Alfred Custom Web Searches: 5 Examples to Get You Started

It’s definitely no secret that Alfred is one of AppStorm’s all-time favorite apps. Several of us use it daily and thoroughly enjoy the extended capabilities it brings to OS X.

One of these awesome features is the ability to set up custom searches. These allow you to quickly launch a search on almost any website straight from Alfred. Today I’ll show you some of the custom searches that I’ve personally set up and use daily.

Built-In Searches

Before we launch on a mission to create our own custom Alfred search queries, we should look under the hood to see what’s already provided to prevent from unnecessarily duplicating functionality.

To see what’s included, launch Alfred and click the little gear icon in the top right to bring up the preferences window. Once you’re in the preferences, click on “Features” in the top navigation and “Web Searches” on the left under the “Web & URL” heading.

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The built-in web searches

This should give you a big list of options for all kinds of web searches: Google, Yahoo, IMDB, Ask, Twitter, Facebook, Wikipedia, eBay, YouTube and more. With all these built-in options, you’re likely to have trouble thinking of anything that needs to be added! Fear not though, we’ll get to that later. For now, let’s make sure you know who to use these.

To get started, check out the extensive list of options. There are two columns here: Keyword and Website. The latter obviously shows you the search you’ll be running, and in a sense so does the keyword, except that the keyword is more importantly telling you how you can tell Alfred to run this specific search.

For instance, let’s say we want to run a quick search on IMDB. To make sure we know how this is accomplished, we look at the list, find IMDB and check out the keyword. Conveniently, this is simply “IMDB”.

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Finding the right keyword

Now that we know how to communicate with Alfred, close the preferences window and hit your shortcut to bring up Alfred. Next, type in the keyword for the search you’re looking for. It’ll likely pop up at the top before you even finish typing it, just hit enter to have Alfred autofill the rest.

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First type in the keyword

Once you’ve got the keyword entered and ready to go, it’s time to enter your search query just as if you were on the site itself. You don’t need quotes or anything, just type what you’re looking for and hit Return. This will launch the indicated website with the results for the query you entered.

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Then type in your query

Make Your Own

Under the “Custom Web Searches” heading, you can add to the list of built-in web searches by building your own. Don’t worry if this sounds complicated, it’s super easy. The first thing you’ll want to do is go to the site you want to add and manually run a search.

For example, let’s say hypothetically that Flickr wasn’t included (it is) and we wanted to add it. We’d hit up Flickr.com and type any old search query. As a general rule of thumb, short, easy to spot queries work the best, so I used “appstorm”.

Once you’ve run the search, ignore the results and instead take a look at the url that resulted. In our case it should be http://www.flickr.com/search/?q=appstorm. All we have to do from here is find the search string that we used and replace it with {query}. This will tell Alfred where to insert whatever you decide to type in.

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Creating a custom search

Once you’ve got that URL figured out, you can go to the “Custom Searches” section and create a new custom search. Paste the URL in the top field and fill out the rest however you want. Note again that the keyword you enter here will be what you enter into Alfred to bring up this custom search.

screenshot

Creating a custom search

Five Must-Have Custom Searches

Now that you know how to find the built-in searches and how to add in your own, here are some custom searches that I’ve built and find useful. If you like them, copy and paste them into your own version of Alfred! I’ve already inserted the appropriate tags so you can use them as they appear below.

Flickr Creative Commons

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Flickr Creative Commons

As I mentioned above, Flickr is one of the default choices built right into Alfred. However, when I’m searching Flickr, I’m typically looking for an image to use in a post, and the most of the results in the default search aren’t licensed for that type of use.

The solution is of course to go into the advanced search options and make sure that you’re checking only in the Creative Commons material. This takes a few steps though so it’s much faster to just run a quick search for Alfred. The snippet below will search only Creative Commons-licensed content for commercial use, adaptation, modification or building upon, meaning you can use the image almost anywhere as long as you show proper attribution to the author.

Website: Flickr Creative Commons
URL: http://www.flickr.com/search/?q={query}&l=commderiv&ss=0&ct=0&mt=all&w=all&adv=1
Shortcut: fcc

Time.is

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Time.is

Time.is is a fantastic website that helps you find the current time for any place on the planet in a gorgeously simple and attractive interface. I work closely with people from Australia, the UK, all over the U.S., and various other places on the globe so I’m always in a state of confusion about what time it is for the person I’m trying to communicate with. My simple and effective solution was an Alfred custom search!

