Keyword shortcuts support in Flock

One of my favorite semi-hidden Firefox feature is keyword shortcuts. When I want to search for something, I hit Ctrl+T, ? foo and Firefox will search Google for “foo”. This works because I have the Google search URL “http://www.google.com/search?q=%s” connected with the keyword “?”. This works great for me, and means that I can hide the Search Bar normally visible at the top of the browser. In addition to the Google shortcut, I have them set up for IMDB, Wikipedia, and Technorati.

I had recently been wondering if Flock supported keyword shortcuts. I found Flock Bug 1364: Add Support for Keyword Favorite Shortcuts which requests support for this functionality. From reading through the bug comments, shortcuts created through the “Add a Keyword for this Search…” context menu are recognized. However, these links cannot be edited from the Flock Favorites Manager. The request is to integrate keyword shortcuts into the Favorites Manager.

It looks like this feature request is rated as a high-priority enhancement targetted for the next major Flock Beta, so it looks like it’ll get some attention in the future.

Back in the pre-Firefox 1.0 days, POST forms could not receive keywords. Some talented Mozilla employees and/or volunteers spent some development cycles to add POST keyword support as well as the right-click “Add Keyword” context menu item. This feature just effing works. Effing works great.

I was able to use the POST shortcut support a bit at my last job, as a contract Web Developer at Shareholder.com. General client information was stored on our Intranet. To change the company information you were viewing, you had to enter or select the client name. By using the keyword support in Firefox, I could more easily view different clients. Typing “<keyword> clientcompany” would allow me to switch to a view of clientcompany‘s data. Authentication information just plain worked correctly, so I was prompted to enter my username/password when appropriate. Awesome stuff.

Firefox keyword shortcuts save me time and money every day, and I look forward to seeing them work in Flock. What can they do for you?

More information on keyword shortcuts:

Tags: Flock, Firefox

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5 Responses to Keyword shortcuts support in Flock

  1. Lloyd D Budd says:

    Keywork shortcuts is definitely a regularly requested feature by our power users.

    I am not sure when we will get at it. I think Ian dislikes this feature.

    I have heard that we are looking at redesigning favorites. I know that many people find the differences from our browsers too disruptive.

  2. woosta says:

    There’s something to be said for users in the target audience saying that they dislike/are confused by the current favorites structure. Thanks for the info Lloyd.

  3. Craig Turner says:

    You’re spot on. I was concerned about voices in the bug discussion suggesting that this might not be such an important feature. It’s only a little bit less important than tabs to me. I use it for getting into our bugzilla (‘new’ creates a new bug, ‘list’ lists my current bugs, ‘bug [number]’ loads that bug), searching google, accessing java api (‘api java/lang/String’), cayenne api, webobjects api, wikipedia, dictionary, entering times into our time-management system, etc, etc.

    In a previous job my team had to use a shocking bug tracking system that wanted to pop up windows all over the place and where some menus only worked in internet explorer. I set up a short doc on reaching all functionality through a series of firefox keywords and we started to get good functionality out of it as a result.

    I’d like to see some effort invested in extending the keywords feature so that it could become a more comprehensive command-line. First feature to add would be an ability to apply simple string processing (including regex) to entries.

    Thanks for the keywordrepository link.

  4. Woosta says:

    Craig, glad you were able to get more out of your bug tracker. You’ve given some great examples of keyword shortcuts too.

    What sort of command-line features were you suggesting would be useful? I’m not sure I see yet what commands would be used.

    Were you thinking of methods to fill in multiple query fields, something like: google.com/q=%s&locale=%t pizza boston

    Now that I think a bit more about it, the regex sounds like an interesting way to capture query fields from the stuff added. Like capturing the first two words for the first fill-in-field, and the rest of the stuff for the second fill-in-field.

  5. Craig Turner says:

    Woosta – thanks for your interest.

    > What sort of command-line features were you
    > suggesting would be useful?

    I see the web browser as just a new type of terminal but one that allows us to do lots of things that are not practical with a character-based terminal. I’m also particularly fond of anything that lets me control my computer quickly through the keyboard where previously I’d have to reach across for a mouse. Thus, the keyword feature in firefox gelled with me on two levels. I’m full of ideas but low on ability to contribute – unfortunately C/C++ is not my strong point so mocking this stuff up is unrealistic for me.

    I have a vague idea of three evolutions that could extend from what we’ve been talking about.

    1) Multiple Inputs
    The most trivial would be to allow the user to enter multiple values so that a form somewhere could interpret them. As far as I can tell from firefox 1.5.0.4, the platform is currently quite limited and only accepts a single input string. In fact the single-input string is in one way a good idea – if you’re just using this feature for submitting form elements then you can get the server to parse the string. But as my examples indicated, you rarely have control over the server.

    Also, there is a concern in having multiple-value keywords in that bookmarks become more time-consuming to set up. But the flock link into delicious might alleviate this. You migth even find that delicious would be interested in working to add extra features to their system to make it possible to store the sorts of extra metadata you want.

    2) Querying Data
    Another thing I’d like to be able to do is use a command-line within the browser to nail down data within the page – perhaps isolating the content in a way that’s similar to an xpath query. I’d like to see the browser reach the point where you can use the command-line in what is currently the addressbar to nail down a scope within the page, and then select that into the buffer. At this point you wouldn’t need to use the mouse once the browser was positioned on screen.

    3) The browser as a generic network console.
    It may be that this usage transfers well to an existing web services platform (eg: WSDL) so that you could use the command-line to query web-services and then return information about them in the main perspective of the page. From there you could then call the webservices. Where I’m heading is towards a point where you can develop applications over web services without needing to do any HTML. This is quite removed from one common perspective of the browser – that it’s a HTML renderer and HTTP client. But in fact it’s always been more than that. Browsers have always had ftp built in, and there have also been XML renderers in in some situations. I’d like to see the browser turn into a more generic network interface tool.

    This would be handy for application development because HTML over HTTP is a very heavy thing to deliver when your clients are trying to rapidly process form data. This is part of the reason for the growth of ajax – the asynchronous thing is cute and all – but it also makes for faster cycles.

    While I’m mentioning my far-out ideas 🙂 – in my usual command-line I use vi mode (‘set -o vi’ where the vast majority of people use ‘set -o emacs’), and I also use vi as my preferred text editor whenever possible. It is less than ideal for me that I don’t have access to vi when using controls within the browser (including the addressbar). Vi mode support in the addressbar would be my ideal world but I target the stop_at_punctuation because I doubt there will be momuntum to implement my ideal.

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