at a few of our favourites below.

Keep warm by controlling temperature

The Nest thermostat is an incredibly clever temperature controller for the home; It learns from your usage, and automatically turns the temperature down while you're away, helping keep heating costs down.

Jason Cheatham created a Nest Controller workflow that allows you to see what your Nest is up to, and control it from Alfred.

Nest Temperature Control Workflow - Control Panel

Whether you're just curious what mode your Nest is in, or you want to let it know you're going out, the workflow makes these controls readily available from Alfred's search box.

Set the mood with lighting

Coloured lighting is such a fun way to change the mood of a room, and Philips Hue lightbulbs are a brilliant way to create these moods.

The Philips Hue Controller by Ben Knight is a workflow that lets you create presets and give them names for easy access later, as well as control individual lights for brightness, effect, colour, or simply turn them on or off.

Philips Hue - Automation with Alfred Workflow

Ben created some fun presets for his own Hue lightbulbs, themed around Christmas, his favourite hockey team (the Boston Bruins) and a "concentration" preset to remove distractions when working at home.

Once you've set your lighting to be all nice and cozy for the evening, what's more jarring than a bright computer screen burning your retinas with its dazzling white light? Thankfully, f.lux is a Mac app that adjusts your computer's display to the time of day, so that the light is warmer at night.

There are a few workflows available to control f.lux from Alfred for a more comfortable evening lighting; The Flux Control by ClickySteve even includes a page of Alfred Remote icons, making it easy for you to control f.lux on your Mac without having to even move off the sofa!

Groove with great tunes

Add that final touch with some great music. Whatever your tastes and your favourite music player, there's almost certainly a workflow for it.

We're very fond of Spotify, for which there's a fantastic Spotify Mini Player workflow. You'll also find Music Player workflows for Rdio, iTunes, Last.fm, Google Music and more.

Spotify Mini Player Workflow

Take a look at Packal and you'll find workflows for your favourite music player, as well as instructions on using them. Some also include Alfred Remote controls.

Make your house more homely with Alfred

These are just a few of the ways you can use Alfred to control your home, from removing the need for the numerous little fiddly plastic controllers that come with various devices to giving you a centralised way to tell them what to do.

The beauty of workflows is that you can customise them to your personal preferences; You could even create presets that span multiple connected devices, like switching on lights and putting on some groovy tunes all at once to help you wake up in the morning!

Now, how about finding a remotely controlled coffee machine? :D

3 Ways to Use OS X Tags for Better Search

Tags in OS X are a quietly powerful way to organise files on your Mac. With Alfred, you can turn these simple tags into a great way to access collections of files, wherever they may be on your Mac and regardless of the file name.

Alfred's Tags keyword

In this scenario, I've tagged template files that are stored in various folders on my Mac with the tag "template" to help me find them quickly when starting a new project. The files relate to different projects, but the common tag makes the files easy to search for.

You'll also discover a few different ways to search for these tags, from Alfred's built-in search to some great workflows.

Tagging your files

I've just finished creating a new file, so I'm adding the "template" tag while saving the file in Pages for the first time. Most OS X apps will allow you to set tags when saving your file.

OS X will suggest matching tags as you begin to type if you've already added some to your files.

Saving a file in Pages

Some of my template files already existed, so I'm adding a tag in Finder, by opening the "Get Info" panel for the file.

Get Info panel

Using the built-in "tags" keyword

By default, Alfred includes a keyword to make it easy to search for files by tag. I've found three files on my Mac that use the keyword "template" by prefixing my search with the keyword "tags". Easy, isn't it?

Default

Showing tagged files with a hotkey

As I'm frequently looking for the exact search term above, I've also created a hotkey for my search. The Powerpack workflow consists of a single hotkey object, with the argument set to Text with the content "tags template".

Using a hotkey for the tags keyword

Pressing the hotkey combination brings up Alfred's search box with the relevant results for the tag "template" without me having to type anything more!

Creating a File Filter workflow

More advanced users might want to create a File Filter workflow for a specific tag and search based on the name of the file.

To get started, in Alfred's Workflows, click on the + in the bottom left and choose Templates > Files and Apps > File Filter from Keyword and Open.

