Raycast as Alfred alternative

For the last several years, I’ve been using Alfred, a macOS app that allows me to create a more efficient workflow. In an ideal world, I want to create a shortcut for every action that I repeat and that requires me to take more steps than it needs to. It’s not an ideal world because I’m often too lazy or distracted to prioritise setting up custom workflows, but where I spent the time, I almost always see the return fast.

Alfred was my go-to tool for that, but someone at work recommended Raycast as an open-source alternative, and I’ve been convinced. In this post, I would like to share some reasons why Raycast helped me make the switch.

Calendar (and Zoom links)

I use Alfred/Raycast at least 20 times per day. I use it to open apps, for example. Every time I open Raycast, if there’s a calendar event waiting for me, it’ll show up at the top of the list. Not only that, if there’s a Zoom link listed in the event, hitting enter while on the event will open the Zoom link.

I just had to hit enter to open the Zoom link to chat to my colleagues

Further, there’s a Zoom extension available that allows me to do several actions with Zoom without even opening the app.

Things (and other task managers)

I’m an avid user of the Things to-do app and one of my requirements of a good task manager is that I can easily access my tasks, and add new tasks. Raycast has a Things extension.

But also for task managers like Asana and Todoist, there are extensions available.

Calculations2

Alfred does basic calculations, but Raycast goes much further. For example, I can type “12pm est to cat” and it’ll show me the time in Central African Time. It does similar magic for currencies.

Fast time zone conversions. Since taking this screenshot, I’ve discovered that writing “my time” instead of “CAT” also gives the same result.

If that’s too limited for you, you just install the Numi integration, and you’ll be able to combine these two gems in a heartbeat.

Window management

I’m a sucker for neatly organised desktops. In the past, I used Spectacle for that. (Kudos to my colleague Dwain for recommending this.) However, this app is no longer actively supported.

Raycast has the option to manage windows built in. I’ve transferred the hotkeys I used in Spectacle to Raycast, as you can see in the below screenshot.

You’ll see that I have a hotkey for the bottom half of my screen, for example.

Raycast has it too

Of course, most of the features that I used daily in Alfred are also available on Raycast:

  • You can create snippets. The process is a bit more tedious than on Alfred, at least at first, but once you get the hang of it, it’s superfast. I’d even argue it’s faster than on Alfred because once you set an alias for the snippet creation, you can do so without using your mouse.
Just typing “c” in Raycast and hitting enter will open a modal for me to add a new snippet.
  • You can access the clipboard history. I highly recommend adding a hotkey for that. If you’re like me, you’ll often want to access the link that you copied 10 minutes ago.
  • One of the features I use the most in Alfred is the option for quicklinks. Rather than going via Google, you search directly on a site. I use this often for our internal tools at Automattic. But for example, if I want to review if a site is just down for me or for everyone, I use this quicklink to find out: https://www.isitdownrightnow.com/{Query}.html. Raycast will prompt you for the URL to search for.
When I hit enter, Raycast will open Is It Down Right Now? with my site’s URL already filled in.

Custom workflows

Where Alfred excels, it’s the ability to set up custom workflows. For example, if I would type “1:1s” in Alfred, and then the name of the team member, it would open the right links to prep for my meeting with them.

Raycast has this option, but it’s a bit more effort to set it up as everything needs to be hard-coded rather than using Alfred’s visual builder.

For example, with this code, I can type “Start work” and it’ll open the apps and links I start my day with:

#!/bin/bash

# Required parameters:
# @raycast.schemaVersion 1
# @raycast.title Start Work
# @raycast.mode compact

# Optional parameters:
# @raycast.icon 💪🏼

# Documentation:
# @raycast.author Job Thomas

open https://app.asana.com/0/inbox/1201320019584389
open https://3.basecamp.com/3698594/my/readings
open -a "Spark Desktop"
open -a "Things"

(Good type of) wasting time

If all the above hasn’t convinced you yet, Raycast has a few more gems that are just fun:

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