Meet Raycast, the remote control for your work life

Raycast helps you navigate between your various workplace tools via hotkeys and shortcuts.

Raycast interface

Raycast is similar to connector tools Alfred and Command E, encouraging users to set up hotkeys and keyboard shortcuts for common commands.

Image: Raycast

You’re listening to Spotify while sending emails, and an annoying song starts playing. Only Spotify is buried underneath your various work-related windows: Chrome, Slack, Outlook, ClickUp, you name it. Your Mac no longer has a play/pause button, despite its flashy touch bar. It takes longer than you’d care to admit to find Spotify and finally skip that damn song.

“When you think about your daily workflows, there’s so many little things that annoy you,” said Thomas Paul Mann, co-founder of productivity tool Raycast. “You have friction everywhere. We want to get rid of that.”

Many of the hottest productivity startups are trying to be platforms, home to every possible workplace app and integration. Slack wants to be the “digital HQ,” wants to be the “Work OS” and ClickUp wants to be “one app to replace them all.” Raycast is the opposite. It’s a self-described “productivity layer,” and looks a bit like Apple’s Spotlight search bar. You call Raycast up through a keyboard shortcut of your choice. Then you can search for applications or commands, like toggle play/pause on Spotify.

Raycast purposely limits some aspects of user experience to keep things simple. For example, while you can create an Asana task and add a short description in Raycast, you can’t use Raycast to update that description. You’ll need to open Asana to write a deeper, more fleshed-out description. Mann said he appreciates tools that concentrate on one use case.

“Oftentimes we use just a fraction of a tool, and then a ton of the other stuff I don’t really need,” Mann said. “When I think about a tool, I want to have it very focused on something particular and being really really good at that.”

Mann and co-founder Petr Nikolaev launched Raycast in 2020. The two met while working as engineers on Spark Augmented Reality at Facebook, but after three years, decided they wanted to build something of their own. “As engineers, we never really understood why software is slow and not nice to us,” Mann said. What if they could build an app that let engineers access all their tools with just a few keyboard combinations? So they created Raycast. Today, it has more than 10,000 users.

Raycast is similar to connector tools Alfred and Command E, encouraging users to set up hotkeys and keyboard shortcuts for common commands. If you’re hardcore, you’ll never need to use your mouse with Raycast. The goal is to build muscle memory and to make navigation around the computer seamless. You open Raycast with a “global hotkey,” like command + space bar. Then you can search for applications and record hotkeys for the applications you use most frequently. Mann uses option + n to open Notion, and option + i to see his assigned issues in developer tool Linear.

Think of Raycast at the center of your computer’s spiderweb, extending out to your various other applications. The app comes with ready-made extensions, like the ability to browse bookmarks, view calendar events or join a Zoom meeting. But Raycast’s biggest asset is its engineer-heavy community. Mann and Nikoleav zeroed in on developers for its early user base because they can build extensions on Raycast’s open API. Raycast’s store has more than 250 extensions, including integrations with tools like 1Password and Google Translate.

Raycast co-founders. Left: Petr Nikolaev (CTO), Right: Thomas Paul Mann (CEO) Photo: Raycast

“We knew at the very beginning that this is a tool for community and we need to have a platform where people can build extensions,” Mann said. “There are a lot of them which we might not even know about. The beauty in productivity is that it's very personal.”

The personal plan is free, but the team is working on launching Raycast for Teams. It will cost teams $10 per user per month and will allow for shared extensions. Mann recently opened up early access in the tool’s Slack community; 76 people have already indicated interest.

Raycast’s Slack is very active, as users are prompted to join the minute they download the app. People can report bugs, offer suggestions for extensions and ask for coding advice. To ensure trust from Raycast’s users, Mann is focused on responding to feedback and shipping out updates as quickly as possible. “We don’t do marketing, we just tweet about it, and people share it with their friends and companies,” Mann said.

Bruno Vegreville, CEO of Paris-based calendar app Hera, is a long-time Raycast user. His favorite features are “Set Slack Status,” so he can update his status without visiting the app, and “Snippets,” a library of notes he needs easy access to. His mailing list of investors, for example, is pasted in his Raycast Snippets.

Vegreville likes to play around with new tools, but he’s wary about permanently adopting tools that might complicate his stack. “I try to not over-complexify,” Vegreville said. “I feel like it's often one of the pitfalls of the productivity community, that we try to optimize everything.” But Raycast fit in smoothly with his other tools. The interface is simple, and the application stays in the background, waiting to be called to attention with a quick keyboard combination.

Sometimes Raycast is so good at being an unobtrusive productivity layer, Vegreville forgets it’s there. It’s not in your face when you open your computer, so it’s easy to get absorbed in work, moving between other tools. This is one downside to Raycast’s approach. “It’s hard to build an identity and take space,” Vegreville said. Raycast combats this, he says, by building a vibrant and active user community.

Raycast might not be for everybody — especially if you have trouble remembering keyboard shortcuts. But Mann’s okay with this; Raycast doesn’t need mass adoption right now. Instead, he’s focused on keeping up with suggestions from Raycast’s opinionated community.

“You’re just surrounding yourself with them and observing so many little things you haven’t thought of before,” Mann said. “That’s how Raycast got shaped.”

LA is a growing tech hub. But not everyone may fit.

LA has a housing crisis similar to Silicon Valley’s. And single-family-zoning laws are mostly to blame.

As the number of tech companies in the region grows, so does the number of tech workers, whose high salaries put them at an advantage in both LA's renting and buying markets.

