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HomeTechHow to use Raycast and how it compares to Spotlight and Alfred

How to use Raycast and how it compares to Spotlight and Alfred

Most Mac customers discover Spotlight, Apple’s built-in instrument for looking out by means of apps and information, to swimsuit their wants simply positive. But energy customers who need to have close to whole management over their laptop (in addition to entry to shortcuts and instruments) have typically seemed for different options. Lately, an app referred to as Raycast has been gaining consideration as a kind of choices, competing with one of many group’s long-standing favorites, Alfred.

After making an attempt out Raycast for just a few weeks, I’ve discovered it to be extraordinarily helpful. Here are some suggestions if you would like to strive it out for your self.

Getting began

When you first open Raycast after downloading it from the company’s website, it’ll stroll you thru a quick overview, which prompts you to assign it a keyboard shortcut. The default is Option-Space, although it does provide directions on how to use Command-Space as an alternative, which is the default shortcut to deliver up Spotlight.

After you make it by means of the setup display, you’ll be greeted with Raycast’s primary display: a search bar with a number of strategies on what you are able to do. Start typing, and these strategies are changed by no matter functions and instructions Raycast finds in your system.

Raycast’s default display, which is able to counsel that you just undergo its walkthrough tutorial to begin

Out of the field, Raycast can do lots simply by itself. It does, in fact, do the fundamentals: launches apps by way of keyboard shortcuts, offers you solutions to simple arithmetic questions, searches information (although, not like Spotlight, Raycast doesn’t robotically lump the information it finds in together with your functions — you’ve gotten to inform it particularly that you really want to seek for a file).

Here’s how you are able to do among the fundamentals in Raycast:

  • To seek for an app: sort the app’s identify and press enter to launch it.
  • To do fundamental math calculations: sort them in as you’d usually, e.g., “365/50” or “square root of 25.” Pressing enter copies the end result.
  • To search the online: sort in your question, and spotlight the Search Google possibility. Pressing enter will open it in your browser.
  • To seek for a file: sort in File Search and press enter. Then sort within the identify of the file you’re searching for.

While that’ll get you up and operating with Raycast, let’s check out among the cool options that make it value moving into.

Searching, changing, and extra

If you sort one thing like “12PM EST to PST,” “1LB to KG,” or “20 BTC to USD” into Spotlight or a default set up of Alfred, it’ll immediate you to search Google for the reply. Raycast does the conversion for you with out having to ship you to a browser.

My one grievance is that Raycast is choosy with how you write these — use the extra widespread “PT” and “ET,” and it doesn’t give the right reply.

Speeding up search

In my expertise, Raycast is about as quick as Spotlight and additionally offers you extra management. If Apple’s search instrument lists the factor you’re searching for because the second end result, you’ve gotten to use the arrow keys or mouse to choose it, transferring your fingers away from the house row. With Raycast, whenever you’re taking a look at your search outcomes, you may maintain down the command key, and it’ll checklist numbers alongside the aspect of every end result. Then simply press the quantity that corresponds with the end result you need, and it’ll open. (Alfred has a really related system.)

Taking motion

Pressing Command+Okay in Raycast unlocks a complete host of different actions you may take with a search end result, every with a corresponding keyboard shortcut. For instance, if I discover the file I’m searching for, I can use Raycast’s motion menu to do issues like present it in Finder, copy it, and even present an inventory of the opposite information in the identical folder. While the variety of actions within the menu will be overwhelming, there’s a “search for action” bar within the decrease right-hand nook of the Raycast window to provide help to discover the one you need. (You can completely ignore that bar if you would like — I used Raycast for a couple of week earlier than I remembered it even existed.)

You get lots of energy whenever you open the File Search part of Raycast.

Managing Results

The complexity of the app’s customary search bar is tough to escape. Using Raycast for the primary time will be overwhelming due to simply how many issues it affords to do for you. Apple’s Mail app will be the first end result it exhibits you whenever you search “Mail,” however beneath it are strategies: “Do you want to search for this using Google? DuckDuckGo? Your contacts book?” You may additionally get unfamiliar outcomes when you’re coming from Spotlight — as well as to your functions, Raycast additionally surfaces system settings like a darkish mode toggle, System Preferences panes, and different controls.

You can handle which instructions pop up underneath each search and even which of them can be found in any respect. However, I’d counsel making an attempt them out for some time earlier than you do as a result of it’s these instructions and Raycast’s retailer (from which you’ll set up new ones) that basically make Raycast shine. However, when you do need to flip issues off, right here’s how:

  • Open Raycast and sort in Extensions. The first choice ought to learn Extensions Raycast Preferences. Select that.
  • To make it so an possibility by no means exhibits up in search, uncheck the Enabled field subsequent to it.
  • The choices with a > to the left imply it’s a class. Click on that to see all the person instructions within the class. You can uncheck total classes — like System, which incorporates instructions like Show Desktop or Empty Trash — or particular person instructions.
  • You may also make it so particular apps don’t present up by increasing the Applications group and unchecking particular apps.

To handle which choices present up underneath each search, sort Manage Fallback Commands within the search field and hit enter. Selecting objects within the Enabled part and urgent enter will make it in order that they don’t present up, and choosing objects within the Available part and urgent enter will make them seem.

Fallback instructions will be helpful, however it’s possible you’ll not need all of them.

