Shortwave

October 1, 2008 / If you like keyboard shortcuts while you’re browsing the web, you will love this.

Shortwave is a JavaScript search dingus by Shaun Inman. The bookmarklet invokes an input dialogue that accepts basic commands, allowing you to perform fast queries on certain sites (e.g. Google, YouTube, Amazon, IMDb). Yeah, yeah, that’s great. So what? Well, awesomely, you can define your own commands. In combination with keyboard shortcuts, this can save a huge amount of time.

For example if, using Safari, you make Shortwave the first bookmark in your Bookmarks Bar, it is assigned the keyboard shortcut ⌘ + 1 (i.e. Apple key + 1). I defined a Shortwave commands file to include a search of Zero to One-Eighty (which you can query using “http://ztoe.net/?s=”), mapped to “z”. To search my site using Safari, I type “⌘ + 1,” then “z [search term]” then Return. Suh-weet. In Opera, ⌘ + 1 can be set to invoke the bookmarklet if you use Speed Dial, and in Camino, if you save the bookmarklet in the first folder in the Bookmark Bar and designate the folder as a Tab Group. (I don’t know if you can reassign ⌘ + [numeral] in Firefox.)

When you use a custom commands file, the dingus sends the search query plus the URL for your commands file to http://shortwaveapp.com, and then sends you to the destination address. For example:

http://shortwaveapp.com/?go&c=z%20elena&s=http://ztoe.net/misc/shortwave.txt

for the (custom) query “z elena.” It also sets a cookie whose content is the URL of your commands file.

Anyway, if you like using keyboard commands, this is a nice way to save keystrokes and mouse gestures, and (by providing your own bookmarklet) even give your visitors a customised way to search your site, if they are fanatical enough to tweak their browser for you.

Update: Firefox does not provide a way to customise it’s default keyboard shortcuts (for example to re-map ⌘ + 1 to invoke the bookmarklet instead of the first tab), but you can assign keywords to the bookmark by editing its Properties. For example, “sw” for Shortwave means I can invoke Shortwave using “⌘ + L,” then “sw + Return.” Not as nice as ⌘ + 1, but it’s a start.

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