Photo: Nat Rubio-Licht/Protocol

LA’s tech scene is on the rise. The number of unicorn companies in Los Angeles is growing, and the city has become the third-largest startup ecosystem nationally behind the Bay Area and New York with more than 4,000 VC-backed startups in industries ranging from aerospace to creators. As the number of tech companies in the region grows, so does the number of tech workers. The city is quickly becoming more and more like Silicon Valley — a new startup and a dozen tech workers on every corner and companies like Google, Netflix, and Twitter setting up offices there.

But with growth comes growing pains. Los Angeles, especially the burgeoning Silicon Beach area — which includes Santa Monica, Venice, and Marina del Rey — shares something in common with its namesake Silicon Valley: a severe lack of housing.

Keep Reading Show less
Nat Rubio-Licht

Nat Rubio-Licht is a Los Angeles-based news writer at Protocol. They graduated from Syracuse University with a degree in newspaper and online journalism in May 2020. Prior to joining the team, they worked at the Los Angeles Business Journal as a technology and aerospace reporter.

While there remains debate among economists about whether we are officially in a full-blown recession, the signs are certainly there. Like most executives right now, the outlook concerns me.

In any case, businesses aren’t waiting for the official pronouncement. They’re already bracing for impact as U.S. inflation and interest rates soar. Inflation peaked at 9.1% in June 2022 — the highest increase since November 1981 — and the Federal Reserve is targeting an interest rate of 3% by the end of this year.

Keep Reading Show less
Nancy Sansom

Nancy Sansom is the Chief Marketing Officer for Versapay, the leader in Collaborative AR. In this role, she leads marketing, demand generation, product marketing, partner marketing, events, brand, content marketing and communications. She has more than 20 years of experience running successful product and marketing organizations in high-growth software companies focused on HCM and financial technology. Prior to joining Versapay, Nancy served on the senior leadership teams at PlanSource, Benefitfocus and PeopleMatter.


SFPD can now surveil a private camera network funded by Ripple chair

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved a policy that the ACLU and EFF argue will further criminalize marginalized groups.

SFPD will be able to temporarily tap into private surveillance networks in certain circumstances.

Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Ripple chairman and co-founder Chris Larsen has been funding a network of security cameras throughout San Francisco for a decade. Now, the city has given its police department the green light to monitor the feeds from those cameras — and any other private surveillance devices in the city — in real time, whether or not a crime has been committed.

This week, San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors approved a controversial plan to allow SFPD to temporarily tap into private surveillance networks during life-threatening emergencies, large events, and in the course of criminal investigations, including investigations of misdemeanors. The decision came despite fervent opposition from groups, including the ACLU of Northern California and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which say the police department’s new authority will be misused against protesters and marginalized groups in a city that has been a bastion for both.

Keep Reading Show less
Issie Lapowsky

Issie Lapowsky ( @issielapowsky) is Protocol's chief correspondent, covering the intersection of technology, politics, and national affairs. She also oversees Protocol's fellowship program. Previously, she was a senior writer at Wired, where she covered the 2016 election and the Facebook beat in its aftermath. Prior to that, Issie worked as a staff writer for Inc. magazine, writing about small business and entrepreneurship. She has also worked as an on-air contributor for CBS News and taught a graduate-level course at New York University's Center for Publishing on how tech giants have affected publishing.


These two AWS vets think they can finally solve enterprise blockchain

Vendia, founded by Tim Wagner and Shruthi Rao, wants to help companies build real-time, decentralized data applications. Its product allows enterprises to more easily share code and data across clouds, regions, companies, accounts, and technology stacks.

“We have this thesis here: Cloud was always the missing ingredient in blockchain, and Vendia added it in,” Wagner (right) told Protocol of his and Shruthi Rao's company.

Photo: Vendia

The promise of an enterprise blockchain was not lost on CIOs — the idea that a database or an API could keep corporate data consistent with their business partners, be it their upstream supply chains, downstream logistics, or financial partners.

But while it was one of the most anticipated and hyped technologies in recent memory, blockchain also has been one of the most failed technologies in terms of enterprise pilots and implementations, according to Vendia CEO Tim Wagner.

Keep Reading Show less
Donna Goodison

Donna Goodison (@dgoodison) is Protocol's senior reporter focusing on enterprise infrastructure technology, from the 'Big 3' cloud computing providers to data centers. She previously covered the public cloud at CRN after 15 years as a business reporter for the Boston Herald. Based in Massachusetts, she also has worked as a Boston Globe freelancer, business reporter at the Boston Business Journal and real estate reporter at Banker & Tradesman after toiling at weekly newspapers.


Kraken's CEO got tired of being in finance

Jesse Powell tells Protocol the bureaucratic obligations of running a financial services business contributed to his decision to step back from his role as CEO of one of the world’s largest crypto exchanges.

Photo: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Kraken is going through a major leadership change after what has been a tough year for the crypto powerhouse, and for departing CEO Jesse Powell.

The crypto market is still struggling to recover from a major crash, although Kraken appears to have navigated the crisis better than other rivals. Despite his exchange’s apparent success, Powell found himself in the hot seat over allegations published in The New York Times that he made insensitive comments on gender and race that sparked heated conversations within the company.

Keep Reading Show less
Benjamin Pimentel

Benjamin Pimentel ( @benpimentel) covers crypto and fintech from San Francisco. He has reported on many of the biggest tech stories over the past 20 years for the San Francisco Chronicle, Dow Jones MarketWatch and Business Insider, from the dot-com crash, the rise of cloud computing, social networking and AI to the impact of the Great Recession and the COVID crisis on Silicon Valley and beyond. He can be reached at or via Google Voice at (925) 307-9342.

Latest Stories