Use Raycast’s built-in instruments to handle your apps

Typing Window into Raycast offers you a complete host of instructions that allow you to handle the form and measurement of the app you’re at present utilizing. You can maximize it, set it to cowl the left half of the display, make it smaller, and extra. There’s additionally a built-in notes app for jotting down fast ideas right into a floating window. There’s even a command constructed into Raycast that makes a bathe of confetti seem in your display.

I counted over 50 window administration choices in Raycast — however I principally stick to three or 4.

If you delve into Raycast’s retailer (which you’ll entry just by typing Store into the search subject), you could find community-built extensions that allow you to handle music playback, translate textual content with Google Translate, or begin a Zoom assembly. While most of the extensions are geared in the direction of programmers — understandably, since these are the type of people that write extensions — there are many instruments that almost all of laptop customers might discover useful. One of my colleagues makes use of it to copy two-factor authentication codes from Authy.

Adding your personal instructions

You may also add customized performance to Raycast your self with out having to develop a whole extension for it through the use of Quicklinks and Script Commands. Quicklinks are comparatively easy: they allow you to take what you’ve typed into Raycast and seek for it on the internet. For instance, I’ve a fast search arrange that lets me sort in “verge [insert search query here]” to get outcomes from our catalog of articles. I even have one which lets me search YouTube. Script Commands are extra highly effective, letting you write out your personal mini applications and units of actions in a wide range of languages (equivalent to Bash, Apple Script, Python, and Node.js).

The strategy of including a Quicklink will rely upon what web site you’re making an attempt to search, and there are some attention-grabbing additional issues you are able to do with parameters. I like to recommend digging into Raycast’s Quicklinks documentation for more information on how to add one. Script Commands are much more complicated to arrange, as they require some familiarity with scripting (because the identify would counsel). If you’re snug with that type of factor, although, you may read Raycast’s documentation on making Script Commands to get began.

Raycast’s Extensions choice pane incorporates a wealth of choices and can also be the place you go to create Quicklinks and Script Commands.

Managing keyboard shortcuts

If you actually like exhibiting off or shaving milliseconds off every search, you may assign keyboard shortcuts to just about any command in Raycast. I’ve an extension that lets me search Apple Maps, and whereas I might sort “Maps,” press enter, then sort my question, I’ve set it so I can simply press Command+M to immediately be introduced to the Map search subject.

One huge factor to word with the keyboard shortcuts, that are utterly customizable, is that they’re common — they’re lively even whenever you haven’t particularly activated Raycast. For some functions, that’s helpful; you can assign keyboard shortcuts to Raycast’s window administration instruments and not even have to open it to swap an app to full display. However, it will be annoying if you would like to keep away from having complicated keyboard shortcuts. I attempted setting my Verge search to Command+V and rapidly found that I used to be not in a position to paste in any app. So watch out what mixture you choose.

To assign a keyboard shortcut to a command:

  • Search Raycast for Extensions to open the Raycast preferences window.
  • Find the command or app you need to have a shortcut to (there’s a search subject within the prime left if you would like to minimize down on the scrolling).
  • Click the Record Hotkey button subsequent to it, and press the keyboard shortcut you need to use.

You can delete a keyboard shortcut by hovering over the hotkey subject and clicking the X that comes up.

More enjoyable with Raycast

While I’ve hit on lots of Raycast’s main options, it does really feel like I discover a new factor I can do with it each different day. I lately found that it’ll warn me of upcoming calendar occasions that will have slipped my thoughts (utilizing the Command-Okay shortcut, I can dismiss this notification). I additionally discovered that it lets me flip my cursor right into a lightsaber that performs the swooshing sounds as I transfer my mouse round till I toggle the function once more by typing lightsaber.

Even if I’m utterly oblivious to Fantastical’s notifications, Raycast will nonetheless remind me at any time when I am going to open a brand new app or take an motion.

How does Raycast examine to Alfred and Spotlight?

While Raycast is brimming with enjoyable options, at its core, it does the identical job as Alfred. Raycast seems to be and feels extra trendy and comes out of the field completely loaded with options, all without cost (there are plans for a paid Teams model that can allow you to share snippets and scripts). Alfred has lots of the identical options, however provided that you purchase the Powerpack, which prices 34 British kilos (round $41 at time of writing). In addition, whereas Alfred wins when it comes to the convenience with which you’ll create customizable actions, which it calls Workflows, once more, these are one in all Alfred’s paid options.

It’s additionally value noting that within the subsequent model of macOS, Spotlight will even give you the chance to run Shortcuts and is getting a whole host of improvements as well. If you’re searching for the best possibility, that can nearly definitely be it.

It’s comparatively easy to make your personal actions with Alfred, like this workflow my co-worker runs once they’re completed with work.

Making one thing related in Raycast requires making a script and enhancing it utilizing an exterior instrument.

If you’re an Alfred energy consumer who’s utilizing a paid-for model and you’ve gotten your workflows and settings completely dialed in, I genuinely don’t suppose you want to rush to swap to Raycast until there’s some completely must-have function that you just’ve seen. But when you’re utilizing the free model of Alfred or are wanting to improve from Spotlight for the primary time, Raycast actually appears like the most suitable choice today.

To be completely sincere, I had tried Raycast a couple of 12 months in the past however bounced off it largely thanks to its complexity. But after committing to studying it (a course of that took simply an hour or two of actually digging into it), I can’t think about going again to Alfred.



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