nikivi

An interesting thread about the differences of LaunchBar to Alfred

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Not related to the thread itself, but my opinion on the matter.


I’ve used QuicksIlver, Google’s Quick Search Box, Flashlight, and LaunchBar. The last two just briefly, to see how they were. I may have used others that I’ve since forgotten.


To me, Alfred has beaten them all in how easy it is to start making your own stuff, and that matters a lot. When you can start experimenting faster, you can more quickly learn if it’s worth investing more time to dig deeper. Alfred passes this test with flying colours. I mean, just look at this thing. Now I need to start learning about Info.plist and app bundles and read documentation full of boilerplate code (or so it seems) just so I know if I can start making something? That’s made even less impressive by knowing Alfred had already been past version 2 for a while, meaning Workflows were already a thing. And from the screenshot on the page actions look really limited in context. They look like they’ll be about as powerful as Alfred 1, but take longer to build!


Now, I may be mistaken about the capabilities of LaunchBar actions, but the point still stands. In comparison to Alfred, it looks like custom scripts can do less things and are harder to even start building. The latter really takes away your impulse to check if the former is false.

 

That’s the huge thing about Alfred: when I see others talking about alternatives, they usually rave about their native abilities and then mention one or two plugins. With Alfred it’s the reverse: it’s all about what you can do with the plugins (Workflows) that exist.

 

When I bought the Alfred Powerpack, back in version 1 (version 2 was release shortly after), I had maybe one or two scripts I wanted to run with it. It’s in big part because Alfred is so easy to start experimenting with that I now have almost 40 released Workflows, plus some private, plus some that I’ve deprecated. What’s more, I needed no extensive documentation to start building, I just did!

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LaunchBar extensions aren't as hard to build as that — the GUI takes care of a lot of the boilerplate. You can't do anything without coding, though.

 

Control flow (i.e. run this script next) is controlled via script feedback, so it doesn't have the arbitrary limitations imposed by Alfred's requirement that control always returns to a GUI workflow element.

 

LaunchBar's feedback format is also richer and is a tree, not a flat list, which makes drill-down-style workflows a much better fit. No faffing around with delimiters or the dead-end External Trigger UX: Go Back is a native action.

 

But yeah, you can't do very much (add web searches?) without coding.

 

Personally, I prefer LaunchBar's workflow/action model, with the caveat that I've only built one Action for it (a copy of my git repos workflow for Alfred).

 

I never got comfortable with LaunchBar's UX, however. I like Alfred's normal text box input.

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