Although Spotlight is baked into OS X, it's a sluggish means of accessing files, and you can't do a great deal with anything once you find it. Alfred follows acclaimed launchers Quicksilver and LaunchBar in providing a launching interface that's more efficient and flexible than Apple's own.
Alfred effectively comes in two versions. The default download is free and resembles a souped-up, faster Spotlight. A keyboard shortcut brings up the streamlined interface, and you type to find and launch apps, make web searches, access documents, or perform basic tasks such as calculations and accessing dictionary content.
There's a certain amount of configuration available, although the inability to scroll for more results than those in the short list provided is irksome.
Buy the Powerpack add-on and Alfred gains advanced features. You can navigate the file system, perform actions on items (copy, move, and so on) from within Alfred, control iTunes and access your clipboard history.
Disappointingly, clipboard access is text-only, although you can at least define custom permanent snippets.
We were impressed by Alfred's accuracy in finding items quickly, the elegance of the interface and the Powerpack's Finder-oriented actions. For power users, LaunchBar nonetheless remains a better bet – it's a more mature app that you can do more with.
But for anyone wanting something simpler (but still more powerful than Spotlight), Alfred sits in just that little niche and is therefore worthy of consideration.
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