Why I chose Raycast over Alfred

Safwan Samsudeen
5 min readDec 3, 2022

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I am a long-time user of Alfred — indeed, at the beginning of this month, when I reformatted my Mac, I mentioned Alfred in the subsequent blog post (linked) as a tool I couldn’t manage without. However, during a delay in getting access to my Powerpack license, I realized that Alfred wasn’t very high above Spotlight without the Powerpack license. I researched different options — and soon found Raycast. I was immediately enraptured.

The website boasts an impressive UI and an incredible user experience

After installation, I found it to be immensely feature-rich. Here’s a list of all the features — I’ll cover some of my more liked ones below. Note that only businesses (teams) with advanced usage need to pay — for all others, it’s free. Almost everything Alfred’s Powerpack has is offered here — for free.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that Raycast’s Clipboard History was much better designed than Alfred’s. This is a picture of Alfred’s — as you can see, it’s somewhat compact and tight.

On the contrary, this is Raycast’s. It gives better details for each item, allows filtering by type, pinning items, extracting texts from images, and so much more.

I used to use Rectangle for window management — however, Raycast has this feature built-in as a default extension. With so many commands that they almost seem unnecessary, this streamlined my usage of window management — it’s now built into my app launcher.

Commands that I use frequently, like clipboard history, can have hotkeys configured for them. For example, I set the clipboard history feature to the hotkey of ⌘ ⌃ C (the Alfred default that I was used to). Now, whenever I pressed that keyset, clipboard history pops up. Nothing good can come without some evil, though — Raycast’s clipboard history is slightly slower than Alfred’s, oh so slightly, but noticeable all the same. Given the advanced functionality, however, I’m neither surprised nor disappointed — after all, the product is only two years old, and performance improvements will hopefully come with age.

And there are a lot of improvements — the team pushes out a new release every few weeks, adding a whole host of new features each time. For example, in the release 11 days ago (as of the time of writing), they added Window Management’s automatic resizing and Calculator History, a tremendous feature that I’ve been wanting for years on my Mac (especially during online classes). Just 14 days before that, the then-new release brought out more actions on files and better snippets. And this is just what’s brand new — there is always a multitude of bug fixes and feature improvements in the releases.

And did you notice the “calculations” in the screenshot? Yeah, Raycast’s calculator supports natural language (347 thousand /4,626.405 days is 75.0042419546 days), date-time manipulation, currency and unit conversion (added in the November 9 release), and God knows what else.

Define Word was another feature I liked: instead of always opening the dictionary, I could just use Raycast to check out a word. Furthermore, all other forms of the word are also displayed, along with other possibilities of what I meant. Hitting Tab on a result will give a more detailed explanation along with synonyms. Extremely useful while blogging.

Search screenshots (even though it’s possible to almost replicate that feature by filtering images in clipboard history), and paste the most recent screenshot. Control your Mac with over 20 system commands offered from the start — from turning the volume up or down to emptying your trash, sleeping, or restarting your system. With aliases, shorten the time spent typing out Raycast commands. There are so many other features in Raycast, but I’ll move on to some of the things I liked as a programmer.

Raycast for developers

Raycast is installable using Homebrew, which was useful as I’m trying to put together a script that will automate the setup for my Mac. While this was the first thing that indicated that Raycast would be compatible with me from the coding perspective, there are many other things I learned. First off, extensions.

At the Raycast Store, extensions exist for almost every need of mine — I just installed VS Code Project Manager, which easily lets me open different projects of mine in VS Code. There are extensions that allow you to search for Boostrap docs right in Raycast itself, control Obsidian, manage GitHub, and literally everything else in the developer workflow.

Developing a new extension seems to be a hassle-free process — it’s just React.js along with Node behind the scenes. Components are given by Raycast, so you don’t have to bother about the UI — only about the functionality. Although I haven’t written any extensions yet, I’d argue that the vast number of high-quality extensions speaks for how streamlined and easy the process is.

There’s a simpler version for small tasks — Script Commands. Writable in Bash, Apple Script, Swift, Python, Ruby, or Node.js, they offer the ability to perform tasks and return output in an aesthetically pleasing way:

Even so, if you want some feature — for example, I wanted to copy over my current URL and paste it into a new Obsidian note — make sure to check the community’s store before writing your own. Chances are that you’ll find that code for your functionality is already available, officially approved by Raycast. In my case, there was a script available for copying the current URL from Chrome and another one for pasting content into Obsidian. I quickly combined them to get my desired functionality, set up a hotkey for this command, and that’s it. Cool, huh?

I hope this article helped you understand what I liked about Raycast. I look forward to using it in the coming months, and wish it all success!

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Safwan Samsudeen

Developer, student, reader. Always looking forward to learning about things that interest me. https://humanpolitics.substack.com/