30 September 2010 - 15:29Instant Preview of Location Bar Suggestions

I’ve received a number of requests for getting Instant-like Search, so I’ve packaged it up for people to download. Part of the reason why I didn’t release earlier is that this restartless add-on requires the upcoming Firefox 4 Beta 7, so I was hoping to make it available when the beta was ready.

If you’re already on the bleeding edge running a Firefox nightly build [nightly.mozilla.org], you can install Instant Preview.

With this add-on, Firefox will start loading pages highlighted in the location bar suggestions in place of the current tab. This means you can type a letter and press Down to start viewing that page. From there you can press Return to make the preview turn into a persistent tab. Alternatively, you can press Esc to get rid of the preview if you just needed to glance at the page. So if you do end up selecting the page, it might already be done loading and ready for you to use! :)

This works even better if you install Speak Words, so that when you type a single letter, not only will the rest of the word get filled in, it’ll automatically highlight the first entry resulting in the page being loaded immediately. For now you’ll need to install both these restartless add-ons separately, but I’m working on a way to simplify this so you just need to install one to automatically get these new features.

Don’t forget to check out my Video Preview of Instant-like Search and install it!

23 Comments | Tags: Add-on, AwesomeBar, Labs, Mozilla, Search

23 September 2010 - 7:00Video Preview of Instant-like Search

Here’s a preview of an instant-like search add-on that I just hacked together in a few minutes. :)

Video formats: webm, ogv, mov

Transcript:

Let’s say I want to go to Planet Mozilla, so I start typing out “planet”, and before I even finish typing it out, the page has loaded over the current tab. This could be useful to take a quick peek at a page like xkcd, and then hit <esc> to return to where I left off.

Combining this with smart bookmark keywords, I can type “g” followed by some word, and it’s almost like Google Instant search. But this works for other search engines like Bing.. or even Wikipedia. As long as the site returns the page fast enough, it already feels pretty good.

16 Comments | Tags: Add-on, AwesomeBar, Google, Labs, Mozilla, Search

22 September 2010 - 10:45Speak Words to the Location Bar

For those that already “speak words” to the location bar, you probably already know that you can find pages by their title or use multiple words to help find the exact page that you want. This is as opposed to typing in a url or a domain to first load a page to get to the page you want.

Finding a page by matching the title

To help people speak words and get to the pages even faster, I’ve written an add-on, Speak Words, that will fill in the rest of the word as you type in the location bar. Similar to how Find Suggest uses words from the current page as suggestions, this add-on will look for words that you’ve previously typed into the location bar for its dictionary.

In the example above, I’ve typed “r” and the add-on has filled in the rest of the word for “reader” and searched for that word in the location bar. I can now just press <Return> to go to that page. Just 2 key strokes, and I’m where I want to be! :)

Immediate suggestions for new words as you type

Because the add-on gives immediate feedback on what word it’s using, you can figure out what’s the fewest number of keys you need to press to get to the site you want. Before, I would probably type “bank” or “bugz,” but now I see that I can just type “b” and “bu” instead. Also if you do type words from a site’s domain, the add-on will also help fill in the rest of the word for you as shown above.

The suggested words are based on the adaptive learning of the location bar and previously-typed domains. So your suggestions will be different from mine, and instead it’ll show you the words that you’ll likely to type in anyway, except now you don’t need to type out the whole word.

Try out Speak Words if you’re running a recent Firefox 4 beta [mozilla.com]. It’s a restartless add-on, so you can make Firefox even snappier immediately!

Looking forwards in terms of improving search in Firefox, there’s now dictionaries for word suggestions for each type of search: search engine suggestions for the search bar, in-page words for find, and key words for history. While the actual dictionary for each might need to be tweaked, it’ll be interesting to see if the search interfaces can be combined and streamlined while still helping the user with relevant suggestions and results.

8 Comments | Tags: Add-on, AwesomeBar, Labs, Mozilla, Search

16 September 2010 - 18:55Find Suggest: Words from the Page

There’s a few main ways to do search in Firefox. You can use the location bar to search for pages that you’ve visited or bookmarked. You can use the find bar to search for words on the page that you’re currently looking at. You can use the search bar to find new pages on the internet. As I mentioned last week, I’m taking a look into ways to improve searches in Firefox as part of Mozilla Labs, so this covers all of these types of searching.

Today I’ve quickly hacked together an initial prototype that helps you find words on a page. Instead of typing letters into the find box only to end up getting a “Phrase not found” message, the find bar will now show suggestions of words that will match on the page as you type. The find bar will only let you find words that are on the page anyway, so why not use those available words to guide the user?

Suggestion of words from the current page (buttons removed to fit screenshot)

This is similar to how mobile phones will suggest words based on the letters you’ve entered so far. Except instead of showing possible words from the dictionary, the find bar will only show words from a custom dictionary.

You can try out this feature by installing Find Suggest. It’s a restartless add-on that runs on recent Firefox 4 betas [mozilla.com], so you can start playing around with it immediately.

This is a quick prototype, so you can only fill in the suggestions by clicking on them. Ideally there would be some keyboard mechanism to fill in the suggestion such as hitting <Tab> to fill in the common prefix like on the command line. But even with the limited functionality, it’s a useful guide to quickly see what words will match on the page without having to type them out.

13 Comments | Tags: Add-on, Labs, Mozilla, Search