Mac OS X is already loaded with Apple Spotlight, why use Alfred?
What does Alfred bring to the table that Spotlight doesn't?

5 Answers 5


One thing is speed. I believe Alfred is currently faster than Spotlight. And, this is specifically for Lion I believe, Alfred learns where Spotlight doesn't.

If I want to launch Adobe Photoshop and start to type 'Ph' Alfred will offer Photoshop as an option and move it to the top with the more I select it.

With Spotlight, Photo Booth with be the first choice, and it will not learn what I want with repeated use. I believe at one point it did, but lost the ability in Lion.

  • IIRC upgrading to Lion reset the Spotlight knowledge. I don't believe the whole learning has been removed — as a happy Alfred user, though, I can't say for sure. Nov 5, 2011 at 9:27
  • The learning piece here is important and adds to speed: type a file name into spotlight and if you have other files that share the first word(s) you have to complete the name to get things sorted. Alfred will learn the files you open the most and push them to the top of the list. This learning piece (among others) should be enough to push people who use spotlight to Alfred. Try it, you'll find it quite useful.
    – Richard
    Nov 6, 2011 at 12:57
  • 4
    FYI: On Snow Leopard Spotlight learns too. My top hit is Photoshop and is the top choice under Applications as well.
    – mahalie
    Nov 8, 2011 at 21:34
  • Yeah, I know Spotlight did learn in older versions of the OS, but from what I understand this has either been removed, or is simply broken in Lion. Nov 16, 2011 at 20:52
  • Spotlight no longer learns. I've been typing "pho" for months now and Photobooth has been the top result since day one, even though I select Photoshop every time.
    – user20914
    Mar 30, 2012 at 2:57

You already have several answers on the web, like here or there.
I personally use Alfred (+ optional powerpack) for a long time now and cannot live without it. It's (very) fast. I use it to obviously (and efficiently as drummin explained) launch applications, but also do simple calculations, search for files (and then take actions on thoses files, copy, email, open, ...), get definition from dictionary. I also command iTunes, added extensions for currency conversion, .dmg creation, etc...

Can you do all of this with Spotlight? I anyway kept Spotlight on Alt+Space but never used it again ;)

I'm a keyboard guy and do a million things in seconds with Alfred. Clear productivity boost.

PS: a 'spell personnaly' helped me write it correctly in my second sentence, english not being my native language, great help for me... ;)


Alfred is not just an app launcher. It has:
- Custom searches, which I found to be a "must-have" for app launchers these days.
- Extensions (shell script, Apple Script, etc..).
- Global Hotkey
- iTunes controller
- etc ...

And many other features. You better download the free core version and start using it.
Spotlight isn't anywhere near it.


Alfred and Launchbar are amazing tools that run all the time and provide further benefits and integrations with apps unlike spotlight.

If you only need to search for files and apps and you don't have specific reasons why the Apple provided spotlight is not meeting your needs, I'd be the contrarian here and say, don't add anything to your Mac that runs all the time and you don't have a good reason to add it.

When you know what you need, have a look at the tools and try the one you feel is worth your time to take for a test drive.


I have not switch. It seems like spotlight is working fine for me. I store doc on my computer and spotlight pulls them up. While it would be nice for spotlight to, search the web like alfred?, it does not mean that i need an entire app for that purpose. plus, most of the greatest things about alfred requires Plus or about five or ten bucks for it. Thus, i have not gotten it because it does not seem like the utility it brings is worth the money.

  • At the bottom of the Spotlight menu is a Web Searches section. Click on Search the Web for... to search. Mar 7, 2013 at 7:49

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