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.”


Gensler: Bitcoin may be a commodity

The SEC has been vague about crypto. But Gensler said bitcoin is a commodity, “maybe.” It’s the clearest glimpse of his views on digital assets yet.

“Bitcoin — maybe that’s a commodity token. That has a big market value, but that goes over there,” Gensler said, referring to another regulator, the CFTC.

Photoillustration: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images; Protocol

SEC Chair Gary Gensler has long argued that many cryptocurrencies are subject to regulation as securities.

But he recently clarified that this view wouldn’t apply to the best-known cryptocurrency, bitcoin.

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.

Sponsored Content

Why the digital transformation of industries is creating a more sustainable future

Qualcomm’s chief sustainability officer Angela Baker on how companies can view going “digital” as a way not only toward growth, as laid out in a recent report, but also toward establishing and meeting environmental, social and governance goals.

Three letters dominate business practice at present: ESG, or environmental, social and governance goals. The number of mentions of the environment in financial earnings has doubled in the last five years, according to GlobalData: 600,000 companies mentioned the term in their annual or quarterly results last year.

But meeting those ESG goals can be a challenge — one that businesses can’t and shouldn’t take lightly. Ahead of an exclusive fireside chat at Davos, Angela Baker, chief sustainability officer at Qualcomm, sat down with Protocol to speak about how best to achieve those targets and how Qualcomm thinks about its own sustainability strategy, net zero commitment, other ESG targets and more.

Keep Reading Show less
Chris Stokel-Walker

Chris Stokel-Walker is a freelance technology and culture journalist and author of "YouTubers: How YouTube Shook Up TV and Created a New Generation of Stars." His work has been published in The New York Times, The Guardian and Wired.


What the economic downturn means for pay packages

The war for talent rages on, but dynamics are shifting back to the employers.

Compensation packages could start to look different as companies reshuffle the balance of cash and equity.

Illustration: Nuthawut Somsuk/Getty Images

The market is turning. Tech stocks are slumping — which is bad news for employees — and even industry powerhouses are slowing hiring and laying people off. Tech talent is still in high demand, but compensation packages could start to look different as companies recruit.

“It’s a little bit like whiplash,” compensation consultant Ashish Raina said of the downturn. Raina, who mainly works with startups that have 200 to 800 employees, previously worked as the director of Talent at Index Ventures and head of Compensation and Talent Analytics at Box. “I do think there’s going to be an interesting reckoning in terms of pay increases going forward, how that pay is delivered.”

Keep Reading Show less
Allison Levitsky
Allison Levitsky is a reporter at Protocol covering workplace issues in tech. She previously covered big tech companies and the tech workforce for the Silicon Valley Business Journal. Allison grew up in the Bay Area and graduated from UC Berkeley.

How 'Zuck Bucks' saved the 2020 election — and fueled the Big Lie

The true story of how Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan’s $419 million donation became the 2020 election’s most enduring conspiracy theory.

Mark Zuckerberg is smack in the center of one of the 2020 election’s multitudinous conspiracies.

Illustration: Mike McQuade; Photos: Getty Images

If Mark Zuckerberg could have imagined the worst possible outcome of his decision to insert himself into the 2020 election, it might have looked something like the scene that unfolded inside Mar-a-Lago on a steamy evening in early April.

There in a gilded ballroom-turned-theater, MAGA world icons including Kellyanne Conway, Corey Lewandowski, Hope Hicks and former president Donald Trump himself were gathered for the premiere of “Rigged: The Zuckerberg Funded Plot to Defeat Donald Trump.”

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.


From frenzy to fear: Trading apps grapple with anxious investors

After riding the stock-trading wave last year, trading apps like Robinhood have disenchanted customers and jittery investors.

Retail stock trading is still an attractive business, as shown by the news that crypto exchange FTX is dipping its toes in the market by letting some U.S. customers trade stocks.

Photo: Lam Yik/Bloomberg via Getty Images

For a brief moment, last year’s GameStop craze made buying and selling stocks cool, even exciting, for a new generation of young investors. Now, that frenzy has turned to fear.

Robinhood CEO Vlad Tenev pointed to “a challenging macro environment” marked by rising prices and interest rates and a slumping market in a call with analysts explaining his company’s lackluster results. The downturn, he said, was something “most of our customers have never experienced in their lifetimes.”

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