Add Universal Keyword Control To Your Browsers With Quix

Add Universal Keyword Control To Your Browsers With Quix

Imagine typing the same few keystrokes from any browser to email or clip a page, or start any kind of search. Quix is a universal browser commander on your desktop or mobile, and it’s my favourite new timesaver. Here’s how it works.

We’ve previously taken a peek at Quix, but having played with it quite a bit since then, it’s turned out to be far more helpful, adaptive and just plain cool than we’d initially thought. It does everything that a whole fleet of bookmarklets do, but it does them all from a single button — or, if you’re more of a keyboard shortcut type, one quick command. Quix may appear to score a bit high on the geek scale at first blush, but once you dive in and see what it can do, you’ll never want to give it up.

What does that mean in real day-to-day use? You spend less time configuring your browsers to do things like search Flickr’s reusable photos, because Quix already does it — type in fc granny smith, and you’re awash in Creative-Commons-licensed apple photos from Flickr. Need directions? map 123 Spooner St., Whateverville, OH, and it’s pinpointed in Google Maps. Email a link to the page you’re on with e, search only this site’s domain with gs search terms, submit it to Twitter with tn, and prove your coworker’s assumptions about the star of the ’80s series Hunter wrong with imdb fred dryer.

Check out the full list of Quix commands — you’ll find that many of the things you manually type in or have saved bookmarklets for are covered. If they’re not, well, we’ll get to putting them in there with your own choice of keyword shortcuts a bit further down.

For iPhone users, it’s nearly indispensable. For desktop users, it’s far more convenient than trying to set up and remember the shortcut codes to a whole fleet of bookmarklets you have to hunt down and install. For those who have never gotten down with bookmarklets because they just seemed too, well, wonky, it’s a great introduction to their time-saving power.

Enough yakkity-yak. Here’s an overview of how Quix works, as described by developer Joost de Valk.

Installing Quix

Beyond that basic setup example, Quix has detailed installation tips for most browsers, along with details on how to make Quix a single-letter shortcut (usually “q”) from the address bar. Those tutorials show you how to make Quix a shortcut you activate with a combo like Ctrl+Q in Chrome, or any key or keyword you want in Firefox. Internet Explorer, Opera and the iPhone’s mobile Safari are also covered.

Upgrade Mobile Safari

Quix saves you time in a desktop browser, but on the iPhone, it’s a game-changer. Install it on your iPhone, keep it near the top or top-middle of your bookmarks so it’s always accessible, and it lets you navigate the web as if it were your personal command prompt, rather than shuffling between windows and searching for search bars on tiny mobile-ised web pages.

Say you’re suddenly asked to remember who played Hannibal Lecter in his first appearance on film, Manhunter. It’s a good opportunity to show off a few of Quix’s browser-extending powers.

Erin Brockovich

Customise and extend your Quix app

Quix does a lot on its own, but it doesn’t do everything. Chances are, your favourite web apps and services offer their own bookmarklets for browser integration. We’ve covered a good number of them, too. Let’s take one example, the simple but uber-helpful PDFmyURL, and create a customised Quix bookmarklet that does everything Quix already does, but also creates well-formatted PDFs of any web page when you type in “pdf”.

The gist of extending Quix is that you need to create a simple text file containing your custom commands, put it somewhere on the web where it can be publicly accessed, and then roll up a custom Quix bookmarklet that knows where it is.

That’s not as hard as you might think. Productivity writer Merlin Mann has shown how its done. If you like his list of commands, which includes Google Calendar, Gmail search and OmniFocus functionality, you can simply head to Quix’s extend page, enter in Merlin’s custom command file (right-click to copy the link location), hit Enter, and then grab your new, Merlin-ised Quix app.

its own page

Here’s the entirety of PDFmyURL’s bookmarklet:


All it does is use some basic JavaScript to pull down the page the browser is currently looking at, store it as a variable (pdf_url), and then pass it to PDFmyURL in the form of (the escape() function merely reformats any tricky characters that a web server might have trouble with, but that’s not usually a problem.

I could, if I was better at JavaScript, simply re-work the JavaScript to work inside Quix’s command syntax, and keep the character “escape” function intact. But I’m not that code-y, so I simply scanned that page, saw that you could substitute %r for the URL of the page the browser was pointing at and added that in. After that, you only have to type it into a text file in a certain order, with your quick shortcut first, the command second, and, after a space, a description of what it’s doing. Here’s how my very simple file reads:

pdf Create a PDF from this page

I saved that file and uploaded it to my personal web server, and then entered its web location into the Quix extender. If you don’t have one, you can simply upload the text file to a file sharing service like DropBox and make the file public.

With my new “Kevin-ised” Quix bookmarklet, I can now hit Alt+D, then Q, to pull up my prompt and enter PDF:

We’re planning to dig into Quix a bit more here, and offer up our own suggestions on what you can add to make Quix much more helpful. If reading this inspires you to create your own custom command file or you already know of one, by all means — link it up in the comments!

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