Technology Blog, by: David Monaghan.

Mozilla Keywords Out, YubNub Commands In.

Posted by David on April 18, 2006

On my search for the seemingly endless amounts of web applications I've found another service which changes the way I browse the internet, it is YubNub.org. At first YubNub looks like a somewhat humorous and friendly interface to Google and other utilities, but it becomes quickly obvious that YubNub really is exactly what it claims to be, "A social command line for the web." YubNub combines web searching with the Unix command line and gives users an open interface to add commands using a simple syntax with some advanced features.

One of the first interesting features I noticed was the ability to create commands which accept parameters. I'm also a big fan of the names used for two of the most useful commands on YubNub; ls (lists commands) and man (shows information about a command). Both of these commands take options just as you may expect, typing 'ls google' will list commands with Google in the name, description, or command source (URL). Using 'man g' returns the description for the 'g' command (Google search). Creating a command is very simple, the syntax is similar to Firefox's keyword syntax but also sports more fancy syntax to make commands much more powerful. If you're looking at creating a command check out 'if', 'ifThen', and 'foreach'. I should also mention that while 'ls' is great for finding a command, 'ge' is much better for discovering great commands.

Please go give YubNub a try, even if I have confused you with some of the more advanced features. I can't imagine there is a faster way to search and browse the web than this, and it's really not very hard to type 'g search term' rather than google.com. Even if you normally use a link/bookmark to pull up your search engine and just type the search term, remember that you're loading two pages when you could be loading one, besides that if your hands are on the keyboard why take them off? Currently when I want to search Google this is what I do;

Type: ctrl+k

Type: g search term

Hit enter key

That's all, the results are up for whichever search term I typed in. On another subject; If I see a result I want to pull up I hit the forward-slash key (/) and type the link text in until it's highlighted. Then I can enter and I'm there, hands never leaving the keyboard, much faster than using the mouse and loading a search page. On yet another subject; If I can think of a search term which I know will pull up the result I want as #1, I can use the goto command which performs an "I'm Feeling Lucky" search in Google (which simply loads the first result without showing the rest, can be tricky but it saves even more time).

Okay, let's egress from this digression… 😉

After a short while I realized that I needed an easy and quick way to access the YubNub site, but I already have a dashboard I like to use as my home page and don't care for opening more than one page when I start up (that's one more than I'm used to, and I may switch back soon.) The first solution I thought of was a keyword, simply enough one could be created and used but to type in a keyword to use a service that offers more keywords (commands) seems redundant, even if it's one character. So the best solution I've come up with so far is to replace the default path Firefox uses when entering a url that isn't a Mozilla keyword and isn't a real url (this is easy enough for any computer user to accomplish, put about:config in the address bar of firefox and hit go, then find keyword.url and double click to replace url with "http://yubnub.org/parser/parse?command=", quotes added for display purposes). With this quick edit of the Firefox config I can now access YubNub's power right from the url bar like it's built in. There's a better way than simply changing the default keyword url and I've finally seen the light. This has been available the entire time, I just never saw the benefit of using it until now. The best solution I can find now; Using a YubNub quicksearch (in Firefox), which is a small change for me, I'm used to using ctrl+l to access the url bar and I've gotten accustomed to this since using YubNub as the default keyword url but I've been dying for history and completion (at the very least for commands I've typed in). Now a simple ctrl+k brings me to a the one and only quicksearch I have installed, YubNub, and what I type gets saved in history for use later on. There's another problem I encountered when using YubNub as the default keyword url; The command \\ doesn't work, Firefox get's confused and in return I get an error message. Not being able to use even as little as one command is reason enough to switch, and I'm glad I finally did, I'll be happy to finally have history of my the commands I type in. Now if only I could get auto-completion for commands and options, this I would imagine is best suited for a Firefox extension.

If you're interested in using or already have been using YubNub and haven't already seen the Installing YubNub page I recommend you check it out. There's a long list of Firefox quicksearch plugins and more.
There's a wealth of commands, and anyone can add more. Had to get this out, I know most users won't understand let alone use this sort of service, although I could be wrong, even though it's not any more difficult to use than Google, the default behavior is to search Google. I really think this is a keyword killer for me, I've looked through the keyword list I have now and can't find anything I have that isn't already available, aliases can also be used if you've gotten used to a certain keyword as well although I'm not sure how that works with existing command names from another site which ties into YubNub nicely using the '!' command. I'm sure a few geeks out there are glad to see this, hope you're one of them.

I should mention that using YubNub as the default Firefox keyword.url does not override your keyword settings, keywords will still work, in fact they will override the default keyword.url if they exist (which might become a problem if you have a keyword which overrides a YubNub command).


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