Alfred or Spotlight – Finding A File’s Location

Why Would I Want To Know This?

This guide is inspired by a reader question as well as a recent discussion I had about why I use the application Alfred. The question came to me as “I am using Spotlight to find files and while it will let me open them, I can’t figure out where they are or how to actually get to the file on my computer. Can you help?”

I got to work answering this question and once I had a solution, I realized that this would be a great example of how much easier this process is using Alfred and a great example of why I use it. I thought I would show you step by step how this works in each program so you can see the difference.

In this example, I’ll pretend I have a text file where I keep snippets of code that I need to reference or reuse and somehow I accidentally moved it. Now I need to find it and move it back to its desired location.

We’ll start with Spotlight.

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How To Create Keyboard Shortcuts With Snap

Why Would I Want To Do This?

There is no shortage of ways to launch an application on your Mac. While you can add items to your dock for clicking or dig through your Applications folder, there is no substitute for a quick keyboard shortcut, a custom key combination that when triggered will open up your application of choice. Keyboard shortcuts are useful because they don’t require you to remove your hands from your keyboard while typing to navigate around with your mouse or trackpad. Use of keyboard shortcuts within your apps is handy, why not use them to launch your programs as well?

The easiest way I have found to create keyboard shortcuts is with a handy free utility available from the Mac App Store called Snap. It’s one of those apps that does exactly what it is supposed to do without excessive complexity. Yes, there are a million launcher utillities and keyboard macro programs out there and indeed they are super powerful but Snap does a great job, simply.

Set Your General Preferences

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Once you have installed the application from the App Store and run it for the first time, you’ll want to define your preferences to make Snap work how you want it to.

  1. Click on the Snap Menu Item and choose Preferences from the drop down menu.
  2. Go ahead and set the Start Snap at login option to on – this will make sure that it’s always ready to accept your shortcuts.
  3. I like the menu bar icon on (although I will move it down to my Bartender Bar).

In addition to custom keyboard shortcuts which we’ll get to in our next step, Snap will also open up items in your dock using the key you specify in the lower preference area – for example command / ⌘ as shown above, so ⌘ 1 will launch the first item in the dock, ⌘ 3 will open the third item.

In my actual usage I rarely use my dock and don’t keep programs there for launching purposes but I can see this being really handy for a handful of apps that you use regularly.

Create Custom Keyboard Shortcuts – Step 1

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What we’re really looking for is the ability to create our own keyboard shortucts.

  1. Click on the Manual tab which will show you any pre-existing shortcuts you have made.
  2. Click the + to add a new shortcut to Snap.

Create Custom Keyboard Shortcuts – Step 2

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Clicking the + will open up your default Applications folder, you can move to another location if necessary.

  1. Single click to select the application you are wanting to associate with your new shortcut. I have chosen xScope in the example above.
  2. Choose the key combination you wish to use for this shortcut by placing your cursor in the shortcut key box and then typing out the desired shortcut. It will appear in the box as you create it. In this example I have assigned alt – shift – x to be the desired shortcut.
  3. Click the Open button to complete the set up.

Confirm and Test Your New Shortcut

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I think this is a great time to test the new shortcut we’ve just created since you’ve got the key combination right there and it’s still accessible if you need to make any changes. In this case pressing the alt-shift-x does indeed bring up my xScope palette.

What’s really handy is that once you have the application started and running, using the key combination will bring the already running application to the front and while active, hitting the combination again will hide the application. This makes it really easy to pull up frequently used applications and to quickly access and hide them during the course of your day.

As mentioned, Snap is a free download from the Mac App Store and fills a nice gap for those who are looking to become more keyboard savvy and want access to their frequently used apps quickly and easily.

How To Clean Up Messy Text With TextWrangler

Why Would I Want To Do This?

If you frequently receive text from others for use in your work or projects you probably find that it is often messy, containing extra spaces, misplaced caps, all caps or even no caps. Also, if you grab it from a web page or a Google Doc, your text can contain formatting that can affect how it looks when pasted in to its final home. A good way to remove that formatting as well as to do other text manipulations is to use a good text editor like TextWrangler.

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How To Prevent Parallels Applications From Appearing in Alfred Search Results

Why Would I Want To Do This?

If you are a user of both the Alfred Launcher application and the Parallels app to run Windows (or other Operating System) Applications, you may find that you accidentally open these applications from Alfred search results. This can be problematic because it causes your whole Parallels Virtual Machine to launch if not already open. After a few times of doing this myself, I set out to find out how to keep those apps from appearing so I wouldn’t accidentally launch them.

Because Alfred uses the same index as Spotlight on your Mac, we can take advantage of a neat feature within Spotlight that allows you to set the privacy settings on a folder so that it doesn’t appear in search results. Here’s how we’ll do it.

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How To Clean Up Your Menu Bar With Bartender

Why Would I Want To Do This?

As you use your Mac and continue to install new software you may find that your Menu Bar, which is the topmost menu on your screen, can get really crowded. Also, since the menu does change to reflect the active program, the number of items visible on the right side can change and even obscure some of your running programs.

No worries though, for a few bucks you can pick up a really great piece of software called Bartender which helps keep your menu bar nice and tidy. Once installed, here’s how to configure it to show or hide individual programs. In addition, you can also move lesser used items to what is known as the Bartender Bar so they are still easily accessed but generally hidden for the bulk of the time.

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