Tuesday 03 August 2004

The possibilities of (Firefox) search

To become aware of the possiblity of the search is to be onto something.

Walker Percy

I first heard about Mozilla Phoenix/Firebird/Firefox in a September 2002 Phil Ringalda a post titled My Next Browser?:

Posting from Phoenix 0.1, a re-casting of Mozilla as a browser rather than a bloated suite. No mail client. No IM client. No Composer. No spreadsheet. A browser. It’s already pretty quick, and they’ve just started throwing away the cruft that has built up in Mozilla. Another milestone or two, a few prefs added back in, and I could use this.

A couple of weeks later, Phil wrote about Flipping the Switch:

Yep, I can use this. The textareas are lame, things are still in flux (once 0.3 comes out, that’ll be Phoenix -> Tools -> Phoenix Preferences -> Set as default browser), lots of sites are designed without ever looking at how bad they appear in Mozilla, but things like tabbed browsing and bookmark this group of tabs overrule any problems.

In December 2002, when Phil referred to his “brand spanking new copy of Phoenix 0.5” in a post titled Blogger, You Ignorant Slut, I flipped the switch myself.

Today, Phil mentioned the community marketing campaign for Firefox, prompting me to get off my bum, rave about Firefox, and add a button to my site.

Tabbed browsing and bookmark this group of tabs sucked me in too — it was a snap to set up a tabbed group of a dozen sites which loaded as soon as one launched the browser. Next came popup blocking and total cookie control. Then I got rid of advertising images with floppymoose’s userContent.css technique.

Last week, in a comment on my post about web editing tools, Mark the Mystery Man pointed to the Web Developer Extension, which adds a menu and toolbar to the browser with an astonishing range of handy web developer tools. After all these years I think I’m pretty hard to impress but this blew me away, particularly being able to open the stylesheet for any page in a sidebar, modify the CSS, and see the changes in real time. It will also display the CLASS and ID of every element on the page, the image dimensions, access keys, and a bunch of other useful information.

List of search plugins in Mozilla FirefoxBut what I liked best was having Google search built into the toolbar. Which they’ve extended by enabling you to install plugins for other search engines.

I soon installed the plugins for Google.co.jp, Amazon.com, Amazon.co.jp, Google Images, the Internet Movie Database, Dictionary.com, the King James Version of the Bible, Bookfinder (by Author & Title), DHL & UPS parcel tracking, and—after my Wiki Epiphany—Wikipedia.

I reworked a few of the icons — for example, the same icon Standard Google icon is provided for a whole range of localized Google searches so I gave the Google.com icon a blue border Google icon with blue border and the Google.co.jp icon a red one Google icon with red border (and added a similar red border to the Amazon.co.jp icon Amazon icon with red border). Since I didn’t like the IMDb icon Illegible IMDb icon, I made my own Legible IMDb icon.

Recently, Language Hat pointed to the Japanese-English Dictionary Server and Mike Gillis provided a Firefox Search Plugin for it. I had a look at the code for Mike’s plugin and was inspired to write one of my own, for the Japanese Movie Database.

Mozdev.org provides comprehensive documentation but the Quick Start guide was easy enough to understand. The only thing it didn’t mention explicitly was encoding but a comment on the documentation pointed to explanations of the queryEncoding and queryCharset. I checked Mike Gillis’ plugin to see how he’d handled it, tried ISO-2022-JP and Shift-JIS without success, looked at the source code on the Japan Movie Database site and saw that they were using EUC-JP encoding. That did the trick, which was lucky because it was my only remaining choice.

If you’d like to try my JMDb plugin, you can download it. Naturally any feedback will be greatly appreciated.

The only downside of having so many search choices is that if you forget to set the appropriate plugin the search will yield odd or no results. For example, when I accidentally searched BibleGateway.com for “CPAN”, I got the following response :

Search words “CPAN” Sorry, we found no verses matching your specifications. Try a different search type, or a different Bible version.

Other than that, browsing and searching with Firefox is a delight. If you’re not using Firefox, why not give it a spin?

Get Firefox

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Wednesday 04 August 2004

The point of writing

Blackboard outside bookshop displaying Kingsley Amis quotation: If you can't annoy somebody with what you write, I think there's little point in writing.

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© Copyright 2007 Jonathon Delacour