Alfred vs Spotlight: Which one to Choose

Spotlight is ‘the tool’ when it comes to working on Mac. It not only lets you find files and launch apps but also comes with a built-in calculator, currency converter, dictionary and much more. What is the need for another launcher app then? What more can Alfred offer? Let’s analyze some points that might help you decide.

Before we begin, Alfred comes with lots of amazing paid feature along with free ones. To have a fair comparison, in this article we will compare them under, Spotlight Vs Alfred’s free version. With that out the way, let’s begin. Shall we?

Read: Looking For Spotlight for Windows 10? Here Are Five Alternatives

spotlight vs alfred

Alfred 3 vs Spotlight (Free)

1. Hotkey

The hotkey to launch Spotlight by default is cmd+space, but it can be changed or completely turned off from System Preferences > Keyboard > Shortcuts. To change the shortcuts, double click where the shortcut is displayed and press your preferred set of hotkey to save it.

Alfred, on the other hand, would ask you to set up a hotkey when you first initiate the application. Although, you can change it later anytime. You can choose your own set of combination but preferably different from Spotlight. Both Alfred and Spotlight can have the same hotkey as well. If you do so the apps will launch on every alternate command. 

2. Launching apps

Both Alfred and Spotlight, are App launcher at heart. But, what makes this point comparable is the speed of processing a keyword, of course in our testing.

While Spotlight takes ‘a’ second to process the command, Alfred will start showing you results as you type. And since every result of Alfred has its own shortcut, you won’t have to scroll through the results. Pressing the shortcut displayed in front of a result will launch the app.

3. File Search

Spotlight searches all file types by default but of course, you can change the preference from System Preferences > Spotlight > Search Results. When you search for a file, Spotlight gives you suggestions from document files, folders, bookmarks etc. Alternatively, you can type the app name and all files related to the app will be listed in the preview. For example, if you type ‘Pages’ all files of pages will be listed in the suggestions below.

Alfred might seem a bit slow at first when it comes to file search, but you can change this from the Settings. Open the Alfred app, under Features > Default Results, check the box ‘Unintelligent’. Surprisingly the app says it is not recommended as it may slow down the search process. But it is not fair to compare the two apps with unequal settings.

4. Web Search

Spotlight has a pretty wide range in web search. It fetches results simultaneously form Web, Siri suggestions, and Siri knowledge. If you have your location settings on, you can also search for nearby places and movies etc the same as you do on your phone.

Alfred takes the web search to next level. With the custom search option, you can personalize Alfred’s web search to an extreme level. You can set up keywords to launch a custom search from a page of your choosing rather than a regular google search. To set up a custom search keyword head to Features > Web Search and click on ‘Add Custom Search’ at the right bottom of the screen. Setting it up is a bit tricky. Stay put for our article on how to set up and use Alfred like a pro.

5. Calculation & Conversion

Spotlight takes the cake here as the preview feature lets you see the calculation instantly. The currency/metric conversions are even better as it’ll show you multiple conversions without even asking.

Alfred’s calculation window is just okay. It does give you quick results but there’s not much of a preview. As for conversion, Alfred does nothing. You will have to do a regular google search for that.

6. Dictionary and Spell Check

Spotlight is an intelligent tool when it comes to defining words. To find a meaning of any word just start typing the word in Spotlight and you’ll see results in the preview immediately. Not just that, if you are confused in the spelling, just press ‘alt+esc’ after typing a few letters and you’ll see similar words in a list. Well, that’s a Mac shortcut if you already didn’t know it. You can use it anywhere on the system. Thank me later.

Alfred integrates with the system dictionary as well. But since its a third party launcher app, you’ll have to type the keyword ‘Define’ before typing your word to know its meaning. Similarly, type ‘Spell’ to check the spelling of a word. That clearly takes away the speed.

7. Contacts

Spotlight integrates with mostly all macOS original apps, contacts being one of them. As you start typing a name the suggestion box starts bringing up names below. Once you type in the full name you’ll see a contact card right under the launcher. You can directly initiate a call, message, and FaceTime call from the preview window which makes it even better.

Alfred, on the other hand, doesn’t have contact integration, not in the free version, so there’s no fight here.

8. iTunes

Spotlight search directory has music by default and so typing in a song name or playlist in your system will bring it up and you can directly play it. Sometimes Spotlight might just seem like Siri at your fingers.

Alfred again takes a hit here. No Music search directory in the free version.

Alfred Powerpack

Powerpack, that’s what Alfred unleashes in about $30 to a single user. The price goes up to $50 if you want a lifetime free upgrades to future versions of Alfred. Powerpack does bring in some really cool features which might actually prove to be useful. Let us find out what’s on the table here.

Alfred Powerpack brings you Workflows, a key ingredient that allows third-party app integrations like Slack, Evernote, LastPass, and web service integrations like Amazon, Reddit and many more. Next, in Powerpack are the clipboard and snippets that will make daily tasks on your MacBook real quick and easy. Not just this, as an unbeatable feature, the app offers you Alfred Remote which could be bought for an additional $4. Alfred Remote can operate your system commands remotely.

Alfred Powerpack and paid features are a complex set of tools that cannot be explained here. And so, we are soon coming up with a separate article on How to use Alfred Powerpack wherein we will cover all paid features in detail. We will surely update this article with the link when it’s done, so keep an eye.

Our Conclusion – Spotlight Vs Alfred (Free)

Spotlight is not only faster but also comes with a currency converter, contacts, iTunes search, dictionary and much more. Alfred on the hand can only beat Spotlight with its paid features.

Spotlight clearly takes the win over Alfred free version.

In our opinion, Alfred (Free) would take you a step down in term of features and usability. Believe us, Alfred won’t help you with the ‘Black Cape’ for free. Wait up for our full review on the paid version of Alfred or if you are already a user, let us know in the comments below if we are missing out on something.

About Arjit pratap singh

Writer | Tinkerer | Thinker | Life-Long Learner