This week on the OStatic blog, we reported on Mozilla’s intent to wrap its Ubiquity project into an upcoming version 3.2 of the Firefox browser. If you use Firefox and haven’t used Ubiquity, now is a great time to get to know it. It’s a very powerful Firefox extension that provides a pop-up command-line interface for everything from doing quick web searches, to translating web pages to PDF documents, to jumping straight into webmail.
Ubiquity had a major update in January, and I’ve been using the new version since then. Here are a few applications for Ubiquity that those of us who live in browsers all day will appreciate.
Ubiquity is a free Firefox extension, and once you install it, you can pop it up at any time by pressing Ctrl + Space. That combination of keys puts your live cursor directly into Ubiquity’s command line. In the screenshot above, I have begun typing the command “e-mail,” and even before I’m done typing I’m presented with a series of commands. I can choose to mail the web page I’m at to a colleague, or turn it into a PDF file, and more.
Ubiquity doesn’t restrict you to only canned commands, though. You can write your own commands easily, and Mozilla recently pointed out this online video as a good tutorial for beginning to create commands. The command shown built in the video is designed to look up members of Congress by zip code, but the instructions are detailed enough that you can start to create your own commands.
In my own use, I’ve found Ubiquity particularly good for on-the-fly web searches, and very fast definitions of terms I’m reading about online. I can execute the searches faster than I would if I navigated to a search engine, and if I type in a term such as “VPN” I’ll immediately see enough search results in Ubiquity that I know the term stands for Virtual Private Network, and have a sense of what one is.
If you build your command skills in Ubiquity, you can do much more advanced, scripted things, bordering on full-blown applications. I predict that a lot of Firefox users who aren’t yet using Ubiquity will appreciate once it’s in the browser by default. A command line interface may seem like retrograde, but Ubiquity gets its name from how ever-present it is, and how very fast it is for on-the-fly tasks such as searching or jumping into an e-mail message.