I've left all settings empty in the File Filter object, with the exception of these two changes:

  • In the Basic Setup tab, I've set my keyword to "tpl"
  • In the Advanced tab, I've added the kMDItemUserTags and set the value to "template" to match my keyword

File Filter Workflow setup

With this File Filter, I'm telling Alfred to use the keyword "tpl" to search only files with the tag "template".

File filter workflow

These are three ways to use OS X tags to make it easier to search and manage files on your Mac. How much time can you save with a little tagging?

Alfred 2.7.2 Now In Pre-Release

For those who enjoy helping us test pre-releases, you can now update to Alfred 2.7.2.

The most significant improvement in this release is the change in focus behaviour, where Alfred no longer takes focus away from OS X to operate. This should not only make Alfred feel smoother to use, but should also alleviate the odd focusing behaviour where it occasionally went back to the wrong window, especially when using a multi-screen setup.

This release also brings in the updated iTerm integration, which we mentioned yesterday.

There are a significant number of improvements and changes in this release, so be sure to take a look at the full change log for more details.

If you'd like to help us test pre-releases, choose the "Pre-releases" option from the dropdown menu in Alfred's Update preferences.

Better iTerm Integration in Alfred

Did you know that Alfred's Powerpack integrates with OS X's Terminal? Alfred can also integrate with third-party Terminal apps like iTerm.

iTerm is a popular alternative to Terminal, offering additional features to the default Mac OS X terminal and shell application.

With the upcoming release of Alfred 2.7.2, the default iTerm integration has been replaced by the "Custom" scripts option. This allows for a more up-to-date and more flexible way to handle the iTerm integration, using scripts created by one of our fantastic users, Stuart Ryan.

Alfred and iTerm

As iTerm now supports two different ways to integrate, depending on which version you're using, you'll be able to choose the appropriate script for your needs.

You can find some excellent iTerm integration AppleScripts for the older and newer versions of iTerm on Alfred user Stuart C Ryan's Custom iTerm Applescripts for Alfred Github page.

If you're currently using the "iTerm" option in Alfred's Features > Terminal preferences, you'll need to switch to the "Custom" option and copy in the relevant script. You can do this in the current version of Alfred, and it'll be seamlessly migrated to the next version. You'll then have the flexibility to change the script if you switch iTerm version in the future.

Stuart has even created a helpful video on using the new iTerm scripts, so if you're not sure how to add the custom script for iTerm to your Alfred preferences, watch the video or pop by the Alfred forum thread for the integration.

A New Website, Support Site and Blog

Hello everyone and welcome to the new Alfred website!

Just over a week ago, we launched our new site, which was a few months in the making. I'm very proud of the results, and am keen to share with you what we changed and we we did it.

Our key aims were to make the site better in a few different ways for you, our wonderful users;

  • Bring all of our sites under one platform (main website, blog and support site)
  • Make the site faster and easier to use, from both a technical and a user experience point of view
  • Create a highly responsive site which is mobile-friendly and consistent across the board
  • Improve the quality of the documentation and tutorials

One Platform to Rule Them All

Andrew created a bespoke, lightweight platform with some clever caching, which allowed us to bring together our support site, blog and main website.

Using this blazingly fast platform hosted on Linode, we've removed the need for multiple third-party platforms and the reliance on their uptime and speed performance. To be clear, we still adore WordPress (which we used for the blog) but it wasn't the perfect solution in this case, given how few of its features we were actively using.

We've also now enabled https, so your traffic will automatically be forwarded for secure browsing on our website.

Navigate Easily and Happily

By making the support site, blog and website live under one home, it's more consistently themed and it should be much easier to find your way around!

You can now search the help site and blog in a single place so that you don't have to think about where to look for the information you need.

Also, don't forget that there's a "help" keyword in Alfred itself, so you can search the site directly from Alfred for extra speed.

Help keyword in Alfred

Spruce Up The Support Site

As the Alfred 2 support documentation was written over time, and Alfred is constantly evolving, this project gave me a chance to review or rewrite hundreds of pages to be up-to-date, more useful and easier to understand.

This part in particular is a never-ending effort, and we'll continue to add useful tutorials, improve existing ones and ensure we answer your questions as best we can.

So what's next?

With this new website, the stage is now set for some awesome posts, including a short series where we'll share some of the technical aspects of this project in more depth.

We'll also be publishing more tips and tutorials, inviting guest writers to share how they make the most of Alfred, and giving you insight into future development projects more frequently.

Cheers,
Vero

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