Thursday, May 17, 2007

Cute Customizations..

I hope you guys would have noticed the usability enhancements in Google search in the past few days. Earlier it just used to throw all the search options above the search textbox. Now based on your query it suggests search options. E.g if you search for Harry Potter, google will suggest you searches in books, news and video sections, but if you search for iPhone, google would suggest news, patents, blogs and products. A small yet nifty customization to save the end user from information overload. I also love the way they handle the presentation of results.. a gazillion line program running(or operating on a dataset of that size) on a 100 node beowulf cluster(just a speculation) justs gives you a single line of relevant data, sometimes just a hyperlink... friggin amazing.

Google's Experimental search gives an insight into the changes we might see in the future. I am already a fan of search keyboard shortcuts. I thought that it would be a great idea to integrate it with the google suggest plugin built into firefox. The following keybindings are available in google search:

Key Action
J Selects the next result.
K Selects the previous result.
O Opens the selected result.
Opens the selected result.
/ Puts the cursor in the search box.
Removes the cursor from the search box.

Adding these options to the search plugin is quite straight forward. The file /usr/share/firefox/searchplugins/google.xml(on *nix of course, Windows users can make the same changes in the respective files too) stores the configuration for google search. Just add the following line in the static parameters section:
<param name="esrch" value="BetaShortcuts">

Restart your firefox and try googling using the search plugin. You should see the navigator arrow similar to that in gmail(with keyboards shortcut available ofcourse).

On a somewhat related note; I upgraded to Pidgin. I've been using Gaim's beta6 for sometime now. Pidgin sports better graphics but there are no functional improvement over Gaim2 as such. One thing that is lacking in Pidgin is the lack of emoticon sets available to Yahoo messenger users(apart from no video or voice messaging system).. there is a workaround though. This guy has posted a link to the ymsgr emoticon set. This is how you could get it to work:
  • Download and extract the zip file from the website.. it is extracted as a directory named default.
  • Rename it to Yahoo
  • Find a file called theme in it, open it in an editor and change the name and Author values to differentiate it from the default pidgin emoticon set(anything is fine).
  • Archive it as yahoo.tar.gz
  • Open Pidgin->Tools->Preferences->Smiley Themes and drag and drop this tar ball in the window.
  • Select the entry that appears.
  • Alternatively you could also move the directory Yahoo to ~/.purple/smileys and then select the new entry later.
The animated smileys move a bit faster but they are tolerable. Man.. i surely love linux and these applications for their flexibility.

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