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Good Problems: can't remember all my workflows/options!


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Spoiled by community workflows (thanks all!) I can never remember all of the permutations, or sometimes, even the basic triggers for workflows I've installed. Indeed, seems every time I go to Prefs>Workflows I go "Oh yeah, that one looks handy!"

 

I had a few ideas to aid discoverability/general usability of existing workflows. Couple of things first...

 

1) I have no pretense that these are 'good' ideas. Just ideas—I reckon there are better ones! 

2) Sorry if these have been discussed before. I searched around first but nothing came up.

3) I love love love how minimal the Alfred UI is and don't want to spoil it. 

 

Anyway...

 

1. Allow workflows to add a help/info bar in position 0. Max 2 lines. 

It would need to be formatted a little differently to be effective. I'm imagining these as 

  1. The same size as the subtext in a regular Alfred item
  2. The background is different than the list item backgrounds. 
  3. The keystroke items styled to look like keyboard keys
  4. Something the user could turn off via Alfred options

I'll use the Top Processes workflow as an example.

 

After typing the workflow's keyword ('top'), between the search box and the results Alfred might list something like:

Modifiers: [CMD]=Force Kill | [SHFT]=Search for process | [CTRL]=Kill

In addition to modifiers, it could show any other keywords associated with the workflow. In Top Processes' case:

See Also: [kill]: Kill Processes | [lsof]: list files opened by processes | [glance]: Open Glances

In the case of modifiers, Alfred is awesome enough to show you those on the selected item if you press them. I'm a life-long tinkerer and shortcut junkie but I never think to hit these to explore a workflow's options! 

 

These lines could be generated by the developer including a fixed-name file in the package that Alfred would pull or by Alfred parsing the package's included keywords and modifiers. 

 

I realize there are possible complications here with a fixed window size + variable font sizes but that's not really any different from existing 'help' hacks workflow developers are cooking up currently.

 

2. Establish a convention for finding help for a workflow

Lots of options here. Main thing is that it's consistent across workflows and always available. These two are somewhat common in the wild:

 

1. keyword ? or keyword?. Nice and Alfredy.

2. Last item in the list after typing a keyword is always Help.

 

Here's the thing: if the developer hasn't indicated help info, it should still be there! Alfred could offer to pull in the info from...

 

3. Show summary + help link directly on the Workflow screen

Would be delightful if at the top of any given workflow there was a summary that contained a summary of what the workflow does, each of its keywords+title and their modifiers. Basically the stuff that's listed on Packal along with a little bit of Alfred automation to extract keywords and modifiers into a tidy list. Additionally, if there is a dedicated help page/file available, a link to it would appear there. 

 

4. Add an option to list existing workflows when Alfred is triggered

Definitely as an option only but I'd turn it on occasionally to remind myself of all the cool stuff I've discovered for Alfred. So instead of a blank search bar, it's the search bar with the ten most recently installed workflows listed below it. Tabbing on any one of them lists the Workflow's keywords in the Alfred list. 

 

In the case of something like the Evernote workflow, you can type 'en' to get a list of keywords. But for something like 'Top Process' or 'Egg Timer' the keywords do not share a common prefix. 

 

4.1 An alternative to this might be to use the 'position 0' box to show something along the lines of a 'Tip of the Day'. That could include built-in Alfred tips ('Space for file search', ...) as well as random workflow help lines from 1. above. Or, Alfred could simply pull a few random keywords from random workflows and display the Icon, Keyword, Title and Subtext. 

 

Of course, 'Tip of the day' would be almost silly in something like Alfred since most of us pull it up 50+ times a day. Instead, it would shuffle through, say, 20 tips each day. Speed matters so those would get cached once a day.

 

Even then, for sure, these will get old! Possible extensions on this to keep it useful: 

  1. Dismiss tips for the rest of the day
  2. Clicking an X on the tip means 'Got it, never show it again (even if I turn tips off entirely and back on again in the future)' and
  3. Some variation of 'Turn off all tips except for new workflows' so that for a while after a new workflow is installed, a user can grow familiar with the associated commands.
  4. Big old list in preferences for 'Include in Alfred tips' with an option to 'Always include new workflows'.

 

I dunno. Thinking out loud here! Just wanna be able to find and enjoy this stuff.

 

That was supposed to be 2 cents but turned into 10, sorry. Thanks for reading, thanks for Alfred and thanks for all the awesome workflows!

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  • 4 weeks later...

I have the same problem. It would be cool if you could type a shortcut and all of your Alfred workflow keywords would be displayed in some kind of a fullscreen overlay. Similar to how in Trello you type "?" and a list of all available keywords pop up. Of course, I have way more workflows than there are shortcuts in Trello, so the overlay would have to be bigger than a single column list. 

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