Alfred vs Spotlight – Which One is Better

Spotlight is actually ‘the tool’ whenever it comes to working on Mac. It not only lets you find files and open apps but also comes along with a built-in calculator, currency converter, dictionary, and much more. Well, what is the need for another launcher app then? What more can Alfred offer? Let’s analyze some points that might help you decide. Let’s now discuss Alfred vs Spotlight – Which One is Better.

Before we begin, Alfred basically comes with lots of amazing paid feature along with free ones. If you want to have a fair comparison, then in this article we will compare them under, Spotlight Vs Alfred’s free version. Along with that out the way, let’s begin.

What is Alfred

Alfred was basically created to solve the problem of finding files on your Mac. Essentially, it’s actually a keyboard launcher that permits you to search for almost anything that you might think of with a simple shortcut.

However, the Alfred Mac app goes further than that. While it excels at finding an obscure file even from the deepest folder structure imaginable actually. It also works as a text expander, executes system commands, saves clipboard history as well as controls your music, and much more.

What Is Spotlight?

Well, Spotlight is essentially Google for your Apple Mac. You guys name it, you can also look it up through the Spotlight search shortcut.

Spotlight basically creates an index of all the items and files on your system. So you can look up documents, pictures, music files, applications, and also even system preferences. It goes a few steps further through permitting you to search for particular words in documents or on web pages contained within your web browser’s history actually.

Alfred vs Spotlight – Which One is Better


The hotkey to open Spotlight by default is cmd+space, however, it can be changed or completely turned off from System Preferences > Keyboard > Shortcuts. In order to change the shortcuts, double-tap where the shortcut is displayed and press your preferred set of a hotkey in order to save it.

Alfred, on the other hand, would ask you to set up a hotkey whenever you first initiate the application. Although, you guys can change it later anytime as well. You can select your own set of combinations, however, preferably different from Spotlight. Both Alfred and Spotlight can also have the same hotkey as well. If you do this, the apps will open on every alternate command.

Opening apps | alfred vs spotlight

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

alfred vs spotlight

However, Spotlight takes ‘a’ second in order to process the command, Alfred will start to show you results as you type. And because every result of Alfred has its own shortcut, you guys won’t have to scroll through the results. Tapping on the shortcut displayed in front of a result will open the app.

alfred vs spotlight

File Search

Well, spotlight searches all file types by default but of course, you guys can change the preference from System Preferences > Spotlight > Search Results. Whenever you search for a file, Spotlight provides you suggestions from document files, folders, bookmarks, etc. Just like that, you can also type the app name and all files related to the app will be listed in the preview. Such as, if you type ‘Pages’ all files of pages will be listed in the suggestions below.

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

Web Search | Alfred vs spotlight

Spotlight has a really wide range in web search. It fetches results simultaneously from Web, Siri suggestions, and Siri knowledge. If you guys have your location settings on, you can also search for nearby places and movies, as well. The same as you do on your phone too.

web search

Alfred actually takes the web search to next level. Along with the custom search option, that you can personalize Alfred’s web search to an extreme level. You can also set up keywords in order to open a custom search from a page of your choosing instead of a regular google search. In order to set up a custom search keyword go to Features > Web Search and tap on ‘Add Custom Search’ at the right bottom of the screen. Setting it up is a bit tricky actually. Stay put for our article on how you can set up and use Alfred just like a pro.

Calculation & Conversion

Spotlight takes the cake here as the preview feature that lets you see the calculation instantly. The currency or metric conversions are even better because it will show you multiple conversions without even asking.

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

alfred vs spotlight

Dictionary and Spell Check | alfred vs spotlight

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

Alfred integrates along with the system dictionary as well. However, since it is a third-party launcher app, you will have to type the keyword ‘Define’ before even typing your word to know its meaning. Just like that, just type ‘Spell’ to check the spelling of a word. That clearly takes away the speed actually.


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

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

iTunes | alfred vs spotlight

Well, the 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 as well. Most of the time, Spotlight might just seem like Siri at your fingers.

Well, Alfred again takes a hit there. No Music search directory in the free version as well.

Spotlight Shines

Altogether, Spotlight is actually a more polished search engine. It’s the instant access and quick answers that just make it more powerful than Alfred, especially because features are all included for free. Without even paying anything, Alfred is capable of less and does not pull answers directly into the search results actually.

If you opt for Alfred’s paid Powerpack upgrade, then you do get some excellent power features. However, at that point, the winner is subjective and determined on a case-by-case basis of each and every user’s needs. Folks who don’t want workflows or 1Password integration won’t find much value in Alfred’s upgrade. But, it is really hard to not find value in the on-the-spot search results Spotlight provides. For that reason, Spotlight wins our comparison actually.

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

Well, in our opinion, Alfred (Free) would take you a step down in terms of features and usability. Believe us, Alfred won’t really help you with the ‘Black Cape’ for free.


You are good to go. If you have any queries and issues related to this “alfred vs spotlight” article then let us know in the comments section below.

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