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Alfred review: This Mac app launcher continues to shine, but Alfred Remote doesn't stack up

Brian Beam | Feb. 11, 2015
The introduction of the Macintosh back in 1984 helped release us from the bondage of the command-line interface. So, it seems ironic that there's a relatively new category of Mac productivity apps that lets us control our Macs from the keyboard. Quicksilver was one of the first of these utilities, and I was a big fan. But when developer support fragmented, other apps like Launchbar and even Apple's own Spotlight moved in to stake a claim. I've tried all of them and, while all have their merits, I eventually landed on Alfred by Running With Crayons and haven't looked back.

After installing Alfred Remote on your iOS device, you need to pair it with Alfred on your Mac. This is similar to the process of pairing a Bluetooth device, except that it's all done over Wi-Fi. (Obviously, your Mac and iOS device need to be on the same Wi-Fi network.) Once the apps have been linked together, Alfred Remote greets you with a screen that resembles the iOS springboard. Pages of icons are organized by category, such as System Commands, Apps, iTunes Controls, and so on. To navigate among the various categories of actions, you can either swipe from page to page or tap on the category icon on the bottom row.

When you tap on an action icon in Alfred Remote, it performs that action on the connected Mac. For example, tapping on the Mail icon in Alfred Remote will open the Mail app on your Mac, tapping the Lock icon will lock your Mac, and so on. As trivial as that may sound, it's actually really cool when you see it in action.

You can add or remove icons and pages in Alfred Remote, but you need to make those changes within Alfred on the Mac and they're immediately reflected in Alfred Remote. If you subscribe to the Powerpack, then those functions are available in Alfred Remote as well.

Even though I think it's really interesting to be able to tap an icon on my phone and perform an action on my Mac, I must confess that I haven't found myself using Alfred Remote very often. It's been handy for controlling iTunes when I'm in another room, but in almost every other case, I still need to be sitting in front of my Mac. It would be different if Alfred Remote made opening an app or workflow on my Mac faster or easier, but it doesn't. For example, to open Chrome on my Mac using Alfred Remote, I need to pick up my phone, unlock it, open Alfred Remote, swipe to the Apps page and tap on the Chrome icon. In practice, that's not a huge effort, but I can perform the same action from the keyboard much more quickly by simply typing Cmd+Space > C > Return.

While this may sound like a harsh criticism, it's really not meant to be. Although Alfred Remote doesn't fit into my workflow at the moment, I understand that it's a version 1.0 product and that the developer probably has a lot more in mind for future versions. Having the ability to remotely control your Mac's keyboard and mouse from Alfred Remote would be quite useful, but here's another important feature that I think the developers should consider:

 

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