Action Modifiers: Be Clever With Quick Alternative Actions

Have you ever noticed the subtle change in the subtext of a result in Alfred when you type a search term and press the Ctrl, Alt or Cmd key?

Action modifiers are tiny superpowers hidden in plain sight, so let's take a look at how you can use them.

Imagine that I want to search online for information about the GitHub code repository; I'll type "github" into Alfred... but the GitHub Desktop app that's installed on my Mac appears as a matching result.

A normal search for Github in Alfred

How can I quickly search the web for my keyword? Should I delete all characters and re-type it as "google github"?

There's no need; Hidden under the Ctrl modifier hotkey is quick access to my default search engine!

Subtext shows the default fallback option

Holding the Ctrl key shows "Search for 'github' with default fallback" as subtext, so I can press Enter to perform this alternative action on my result.

The action modifiers are:

  • Ctrl + Return to search with the default web search (Google, or any alternative you've set as your top Fallback Search)
  • Alt + Return to search with Spotlight
  • Cmd + Return to reveal the result in Finder, if it's a local result such as a file or app

You can change these in Alfred's Advanced Preferences, where you'll find a few more possible actions in the dropdown menus.

Setting the Action Modifiers in the preferences

Next time you start searching for a keyword that happens to match local files when you need to search the web, remember to hold Ctrl and press Return. Another convenient time saver! :)

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