Raycast: The Ultimate Power User’s Launcher and Search Bar

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Will Young

Spotlight, Apple’s built-in tool for searching through apps and files, has been the go-to option for most Mac users. But for power users seeking more control and access to shortcuts and tools, alternatives like Alfred have been popular choices. However, there’s a new contender in town called Raycast that has been gaining attention in the community, offering a compelling set of features that make it a strong competitor to Alfred.

After using Raycast for a few weeks, I can confidently say that it is an extremely useful app for power users. Let me walk you through how to use Raycast and how it stacks up against Spotlight and Alfred.

Getting started with Raycast is simple. Once you download the app from the company’s website, it will guide you through a brief setup process, allowing you to assign a keyboard shortcut. By default, it suggests using Option-Space, but you can also use Command-Space, which is the default shortcut for Spotlight.

Upon launching Raycast, you’ll be greeted with its main screen—a search bar with various suggestions. As you start typing, the suggestions will be replaced by the applications and commands that Raycast finds on your system.

Raycast offers a range of basic functions out of the box. It can launch apps via keyboard shortcuts, perform simple math calculations, and search for files. To use these features, simply type the app’s name and press Enter to launch it, input a math calculation and press Enter to get the result, or type “File Search” and the name of the file you’re looking for.

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Now, let’s explore some of the cool features that make Raycast worth trying.

Raycast goes beyond the capabilities of Spotlight and Alfred when it comes to search functionality. For example, if you type “12PM EST to PST,” “1LB to KG,” or “20 BTC to USD” in Raycast, it will provide you with the conversions directly, without redirecting you to a browser. It’s worth noting that Raycast is sensitive to the format of the input, so using less common abbreviations may not yield accurate results.

Raycast offers fast search results comparable to Spotlight, but with added control. While using Apple’s search tool, if the desired result appears as the second option, you would need to use the arrow keys or mouse to select it, moving your fingers away from the home row. In Raycast, you can hold down the Command key, and it will display numbers alongside each search result. Press the corresponding number to open the desired result. Alfred has a similar system, making it equally efficient.

Raycast offers a range of actions that can be performed on search results. Pressing Command+K brings up an action menu where you can perform various tasks related to the selected result, such as showing it in Finder, copying it, or displaying a list of other files in the same folder. Although the extensive list of actions can be overwhelming, there’s a search bar in the lower right-hand corner of the Raycast window that helps you quickly find the desired action.

Raycast’s search bar offers an extensive array of commands, which can be overwhelming for new users. It not only displays applications but also surfaces system settings, dark mode toggle, and other controls. However, you can customize the commands that appear and their order. You can also manage which options show up under every search. Raycast’s flexibility and customization options allow you to tailor it to your specific needs.

Raycast provides various built-in tools for managing windows, such as maximizing, resizing, or moving them to specific areas of the screen. Additionally,Raycast offers a more modern and visually appealing interface compared to Alfred. Its default screen provides suggestions and commands that are contextually relevant to your search, making it easier to find what you’re looking for. Raycast also offers a wide range of built-in tools and commands for managing windows, performing calculations, searching the web, and more.

One notable advantage of Raycast over both Alfred and Spotlight is its ability to perform conversions without the need to open a browser. For example, if you want to convert units or currencies, you can simply type the conversion query directly into Raycast, and it will provide the result instantly.

Furthermore, Raycast’s action menu, accessed by pressing Command+K, offers a plethora of additional actions and options for each search result. Whether you want to open a file in Finder, copy it, or perform other actions related to the result, Raycast provides a convenient way to take immediate action without leaving the search interface.

Managing search results and customizing Raycast’s behavior is also possible. You can customize which commands and suggestions appear in the search results, enabling you to tailor Raycast to your specific needs. The Extensions preference pane allows you to enable or disable specific options, categories, and even individual commands. This level of control ensures that Raycast only presents the most relevant results and commands for your workflow.

If the built-in functionality of Raycast is not sufficient, you can explore its store, which offers a variety of community-built extensions. These extensions can enhance Raycast’s capabilities and provide additional tools for tasks like music playback, translation, and more. Moreover, Raycast allows you to add your own custom functionality using Quicklinks and Script Commands. Quicklinks enable you to search specific websites directly from Raycast, while Script Commands allow you to create custom mini-programs and perform actions using various scripting languages.

Raycast also allows you to assign keyboard shortcuts to commands, providing quick access to frequently used actions. However, it’s important to be mindful of potential conflicts with existing keyboard shortcuts in other applications.

In comparison to Alfred, Raycast offers a more feature-rich experience out of the box without the need to purchase a separate powerpack. While Alfred does offer customizable workflows, this feature is only available in the paid version. Spotlight, on the other hand, is expected to gain new features and improvements in future macOS updates, including the ability to run Shortcuts, which might provide a simpler option for some users.

If you’re already an Alfred power user with customized workflows and settings, there may not be a compelling reason to switch to Raycast. However, if you’re using the free version of Alfred or looking for a powerful and free alternative to Spotlight, Raycast is undoubtedly a compelling choice.

TL;DR: Raycast provides power users with a versatile and efficient way to search, launch applications, and perform various tasks on their Mac. With its extensive built-in features, customizable options, and community-built extensions, Raycast offers a compelling alternative to Spotlight and Alfred, catering to the needs of users who desire more control and productivity in their workflow.

The Internet Patrol is completely free, and reader-supported. Your tips via CashApp, Venmo, or Paypal are appreciated! Receipts will come from ISIPP.

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