✔︎ Last updated on November 28th, 2023
If you are not using Raycast on Mac, you should. It is like the spotlight on your Mac, just a hundred times better.
I bought my first MacBook about 10 months ago. I have been a lifetime user of Windows. So, for the first nine months, I was pretty unimpressed with the MacOS.
Then, I found out about the Raycast app. To say I was thoroughly impressed is an understatement. I might probably never switch back to Windows. Ninety percent of what I want to do, I can do directly from the keyboard without lifting my fingers, thanks to Raycast and its huge list of extensions.
Apparently, there are over 1000 of them, all free. I didn’t know Raycast had such a huge and vibrant community given it is just 4 years old at this point.
As I began exploring its features and extensions, I increasingly came to believe that Raycast could (kind of!) replace many of the stand-alone apps (even the paid ones!) that I had installed on my computer. As Raycast seamlessly integrates with the MacBook and workflow, I gradually began to prefer Raycast over the specialized apps.
I then began writing this blog post to list out all the apps Raycast can replace without costing you a dime. As I find more and more features and extensions, I will continue to update this list.
Here’s the list of all the Raycast features that can replace specialized apps (up to a reasonable degree):
- 1. Window Management (replaces Rectangle / Magnet)
- 2. Snippets (replaces Espanso / TextExpander)
- 3. Uninstall apps (replaces AppCleaner)
- 4. Emoji Picker (replaces Rocket)
- 5. Clipboard Manager (replaces Maccy or Copyclip)
- 6. ScreenOCR (replaces TextSniper)
- 7. Download YouTube video (replaces Downie)
- Wrapping up
1. Window Management (replaces Rectangle / Magnet)
Raycast comes bundled with more than 50 commands to resize and arrange your windows on the screen. You can access all of them by typing wm (short for window management).
Using these commands, you can easily move your window in any of the usual directions (left, right, top, and bottom). You also get some unusual commands like bottom two thirds, top left sixth, last three fourths…
Raycast also offers tons of sizing options such as Maximize height, maximize width, toggle fullscreen, top half, make smaller and so on which save so much effort, especially if you are on an external monitor.
Out of the box, you also get some peculiar commands that may not seem useful at first glance but are surprisingly handy once you start using them. There’s a command called Almost Maximize which makes your window take up 90% of the area of your screen, but you can customize that. Another command I found intriguing is reasonable size which resizes your window to 60% of the screen. Helpful when you are hopping between multiple apps on a large monitor.
One good thing about all this is the fuzzy search. You can type rs to pull up the reasonable size command, am for almost maximize, tf for toggle fullscreen, mr for move right… you get the idea.
If this is the only thing you use Rectangle or Magnet for, you can ditch them safely.
2. Snippets (replaces Espanso / TextExpander)
Raycast comes with a basic snippet functionality. You can create simple snippets where a text string (trigger) is replaced by a predefined piece of text. But Raycast also supports some dynamic snippets relating to date and time.
You can also import these snippets from the Raycast’s official website.
Other than this, you can also put cursor placeholders in your snippets, where, as soon as the trigger word is replaced by your target text, the cursor is automatically placed at a predefined place in the text string.
If you are a programmer, you might be accustomed to this.
Also, the cursor is not the only placeholder that Raycast supports. It can be something on your clipboard, current date or time, or even another snippet. Here’s the full list of things that can work as a placeholder for snippets in Raycast:
3. Uninstall apps (replaces AppCleaner)
AppCleaner is a free MacOS app that deletes all leftover files whenever you uninstall an app. It is difficult to be certain if it indeed finds all residual files but it does show you some additional files to delete after you uninstall an app.
Raycast has a feature very similar to this. When you remove an app with the built-in command in Raycast, it shows you all the associated files along with the app. You can choose which files to keep and then press Enter to uninstall the app.
To delete apps using Raycast’s interface, search for the app’s name, then press
Command + K, then scroll down and click on the uninstall application button.
This built-in command obviates the need for any third-party app. As soon as I found out about this feature, I removed the AppCleaner app from my computer.
4. Emoji Picker (replaces Rocket)
MacOS comes with a built-in emoji picker but that’s not very friendly. That’s why I used Rocket, which supports fuzzy search and shows a preview of all the emojis matching the search.
