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.
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.
Open your bookmarks and hit up Quix. You'll get a prompt, where you can type in "imdb manhunter" to pull up that movie's full page.
Boom, there's the page. Want to skip right to the answer? Hit Quix again to do an on-page search, which isn't offered by default in the iPhone browser.
Typing in "Find" by itself would bring up another prompt to find items on the page, which is better if you're performing multiple text searches. In this case, we're just looking for the people-eater himself — and, hey, the iPhone happens to be a Thomas Harris fan!
After a quick refresh, Quix tells you how many instances of your word were found, highlights them all in yellow on the page, and jumps you down to the first occurrence. Turns out it's that dude who played Julia Roberts's boss in 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.
But we want our PDFmyURL functionality included, so we'll create our own little text file — which, of course, you could copy Merlin's or anybody's commands into. Grab the PDFmyURL bookmarklet from its own page, drag it to your bookmark bar, and right-click it to copy its contents. You could also just take a look at it by right-clicking it and hitting Edit, but you might want a bit more room to breathe.
Here's the entirety of PDFmyURL's bookmarklet:
http://pdfmyurl.com?url=pdf_url (the escape() function merely reformats any tricky characters that a web server might have trouble with, but that's not usually a problem.
pdf http://pdfmyurl.com?url=%r 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:
And, after a second or two, a PDF of that page is delivered straight to me. As you can see, you can mix and match Quix commands to create your ultimate command file, save it somewhere on the web, and have all your Quix bookmarklets point to it, so you've always got the same commands on hand. Found something new and cool? Update your file, and you don't need to re-install a thing.
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!