It's fascinating and insightful to take a look at how long-time Alfred users create workflows to speed up repetitive tasks, make their workload easier to manage, or simply make work more fun.
Matthew Guay is Senior Editor and Writer at Zapier, and an Alfred user since version 1 was first released. In this post, he shares how he uses Alfred and Zapier together to control web-based services - even when they don't have a Mac app!
The first app I use most days is Alfred, typically to open my favorite apps and sites to start work. I'll absentmindedly hit
space dozens of times a day whenever I need to open a new app, Google something, or even to quit an app and put the computer to sleep for the day.
I have an Alfred command to open a plain text scratchpad for quick notes. While writing, Alfred's snippets save me a crazy amount of repetitive typing — and its calculator gets used more than I'd like to admit.
Those core features are the main reason I use Alfred, the things that make demo Macs at the Apple Store almost feel broken without Alfred.
The most fun part of Alfred, though, are its workflows. The Evernote and Ulysses workflows are handy for searching through my (far too messy) notes and writing drafts, and a blogging workflow I built lets me kick off a new blog post complete with a template outline in a keystroke. Another lets me append text to my log of what I've done each day.
They're powerful — and are some of the best reasons to use native Mac apps over web services, since they're easier to automate with Alfred.
But some of today's best apps — Gmail, Airtable, Slack, Clearbit, Trello, and more — are best as web apps. Sure, they have Mac apps, but they're basically web apps wrapped in a Mac UI — not something you can easily control with Alfred. And those are the apps you're most likely to use at work — your CMS, CRM, eCommerce tools, HR apps, and more are likely web apps.
So, I put Zapier and Alfred together in a simple new workflow; Zapier is a web app automation tool — much like Alfred, for the web. It connects 750+ apps so you can build workflows to automatically move data between apps, find data in your web apps, and do work automatically. And Alfred does that for the Mac, letting you automate work from your keyboard.
Put the two together, and you can enter text into the Zapier for Alfred workflow and send it to web apps to do anything you want without opening your browser.
For instance, I needed to look up a contact's email address from my address book, or someone new's email from Clearbit, and start a draft email to them. So I type their name in Alfred, and seconds later, Zapier finds their email and company info from the CRM, starts a draft Gmail email to them, and notifies me via Pushbullet. I can then open Mail on my Mac and finish the draft email.
Of course, you can just use it for simple workflows; A colleague keeps a gift idea list in Airtable via Alfred, and I now save completed tasks to I Done This right from Alfred.
It's helped me use Alfred more, with the apps that I'm increasingly using at work. Everything doesn't have a Mac app — but now, I can still automate them with Alfred.
Want to find out more about Matthew's Zapier for Alfred workflow? Take a look at his detailed blog post on setting it up, where you can also download the workflow.