You can thing the inimitable Rick Schweir for this post.
A brief exchange on twitter made me realize that there may be value to some for me to come back to an old topic near and dear to my heart, Bookmarklets. I have written about the utility of Bookmarklets to augmenting your web experiencea number of times over the last 9 years of this blog, but haven’t for a while, and thought maybe there are maybe some new ones I use that might be of interest. But first…
A Little Background (skip this if you already know, love and use bookmarklets)
Most modern browsers have some equivalent of a “Bookmarks Toolbar” (Firefox’s name for it.) Chrome calls it the “Bookmarks Bar,” as does Safari. Internet Explorer? LA LA LA I CAN’T HEAR YOU LA LA LA.
To view it, typically look under the “View” menu, e.g.
After enabling it, you will see an additional toolbar under the main address bar of your browser.
Bookmarklets I have Known and Loved
Now you are ready to install some Bookmarklets to make your life on the web easier, quicker, more powerful. Here are some of the ones I use regularly.
Press This – http://codex.wordpress.org/Press_This
This first one will hopefully already be familiar to all wordpress users, and if it’s not – hopefully this just saved you a bunch of time. Press This is a wordpress bookmarklet available under the Tools Menu of the Administration screen. Once you drag it to your bookmarklets bar, you can launch a blog post editor for that blog that will populate the post with the URL and whatever copied text from the page you are looking at. If, like me, you often start a post by refering to something you’ve found, this becomes an invaluable part of your workflow.
Readability – http://www.readability.com/
Readability is the bookmarklet that set off this initial post – Rick was mentioning a bookmarklet that helps format pages for print. I took a look and though I should mention Readability to him; Readability takes advantage (as do many bookmarklets) of a fact people often forget about the web – it is the most amazing copying machine ever invented! Often I find people getting caught up on the idea that content is “on a server” when, for much of the ‘traditional’ web, its instead the fact that when you are viewing a web page you are actually looking at a copy that lives on your machine. As such, a copy that can be altered to work better for you.
In the case of Readability, the web page is altered to make it, well, more readable, removing all the cruft and formatting it as clean, legible text. Not only does this mean I can read much longer pieces than I normally would on my screen (and thus save printing them out) it also provides a beautiful form in which to print them out, if I chose to.
SplashURL – http://splashurl.net/
If you present a lot, you’ll like this one, which I have Tony Hirst to thank for (or Tony Hurst, as the site still mistakenly attributes 😉 Have you ever been giving a presentation and someone puts up there hands and asks “What’s the URL?” for a page you’re looking at, one that inevitably turns out to be 253 characters long? SplashURL allows you to shorten that URL with one click, and then displays that short URL in EXTRA LARGE BOLD TEXT, perfect for a presentation. This has saved my bacon many times.
LibraryLookup from Wikipedia Article – http://www.slideshare.net/val_forrestal/metr-obookmarklet-preso
This is one that you may have to do a little leg work on your own and will become the source of a longer blog post (eventually, soon as I finish coding up all the variants I want to release), but it’s still one I find handy and is a start to a goal I have of showing folks how Wikipedia can be a gateway drug to further knowledge and learning. The bookmarklet does a search of my local library’s catalogue using the subject of the wikipedia page I am looking at as the search term.
PwnYoutube – http://deturl.com/
Now you know that I would never telling you to do anything that broke copyright law, right? Me? But say you find a video on youtube (or indeed many other media sites) that you want to use in a presentation or class, but are worried that you may lose connectivity and want to have a backup plan. Well this bookmarklet and related site will allow you to grab a local copy of the video (and also points to sites that will just strip the audio track to a soundfile, if that’s what you are after) so that you can use the local copy instead of the network one. If anyone tries to give you grief, just tell them you’re exercising your constitutional fair use rights and the can try to pry that video out of your cold, dead hands. Or something.
Ok, this might seem arcane and overly techie, but I think it’s actual a basic net literacy skill (of which more to come soon too, another half-written blog post.) This bookmarklet will do a whois search on the domain of whatever page you are looking at. Why is this useful? Well, whois is not the only step you’d want to take in trying to determine the reputability of a web source you were questioning, but it is one of the first and easiest. I often discover SEO ploys hiding behind seemingly ok sites by looking at who has registered domains. Follow the money, folks.
Web XRay Googles – http://hackasaurus.org/goggles/
This last one is more for fun, and heck, I like the name. If you do any serious web development then presumably you already use something like Firebug or the Web Developer add-on, which makes this one kind of superfluous. But for those maybe just testing the waters, or wanting to learn a little bit about how a web page works, this plugin from Mozilla provides a way to see the “bones” under the skin of the page you are looking at, letting you move the mouse around while it highlights the structural elements that make up the page. It was built to teach web development to kids to, but it’s fun for all ages.
Well, that’s it for now. I have about a dozen other bookmarklets installed, but many of them are idiosynctratic, things I’ve hacked together to make my own life easier. But I’m always interested to hear of other useful ones – what bookmarklet do you find indispensible to your workflow? – SWL