However, since Raycast also comes with a built-in emoji picker, I decided to ditch Rocket. But here was a minor glitch: whereas Rocket was accessible with just the typing of a colon (:) (customizable), Raycast’s emoji picker involved pressing several keystrokes.
First, I had to pull up the Raycast by pressing the hotkey
Hyper + space, then I had to search for ‘emoji’ and only then I could search for the emoji I was looking for. This was way more than I was willing to type for an emoji picker so I set the hotkey
Command + ; which directly opens the Emoji picker window.
In my crude testing, Raycast’s fuzzy search performed better than the Rocket. In Raycast, you also have the option to pin or unpin your frequently used emojis, which can further shave a few seconds off your typing.
One of the most stalwart features of Raycast that has made it dear to me is its clipboard management.
During my typical workday, I copy hundreds of pieces of text, images, and files. While most are just one-time things, some are better kept available for more than a day.
Raycast saves all the things you have copied for up to 7 days by default. You can customize this duration to be up to 3 months on the free version and to be unlimited on the paid version.
In addition to the content, Raycast also saves the name of the application from which that particular piece of content was copied.
You can access this clipboard manager by typing clipboard history in Raycast. Since I use it frequently, I have set the hotkey hyper + V to trigger it directly, bypassing the Raycast interface. All items in this history are searchable right from your keyboard. No need to move your hand.
You can also configure what happens when you click on an item in clipboard history: should it be directly pasted in the focused app at the current cursor position or should it be placed on your clipboard for you to manually paste somewhere else?
One peculiar feature of Raycast’s clipboard manager is its ability to search for text inside images. I mean OCR (Optical Character Recognition) & pretty fast and accurate one at that.
As I said, you can search for a piece of text in your clipboard history. In addition to the text results, Raycast also pulls up those images that contain your search query. So, if you took a screenshot of this article and copied it to your clipboard, you could search for it by recalling any of the words from the article. Go ahead, Try it!
To tell you the truth, when I saw it happening as fast as it did, it felt like magic. (like Wtf!)
Who makes such an awesome tool and then makes it available for free?
I have tried CopyClip, but I didn’t like it because I had to manually choose the item from the clipboard history using the mouse, which felt counterproductive.
Also read: How to Set an Aspect Ratio in Excalidraw?
6. ScreenOCR (replaces TextSniper)
Text Sniper is often touted as one of the fastest and most accurate OCR tools available on Mac. It can grab uncopyable text on your screen, whether it is on old photos, YouTube videos, online courses, or anything else.
I’ve seen the demos and I am impressed. But there’s just one problem: it’s not free. It costs $7.99 for a single computer, $9.99 for three computers, and $11.99 for an unlimited license.
You can get absolutely the same functionality with the free Raycast extension called ScreenOCR. It’s as fast and robust as TextSniper and is always at your fingertips with Raycast’s hotkeys.
What surprised me more than its speed and accuracy was its agility. It can recognize not only straight-up horizontal text but also the text which is at an angle. Heck, I tried it with a piece of text from an old scanned book that was upside down and IT MANAGED TO GRAB THAT TOO!!
If you haven’t tried ScreenOCR yet, give it a shot. You might not need TextSniper.
7. Download YouTube video (replaces Downie)
Downie is touted as a YouTube video downloader by SetApp but it now claims to support over a thousand websites. I haven’t tried it but I’ve heard great things about it from some YouTubers. Currently, it is priced at $19.99 for a permanent license.
There’s a free Raycast extension called YouTube Downloader that can partially do what Downie does: it can download YouTube videos in just 3 clicks. You only need the URL of the video you want to download, no intrusive ads, and no annoying websites to hunt.
I have written more about it here in this blog post.
The list can’t be said to be complete because I will update it continuously.
I foresee a future where most of the functionality of such small apps is eventually baked right into Raycast, either natively or through extensions. This will not only help declutter your Mac but also make all of that power accessible through a single interface.
If you enjoy how Raycast works, take a look at its features before getting a different app. Raycast keeps adding more features and extensions, so there’s a good chance you’ll find something that suits your needs, either now or in the future.
Thanks for reading! Bye 👋.
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