Do you know Apple’s preferred launcher app is Recast? THERE’S VERY LITTLE you can do using your mouse or touchpad that you can’t do faster using your keyboard. There are exceptions—a graphic design comes to mind—but most of the time this rule holds true.
For example: launching a Mac application that’s not in your dock. You can open the Applications folder in Finder or Launchpad, then scroll until you find the app you want. Or you can open Spotlight using Command+Spacebar, type the first few letters of the app in question, then hit Enter. The mouse method takes around 30 seconds; the keyboard method takes less than two. This is the kind of trick that, once you learn it, you wonder how you lived without.
Raycast is a free Mac application that takes this even further. It can launch apps, yes, but it can do a lot more than that—like show you your clipboard history, organize your windows, and even put your computer to sleep. I’m all about customizing how my Mac works—for example, I showed you how to give Quick Look new powers. Raycast is the best customization app I’ve come across in a long time. Here’s what it can do.
Do Everything Faster
Raycast, once you install it, runs in the background—you need to use a keyboard shortcut to use it. By default, this shortcut is Option-Space, which is easy to trigger quickly. The idea is that you will launch Raycast, quickly find what you’re looking for, then get back to whatever it is you were doing before.
A few of the features Raycast includes overlap with what Spotlight offers—for example, you can search for files on your computer and even do quick calculations. Other features can’t be found in Spotlight, though. For example, Raycast collects an ongoing history of everything you copy to your clipboard, allowing you to quickly scroll back through everything and paste something you’d thought was lost.
The open windows can also be resized and moved using Raycast; for instance, you could move one window to occupy the left half of the screen and another to occupy the right. A feature for searching your contacts is already included, making it simple to locate and copy anyone’s phone number or email address. There are even commands for simple system adjustments like putting your computer to sleep or switching between dark and light modes. If one of your calendar appointments is an online meeting, type the phrase “Schedule” to see all of your appointments; hit Enter to start the meeting.
While I could continue, the best method to utilize Raycast is to simply open it and begin entering whatever it is that you want to do. The likelihood is that the app can work for you, and if it can’t, there’s an extension that can.
Plug-Ins Do Even More
With extensions, Raycast can add even more functions by enabling the program to search data from other applications. For instance, I work with editors using Google Drive. I can quickly open any document in my Drive thanks to the Google Workspace extension. Similar extensions are available for Spotify which makes it simple to locate and play any music or playlist. You can quickly discover and copy passwords even when you’re not in your browser thanks to extensions for the password managers 1Password and Bitwarden. For finding animated GIFs rapidly, there is an extension.
Even nerdier still, you can execute Terminal commands and use Homebrew to instal applications. You can set up practically everything you can think of, so don’t worry if you don’t know what those things are.
These are quite simple to install; just put “Store” into Raycast, press Enter, and then look for the desired extension. If you’d like, you can also browse the store online.
Make Keyboard Shortcuts for Anything
You can set up a universal keyboard shortcut for anything Raycast can do, which is possibly my favorite feature. You can create keyboard shortcuts to launch a given app, for example, or to open any file. It also means you could create custom keyboard shortcuts to quickly launch different kinds of searches.
Open Raycast, then type “General” and hit Enter to open the settings. Head to the Extensions tab and find the specific application or action you want to create a keyboard shortcut for. Click the Record Hotkey option for that item and think of a shortcut that won’t conflict with any other ones.
There are very few applications that have actually changed how I use my computer. Raycast is one of them. Anything I can think of is just a few keystrokes away, meaning my only excuse for not getting more done is the sheer volume of distractions on the internet. That should be easy to overcome, right?