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Alfred's File Search needs help


ctwise
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First off, a compliment on how awesome Alfred is in general, but... I have a devil of a time making good use of Alfred's File Search. Maybe it's just me, but it doesn't seem to do what it _should_ do, make working with files fast and easy.

 

1. When actioning files, you press right arrow to display the actions, but to back out of the action, you have to press _escape_. Pressing the 'left arrow' should back you out of the options to the previous display.

 

2. When you enter a tilde (~) as the beginning of a path, Alfred automatically expands it to the home directory path and appends a path separator. This throws me off, Every. Single. Time. I know Alfred will ignore two path separators in a row but I would be much happier if Alfred simply didn't expand the tilde.

 

3. When selecting files in Alfred, you often filter them, e.g., ~/Downloads/*.txt. But if you immediately action the list you get just the first file. I get that the wildcard isn't really a file specification, it's a search filter, but it would work much better if actioning on a wildcard automatically added all files to the buffer. Failing that, a worse option would be a key chord that added all the displayed files to the buffer (instead of option-down arrow over and over and over...).

 

4. Some reminder on key chords would be very useful in the right pane of the file list. It always takes me a second to remember what does what.

 

5. The Return/Enter key browses into folders but it _opens_ documents. The Tab key browses into folders but does _nothing_ for documents (though the Tab key can be enabled in preferences). It feels like a lack of consistency.

 

6. There are _five_ different keywords to use Spotlight to find files:

 

<quicksearch> (using ' or space) - Does a filename search in Spotlight

open - Seems the same as the quicksearch

find - Does a filename search in Spotlight but pressing enter on the filename reveals it in Finder

in - Does a content search in Spotlight

tags - Does a tags search in Spotlight

 

This feels like a hot mess. Firstly, it's missing the most useful option, a search that supports Spotlight syntax, e.g., name:, tag:, etc. The 'find' keyword is superfluous since not only is there an action to reveal in finder, you can hold down command when pressing enter to get the same effect. At minimum I would like to see the quicksearch take the full Spotlight syntax.

 

7. Where appropriate, actions should accept "normal" key chords, e.g., the Delete action should be triggered by the 'delete' key, not just option-8.

 

Hopefully the File Search functionality is going to get a major facelift in an upcoming release and I can start making better use of the File Search feature.

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While Alfred *is* going to get some decent file search improvements in the future, many of the points you make have actually been carefully considered design decisions when looking at Alfred's user experience holistically, so will unlikely change.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I would be much happier if Alfred simply didn't expand the tilde.

 

4. Some reminder on key chords would be very useful in the right pane of the file list. It always takes me a second to remember what does what.

 

 

Big thumbs-up from me on those two. The expansion of the ~ is mildly jarring/distracting and takes up a lot of precious query field space. I'd personally like to see it expanded to ~/.

 

What actually bugs me, however, is that I often hit backspace a couple too many times (because Alfred deletes the entire last path level on one backspace) and find myself a level or two further back up the file tree than I want to be. I clearly haven't quite got my head around the fact that I only need to hit backspace once even though I typed 3 or 4 letters and TAB to get to where I am.

 

Using ~/ would stop me accidentally traversing to / or /Volumes or /Volumes/Users (worst case, I'm a ~ away from being back in ~/), but what I'd really, really love is if Alfred selected the section of the query that would be deleted on backspace. That would be 100% consistent with the normal behaviour of the backspace key, and thus in line with (non-Alfred-guru) user expectations. I dare say Andrew will correct me if I'm wrong, as he's spent a lot more time thinking about these things, but I don't really see a downside to that, and it would add consistency (wrt other apps) and useful feedback to Alfred.

 

With regard to hints in the sidebar, a resounding "yes, please". As you say, many of Alfred's keyboard shortcuts are non-obvious, and I really feel I'm not getting anything like the mileage I could out of it because I just don't know a lot of them. I didn't even realise you could add multiple files to the buffer till I read your post. The question is now whether I'll remember all the ALT+? shortcuts when I come to try it.

Edited by deanishe
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