Tools for Thought

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Ubiquity Redux: 15 More Commands to Get More from the Web

by Andre · 3 Comments

UbiquitySince my last post, I’ve been testing some of the newer commands that the user community has been adding to Ubiquity at a furious rate. The first 15 I listed came from Ubiquity’s default installation. For a full list of the default commands, enter help in Ubiquity or type about:ubiquity in the Firefox address bar, then click on the “Your Commands” link in the resulting page’s navigation bar. If you’re feeling more adventurous, click on the “Find More Commands” link instead, which brings up the Ubiquity Herd page.

Most of the commands in this post are from the Herd. The herd is a list of updated commands or user favorites. For security reasons, the links in this list, as well as the list itself, are only accessible with you click the Firefox’s Subscribe button at the top of each page. Since new commands are relatively untested — and frankly, a lot of them don’t work as advertised — they’re not added to Ubiquity’s command base; instead, you subscribe (free) to the commands you want.

A few words of warning

Ubiquity warningYou’ll see the security warnings anyway, but I’ll emphasize them again here. The JavaScript for these commands has full access to your browser. The warning page that comes up for you to approve your subscription displays the open source code, so you have the option of either reading it or accepting its integrity on faith. By Version 0.2, Mozilla plans to add a “social trust network,” allowing you to see if any of your friends have tried the command. Until then (and even after, really) caveat emptor.

Test each of these slowly. Some of the commands display their results inline — directly in the console window — while others display in the browser. If you type your query and hit Enter too quickly, you may miss the fact that the results were displayed inline. An example of this is one of my favorite commands, ccsearch-flickr, which displays the first series of thumbnails in the shell. The gimage command, on the other hand, shows them in a new browser tab.

As mentioned in the last post, Ubiquity treats queries not preceded by a recognized command as a generic Google search by default. There’s a snag in Ubiquity where just-added terms often don’t execute properly the first time, with queries treated as a Google search. This is another reason to test commands slowly. Look at the list of query options that display underneath what you type to make sure that Ubiquity recognizes the new command. If it doesn’t, don’t worry. Go ahead and enter the query as a search, then redo the query. The second time around, you’ll see from the option list that the new command has been added to Ubiquity’s dictionary.

15 (mostly) new commands

Click the links in each list heading for each command’s subscription page. The first item, remove-annotations, is a default command that doesn’t require subscription; the others do.

  1. Remove-annotations. If you use the save command to lock in your edits to a web page (with commands like highlight, translate or delete), you’ll need to use remove-annotations to get rid of them. It’s also necessary if you annotate a dynamically generated home page, like a blog; otherwise you won’t be able to see new updates to the page, even if you refresh. If you want to keep your annotations on a particular post, make your edits to the post’s permalink (the posts unique page), not the home page. (Thanks to prester john for pointing out remove-annotations in the previous post’s comments).
  2. Gdocs. Entering gdocs [query] will list your Google Documents containing the entered term.
  3. Restart. This restarts Firefox. If you find that Ubiquity isn’t accepting your entries (which happens occasionally), you have to close and relaunch Firefox manually.
  4. Delicious/delicious-find. Typing is delicious as a standalone word bookmarks the current page on your Delicious account, using the page title as the description; or you can add a manual description, as in, delicious this is a cool post. Add tags by following the description with the word tags, followed by your comma-separated tag list. So a bookmark complete with a description and tags would look like delicious this is a cool post tags first, second, third.
  5. Add-on. Searches for Firefox add-ons using the add-on [query] syntax.
  6. Yn. You can use Ubiquity as your shell for YubNub commands using the yn [YubNub command] syntax. If you love typing or loathe mnemonics, the full yubnub keyword is available from this separate subscription.
  7. Lifehacker. Having to search for life hacks in Google using [query] can get tedious. Instead, just put lifehacker [query] into Ubiquity.
  8. Rottentomatoes. See what the consensus on a film is by entering rottentomatoes [film]. This subscription is bundled in the same link as the lifehacker command, if you’ve added either, you’ve added both.
  9. Amazon-search-all. The default amazon-search command defaults to book searches. Using amazon-search-all [product] performs a search across all Amazon product categories.
  10. CCsearch-flickr. Using ccsearch-flickr [term] returns images under the Create Commons license inline.
  11. Gimage. Like YubNub’s gim command, gimage [term] runs an image search on Google.
  12. Torrent. This is the least shady of the bittorrent search commands I’ve found, compared to, say, pirate. Unlike the latter, which is specific to The Pirate Bay, using torrent [query] performs a metasearch across services using vOrtex.
  13. Stumble. Using stumble as a standalone term lets you StumbleUpon a random page, per your SU profile. stumble-thumbs-up and stumble-thumbs-down are your bookmarking commands, and stumble-view-reviews lets you see what other Stumblers have to say about the current page. If you need full StumbleUpon functionality, use stumble-toggle-toolbar.
  14. Reddit-this. Isn’t it great to simply type the bookmarking service you want into Ubiquity, instead of navigating toolbars and links?
  15. Gquote. Get a stock quote using the gquote [ticker] syntax.

(Photo credit: molecularck)

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Tags: Technology


  • seanNo Gravatar // Sep 7, 2008 at 7:23 pm

    hmmm… I’ve had a little bit of a play with ubiquity but haven’t really found any real use for it yet. Of course, i am keeping an eye on it because i can see the potential.

  • Onur GungorNo Gravatar // Dec 7, 2008 at 5:59 am


    I just published a command for looking up words on – The Free Dictionary. I use TFD extensively.

    Just wanted to report in case people may find it useful.

  • JasonNo Gravatar // Jan 6, 2009 at 8:10 am

    The Yn command feed for YubNub is returning a 404.