Mozilla Delivers Ubiquity Firefox Extension as a Preview Edition


Mozilla Labs today released a preview version of the next major version of its Ubiquity extension for Firefox: Ubiquity 0.5, downloadable here. I’ve been steadily using the beta releases of it, and Mozilla has ambitious plans to make Ubiquity a standard part of Firefox. It’s a command-line tool, and while that may cause some to roll their eyes at the idea of typing commands in the age of the graphical user interface, it’s actually very useful. The new preview version has many major additions, including localization features.

If you download the Ubiquity Preview Release and restart Firefox, you can hit your Ctrl key and your Space key at any time to conjure the extension. You can hit your Esc key at any time to shut it. There are many built-in commands for Ubiquity, and it becomes very intuitive to figure out which types of commands will perform which types of functions. All you have to do is type the first few letters of a command to conjure up a set of command choices from which you can pick.

For example, in the screenshot above, I have begun to type in an “email” command, and I already have options available to me for sending an email and more. Ubiquity is very web-aware, especially in the new Preview Release, so for many commands, it will immediately know that you might want to check a Wikipedia entry for a given term, or check your primary e-mail application, or convert a web page to PDF, and more.

The new Preview Release is much more globally focused than any of the betas were. It features a new input parser that has been rewritten to support many languages other than English. I also noticed that it does a good job of guessing what I want based on my location. For example, below I am typing in “weather” and Ubiquity guesses that I want the weather for San Francisco, which is where I am. This raises my eyebrows a bit because of the implied privacy concerns, but it is nonetheless useful, and very fast.

As another example of a command in action, below I have started to type the word “calculate,” and before I’m done typing, Ubiquity gives me quick choices for calculating, or for checking a Google (s goog) calendar:

One major addition to the new Preview Release of Ubiquity is an interactive tutorial to help you get started. You don’t even have to invoke the tutorial. It’s available as soon as Firefox starts, after you install the Ubiquity extension. It consists of pop-ups that provide you with sample commands to try, and explains the suggestions that pop up as results.

This Preview Release is intended mainly for developers who want to test it and suggest improvements. I noticed a little herky-jerky interface behavior here and there, but no major bugs. It’s quite useful, and it works with the new Firefox 3.5. Consider giving it a try, unless you find a command-line interface to be completely retrograde. Sooner or later, Ubiquity will likely be built right into Firefox. Hopefully sooner.

Do you use Ubiquity? What useful commands have you found? What’s the No. 1 reason you’d recommend Ubiquity to people who aren’t yet using it?


Alex Williams

I can edit a web page at will. For me, this is ubiquity’s most valuable feature. I
can annotate a page, use an app like iterasi to archive and then send it to who I want to view it.

Or I may just do a screen capture, save it and post on Flickr. As I did here:

Perhaps I can do this with Jing but the command line feature makes the process feel a bit smoother.

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