I’m a fan of Spotlight, I fell in love with Alfred, but Raycast has swiftly become my favorite Mac launcher.
Raycast does much more than launch apps. It slots meetings into my calendar; it plays the tracks of my choice from Spotify without me even having to open the app; it displays my two-factor authentication codes without having to fish my phone from my pocket; it does an unbelievable number of things unbelievably well. And it’s free for personal use.
Here’s a flavor – a mere taster menu – of some of the many things Raycast can do, with tips on how to get the best out of this brilliant little app.
Find pretty much anything on your Mac
As you might expect from a potential Spotlight/Alfred replacement, Raycast is superb at finding stuff on your Mac.
By default, you can simply start typing the name of any installed app or the name of any file stored on your Mac, and Raycast should return results. However, if you delve into the Raycast settings (right click on its icon in the Menu Bar and choose Settings > Extension > File Search) you will find an option to search both file name and contents, meaning you can search for any text you may have entered in documents and get results.
Even more impressively, it can find text in images and screenshots. It’s supremely fast at returning these results, too.
Organize your calendar
Raycast supports extensions – add-ons that increase its functionality. You’ll find these in the Raycast Store, which you can find by simply searching for the word ‘Store’ in the app. Store is a wee bit misleading, in that all of the extensions I’ve come across so far are free.
To get the most out of calendar management, you’ll need to install the Quick Event extension. Once installed and properly linked to your calendar, you’ll be able to add appointments to your diary without lifting your hands from the keyboard or opening the Mac Calendar app. So, you can type something like “Meeting with Tony from marketing 5pm Monday” and it will automatically slot that appointment in your calendar.
Raycast also lets you check your schedule easily. You can type “cal” followed by Enter and see what your day looks like:
If your meeting is virtual, you can jump straight to Zoom and Google Meet without opening the calendar and hunting for the link.
Play Spotify without opening Spotify
Spotify is a pain. You go to play a song and you get distracted by your Wrapped playlist, or a new podcast or some other promo, and you’re down a rabbit hole. Which is, of course, what Spotify wants.
Raycast lets you get on with the music without the fuss. You can search for albums, tracks, playlists or start a Radio session. You can tell it to “just play” a certain song. With the Spotify Player extension, the track that’s current playing is displayed in the Mac Menu Bar, and you can right click for extra controls.
Quickly access 2FA codes
If you’re not using two-factor authentication on any site/service containing faintly sensitive personal information, you should be. Authy is the best 2FA app I’ve found, but having to switch focus to the Authy app or fish your phone out of your pocket to enter an authentication code is a pain.
With the Authy extension, you can quickly search your Authy codes from within Raycast and copy the one-time passcode to your clipboard to paste into the website that’s demanding it. There’s a couple of security hoops to jump through when you first set it up, but once that’s sorted, it’s wonderfully convenient and makes strong security less of a chore.
Avoid repetitive typing
As a tech journalist, I’m frequently asked for my address to send review kit to, for example. Raycast has a built-in text expander, called Snippets, that can automatically enter such details into email messages or pretty much any app.
Snippets can also be given a keyword. So, for example, I’ve set my address to be entered every time I type “:add”. I don’t even need to summon Raycast for that shortcut to work. So now, entering my address in an email requires me to type precisely four characters.
If you’re a coder, you can also use Snippets to paste in commonly used pieces of code.
There is much more to Raycast
I’ve barely touched the surface on the many different things Raycast can do. A lot of its features are at the techy end of the scale, but even if you only use it as a basic launcher and music player, it’s better than Spotlight built into mac OS.