With this custom search, all you have to do is type in “time” and then the location that you want to check. For instance, if I want to check on my friends in Melbourne, I just type “time Melbourne” and hit Return, which instantly brings up the exact time in Melbourne, the difference in time between Melbourne and my current location, and even the sunrise and sunset times!

Website: Time.is
URL: http://time.is/{query}
Shortcut: time

Zootool

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Zootool

Zootool is my favorite bookmarking service. Much better than Delicious, it stores all your bookmarks with convenient little thumbnails. You can use Zootool to store sites, images, videos; whatever you want!

It’s often the case that I’m writing an article or designing something and recall a resource that I bookmarked that can help me out. With a Zootool custom web search in Alfred, I’m never more than a few keystrokes away from my Zoo.

Website: Zootool
URL (Your Zoo): http://zootool.com/zoo/search:{query}
URL (Public Search): http://zootool.com/search/{query}/
Shortcut: zt

Pinterest

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Pinterest

Pinterest is a lot like Zootool, it allows you to store various bits and pieces of the web into personalized collections. However, Pinterest definitely has a strong leaning towards the trendy and chic. The personality of the site’s users is remarkably consistent and the type of content that you find is almost always incredibly stylish and interesting.

Any time I’m looking for some inspiration for design, photography, furniture or even if I just want something fun to make for dinner, I hit up Pinterest and run a public search. With this custom search, Alfred becomes a fantastic instant gateway to what is sure to become your newest addiction.

Website: Pinterest
URL: http://pinterest.com/search/?q={query}
Shortcut: pin

Grooveshark

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Grooveshark

Grooveshark is one of the best things to ever hit the Internet. Pulling content from all over the web, Grooveshark allows you to enter a song, artist or album and instantly hear the music you want, completely free.

Several times throughout the week a friend or colleague will suggest that check out a song or artist, or I get a song stuck in my head and I just have to hear it, or I suddenly have to know the artist behind a specific piece; all of these require a trip to Grooveshark and Alfred makes it that much closer. Just type a quick “gs” and the song you’re after and you’re off to Internet music bliss.

Website: Grooveshark
URL: http://grooveshark.com/#/search?q={query}
Shortcut: gs

Share Your Favorite Custom Searches!

By now you should know all about Alfred Custom Searches: what they are, how to use the built-in options, how to create your own and even five great searches to get you started. So get out there and start building your own!

Leave a comment below and let us know what custom searches you’ve built or are going to build. Be sure to paste the syntax into your comment so we others can grab it quickly.


  • http://jarhead.me Doug

    Website: Icon Archive
    URL: http://www.iconarchive.com/search?q={query}
    Shortcut: icon

    Website: Google Browse By Name (way better than “I’m feeling lucky”)
    URL: http://www.google.com/search?sourceid=navclient&gfns=1&q={query}
    Shortcut: bbn

    Website: Google Scholar (searches case law in Tennessee)
    URL: http://scholar.google.com/scholar?as_q={query}&as_sdt=4&as_sdts=43
    Shortcut: gs

  • Mike C.

    Alfred = LaunchBar ripoff

    It infuriates me to see how Mac media promotes a blatant ripoff as if it’s the coolest thing in the market, completely disregard the original inventor of the idea and then a bunch of cheapskate Mac users embrace it. You guys wouldn’t even think twice about spending a few dollars eating out a few times a month which easily amounts to software price or more yet complain so much about some software costing *any* money.

    Damn you all.

    • JimBob

      Who peed on your cornflakes, bro?

    • JS

      You should avoid drinking alcohol before 6 pm mate…

    • Kurban

      1) LaunchBar = QuickSilver ripoff!

      2) Alfred > LaunchBar

      • http://dogearedpages.org Marc

        Agreed. Quicksilver was the ultimate launcher before Alfred. LaunchBar is just the red headed step child.

    • sher

      Doesn’t really matter who was first. Alfred improved on the idea… Alfred > Launchbar.

  • http://www.bluetooth.org John Smith

    As a long-time user (8+ year) of LaunchBar, Mike I don’t think your comment is fair. Alfred is a launcher that does a lot of cool stuff, and it uses the Spotlight Index for much of its info. LaunchBar maintains its *own* index.

    LaunchBar was first (by quite a while; it was on NeXT), and QuickSilver came a number of years after (many people get this backwards and think QuickSilver was first). So, yay, 2 launchers. Then there was Butler. And there have been many more. Alfred is a newcomer to this. And it’s pretty good. Simple, but good. The PowerPack makes it better. In use, I find Alfred more straightforward (almost always) and faster (always) than LaunchBar, but less powerful in some cases. I actually vacillate between the two.

