Start Searching More Efficiently With Phlo

You do a lot of searching. You can’t even try to front that you don’t, because we’re all searching all the time. Even simple calculations and unit conversions are getting done in a search engine. But you could be doing it better. The folks who made search utility Phlo knew that and wanted to make internet searching awesome.

Did they succeed? We’ll test this tiny searchbox app and find out!

Go With the Phlo

You can access Phlo from the Dock or the menu bar (or both), but you’ll probably want to use a hotkey to get to it most of the time. Set something easy to remember but that won’t get in the way of your other shortcuts. I have Phlo sitting pretty at Control+Space, which is close enough to my Spotlight and Alfred shortcuts for my need for keyboard organization, but it doesn’t seem to coincide with anything else. If that doesn’t work for you, set a shortcut you like. You do you.

Enter your query, and if your site isn't already listed, select it from the list.

Enter your query, and if your site isn’t already listed, select it from the list.

Whatever you settle on, hit your shortcut to bring up the Phlo window. The default search engine is Google, and that’s great. Lots of people do lots of searches in Google. Type whatever you’re looking for into the text field and hit Enter. Your search will be opened up in a new active tab in your default browser.

Google isn’t all that’s on offer, though. There are a ton of searches here, including shopping sites, image searches, lyrics, and weather sites. Phlo even includes some, I’m going to guess here, Russian and a few Chinese language sites right at the end of the list.

There are lots of sites to choose from.

There are lots of sites to choose from.

There was absolutely everything I wanted included, but let’s pretend Phlo didn’t have absolutely everything you wanted. If you need a bunch of really specific searches, site searches, or use non-English sites, Phlo may not as useful for you as it is for me. In that case, you can add your own searches or even remove sites that don’t do you any good. You could go crazy and just add, like, your favorite websites to Phlo and use it as a quick bookmark launcher, but that would be crazy, right? Crazy like a fox.

Add you favorite searches to Phlo if they aren't already there.

Add you favorite searches to Phlo if they aren’t already there.

Do All of the Searches!

I can hear you asking, “So what?” You’ve got Quicksilver or Alfred, and you can already search and launch websites from those apps. Why would you need another, separate app to do something you can already do elsewhere. I’m going to level with you, kids, you don’t. Wait, hear me out on this one. Sure all the functionality of Phlo exists in your other launcher apps, but it isn’t built in.

Hold the phone, what does that even mean? It means that I can stick searches for Pinterest, Quora, or Dribbble into Alfred–my preferred app, but high fives to the Quicksilver users, too–but I have to do that manually. For each site I want to create a quick search for in Alfred, I have to get the search URL, substitute Alfred’s {query} placeholder, and create a shortcut that doesn’t get in the way of all of my other shortcuts. If I’m having a particularly perfectionist day, I’ll need to track down an appropriate icon for my search, too.

There are a ton of sites to search, already built right in.

There are a ton of sites to search, already built right in.

There’s just so much already built into Phlo, you may never have to add anything to its list, and even if you do, you’ll probably have to add a lot fewer sites. This might not seem like a big deal, but when I was setting up Alfred, I spent a lot of effort adding a ton of sites I use all the time, almost all of which are already in Phlo. I could have saved myself buckets of effort with a tool like this.

Things to Consider

There are a couple of downsides to Phlo. The first is that you’re running another application where just one really could do the job, even though you’d have to put in some more effort on your end. Yeah, that’s true. If you’ve already got Alfred, Quicksilver, or anything like them, and you go for Phlo, you’re essentially doubling up. I’m okay with that. Out of the box, Phlo does this one thing better and doesn’t put the onus on me to create a really usable product. For users who just want their apps to work without having to get into lots of settings and customizations, Phlo may be what they’re looking for.

The second downside to Phlo is less easy to dismiss. It costs about four bucks. That’s not bad, and less than I paid for coffee on Saturday, but a lot of users are going to be turned off by the price. I’ll admit that I may have even thought twice about Phlo if I hadn’t gotten it as part of a weekly app deal. It’s just one of those things where you’ll have to weigh how much use you’ll get out of the app against how much use you’d get out of that $3.99 elsewhere.

Final Thoughts

I absolutely love Phlo, and I wish I’d found it before I put in tons of effort to get all of the extra sites I search into Alfred. It’s not at all a replacement for that sort of application, but it certainly is a nice complement. That’s my experience, though. How much use you’ll personally get out of it is going to depend on how much searching you do (probably a lot) and whether that searching happens at sites that aren’t Google, YouTube, or Amazon (maybe). If you do a bunch of searching other places, Phlo’s at least worth a look, and if you’ve never been able to see the use in all the other features of an app like Alfred or Quicksilver, Phlo could be just the thing to speed up your search workflow.


Simple app packed with searches, but you can add your own, too.



Add Yours
  • Can’t this stuff be done by Alfred?

    • I’ll refer you to the review for that answer. (Yes, the answer is yes. It can also be done by Quicksilver, but you have to enter it all manually, which took me a TON of time.)

  • I’m happy with Alfred… I don’t think it’s worth the installation this time.

    • I’ve already added pretty much all of the searches I need to Alfred, so it’s not of a lot of use to me, either, but if I’d had it before I installed Alfred, I’d have absolutely saved myself some time and run them side-by-side.

  • It’s a great alternative to Alfred if you don’t want to pay the heavy licence fee costs … buuuuut Alfred really has everything and if you’re looking for this kind of software then you’ll most likely be aware of the cost and willing to pay the price.

    Works well though, Maybe a 6 or 7 from me due to lack of customizability compared to competitors.

    • I dont think it’s meant to be an Alfred, though. It’s just meant to do search. I liked it because Alfred was missing so many of the things I needed. (I mean, no Come on!) Almost everything I want and then some was in Phlo.

      I actually used the address bar in Explorer a lot when I had a PC, and I created all kinds of search shortcuts (with the help of old TechTV), and Phlo reminded me a LOT of that.

      • You can add custom searches to Alfred which is a big appeal for me but yeah Phlo is meant to be an automatic search engine app and not an alternative to Alfred or Quicksilver, it serves it’s own purpose.

        • I’ll clarify that I love absolutely everything else about Alfred!

  • I enjoy reading appstorm reviews, but can you please stop using unnecessary segues such as “Did they succeed? We’ll test this tiny searchbox app and find out!” or “Read on to find out!” It comes across as awkward and amateurish, something I would expect from a teenager, not a professional writer or publisher. I cringe every time I read one.

    And a belated thanks for turning me on to many great apps I would never have known about.

    • I took a look at the main page of Mac.AppStorm and saw this was common with many writers, not just me. You’d do better emailing the editor at [email protected] if you have a critique for us as a group!

      • Hi Paula. Yes, this is common, hence my post. I’m not picking on you, I hope you don’t feel that way. As I mentioned, I am generally a fan of this site and enjoy reading the reviews. This is a nitpick.

        As for contacting your editor, I have already shared my concern, I would hope you would feel comfortable enough bringing it up with your editor.

        • Hey Philip, I’m the editor here. Part of the reason we include those type of intros by default is the way our homepage is laid out. I do see the problem with it, though, and we’ll consider switching. With our upcoming redesign, though, we’ll be changing our intro style for sure.