Every now and then I wish there were a way to type in exactly what you want into the address bar, and the browser would take you there. I’m not talking about a URL; I’m talking about making shortcuts for things you may do regularly: look up weather, destinations, or search items.
Well, it’s here, and it’s glorious. Meet Instantfox, a Firefox addon that increases your laziness.
Instantfox does exactly what I wish the search bar would do: save me those extra keystrokes when typing. When I want to look up a destination, I don’t want to go to http://maps.google.com and type in my destination. I want to type in something like “maps my address to my destination”. Instantfox lets me do that by typing “m my address to my destination”.
The add-on comes loaded with some popular search shortcuts. Google Web search, Images, and Maps are all preloaded, along with Wikipedia, Youtube, Amazon, IMDB, Twitter, a weather report, and a calculator. The search engines that you have loaded also show up ready for you to assign shortcuts to, but chances are you won’t need to assign shortcuts to all of them; chances are you already use some of the preloaded ones.
The real power of Instantfox is the ability to add your own search shortcuts. This is where you can get really creative. I added one for GoodSearch so I can support the Office of Letters and Light all year and created shortcuts for the rest of the search engines Instantfox imported. Then I added more. This is where the fun begins. Here’s a sampling.
Note: The %q you see in all the search URLs is where you put the search query. I’m providing the URLs below in case you want to use them yourself.
“ww pagename” searches Wikiwrimo. Forget typing in the URL of Wikiwrimo; I can just ww Main Page and get there.
“fm artist name” searches Last.fm. I’m definitely showing my laziness here.
“whois domainname” searches whois.net. I get curious about these things sometimes, and I search whois often enough to warrant a search query. This is one of the reasons I’ve wished something like Instantfox exists.
“down domainname” searches http://downforeveryoneorjustme.com. This is one I’m really glad I thought of. Who wants to type in that URL every time? Not me.
“lw name” searches the lyrics wiki. It’s my first to go place for lyrics before trying search engines.
There’s one thing I wish this add-on had, and that’s the ability to save all my customizations and export and import them at will. I also have a laptop, and I’m going to install this add-on on the laptop as well. Adding all these searches is going to be tedious, even with all the search engines I’ve added. And let’s not get started on adding all those searches to an entirely new computer that hasn’t been customized at all.
Still, it’s a solid add-on. I’ve used it for just a few hours, and I’m already wondering how I lived without it in my life.
Users of other browsers, I have no idea whether there’s a similar add-on for you, but Shortwave is a cross-browser bookmarklet that does the same thing. It sounds like it’d be better for users of multiple computers like me, but I don’t want to click on a bookmarklet when I can open a new tab and start typing.