    Do I think Alfred copied LaunchBar? Not in the least. They are QUITE different in their operation, and Alfred can come up with features easily by customer feedback (which, much of it is driven by wanting features that exist in LaunchBar, many have for years, and people don’t know how to use them). I feel I get about 15% of LaunchBar’s functionality in my use, and I get about 80% of Alfred’s when I use _it_.

    • taja

      Could someone summarise some of the benefits of using Alfred over Launchbar?

      I’ve been a longtime Launchbar user, and feel like I use quite a lot of its functionality and prefer its unobstrusive UI to Alfred or Quicksilver. But I’ve been frustrated with the slow pace of development (Alfred’s appearance doesn’t seem to have generated any sense of urgency at Objective Development) and reluctance to iron out the bugs that occasionally emerge…

      • Spartan

        I haven’t used Launchbar but after watching one tutorial video I’d say that Alfred really shines in that you don’t really have to remember any keyboard shortcuts, just the one to launch Alfred and arrow keys to get advanced options. Otherwise Alfred just knows if you are making a calculation, entering web address, app name or searching. All advanced searches and scripts use text snippets which are much better than using shortcut keys (easier to remember as you don’t have to remember them really :)

        I recommend using the “remember last typed query for five minutes” option. That way you can paste more numbers to your calculations, relaunch something etc.

        You can disable the hat icon which is pretty silly and change the colors how you want them.

        Here is a two cool Afred resource pages:
        http://alfredtips.com/home/
        http://jdfwarrior.tumblr.com/

      • http://www.bluetooth.org John Smith

        If you are already savvy with LaunchBar, there aren’t that many reasons to go with Alfred.

        A few things Alfred can do, though, that LB can’t do (as well)

        * Alfred uses the Spotlight index so you can more easily find things in files or in filenames. i.e. if you start a search with the spacebar, you’ll get a spotlight search and can search for file or folder names. Also you can use the ‘in’ keyword to get a list of things that are IN files (LaunchBar cannot do this at all)

        * Plug-ins in Alfred are more straightforward, and there are more of them (that I can find)

        * Alfred development is moving at a much faster pace

        * Dictionary search in Alfred is a lot better. It is “live” where LaunchBar is not (try typing ‘define’ and then a word in Alfred… it’s nice).

        * Alfred uses fewer system resources than LaunchBar. This is mainly because LB maintains its own index. If I enable iTunes search in LaunchBar, memory usage goes up from 30 MB to 120 MB; this is because I have 18,000 songs in my library. Alfred doesn’t have to cache this much info so its memory use is always 40) you can’t get them all. You can only see the top 40 results, period.

    • http://jdfwarrior.tumblr.com David Ferguson

      Well put John.

  • Maciej S

    Here some custom searches that I use:

    PHP man pages:
    http://uk3.php.net/manual-lookup.php?pattern={query}&lang=en

    Currency exchange (in this case from USD to PLN):
    http://www.xe.com/ucc/convert.cgi?Amount={query}&From=USD&To=PLN

    iTunes search (not quite web search but… ;) ):
    http://ax.search.itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZSearch.woa/wa/advancedSearch?submit=media&media=software&softwareTerm={query}

  • B30

    Quicksilver (the mother of all launchers) – Price: Free
    Alfred – Price: Free
    LaunchBar – Price: $35

  • Spartan

    Calm down, that is perfectly normal. Infact that’s what apple does too. Others rush their products to the market to sell them before there is competition in that segment. Apple’s strategy is often to perfect the idea that others have invented, like with the tablet pc. That’s ok, it’s called memetic evolution, you don’t need to invent the wheel because it’s already invented. And if you really think that LaunchBar creator has been truly original with his app, you are being naive.

  • Macbeth

    How about, for the mathematically inclined, adding a wolfram alpha custom search. although alfred can do simple math, you can plot complex multivariable functions with W|A.
    Website: Wolfram|Alpha
    URL: http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i={query}
    Shortcut: alpha

  • http://mjrider.com Matt

    I use Alternativeto.net ALL the freaking time! I love the ability to use alfred to start the search

    http://alternativeto.net/searchresult.aspx?search={query}

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  • Chris

    I use Dict.cc for translation English | German

    http://www.dict.cc/?s={query}

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