Saturday, June 25, 2005

YubNub: The Command Line for the Web

A few months ago, I came across a phrase: "the command line for the web." Back then, it referred to Google.com, which has so many special keyword operators (a lot more than any of its competitors) that the said title did seem proper. But now another website has taken the idea of a command line for the web to the next level. YubNub is a web service created by Jonathan Aquino that allows people to use and even create CLI-like commands to take them to specific webpages. For example, typing wp computer would lead you to a Wikipedia article on computers.

YubNub uses the same technique used in some addressbar plugins for various browsers (e.g. the Quick Search feature in Web Accessories for Internet Explorer, Firefox's built-in Smart Keywords feature, etc.). I'm talking about using %s to represent where to put command parameters in a URL. What's amazing is that YubNub also supports multiple parameters. It also has a solution for sites that use POST instead of GET in their forms. Read about these advanced command creation methods here.

The most important characteristic of YubNub is that every command created by a user can be used by everyone else. This is both a blessing and curse, because although a lot of useful commands are already created just waiting to be discovered, the sheer number of commands (including duplicates and spam) can be very overwhelming. But I guess you don't have to browse the who list at once. The trick is to just look for a few commands (say, three or four) that you find most useful, and then stick to them (Tip: use the ls command to search for commands; e.g. ls dictionary lists all word-definition commands). You can always go back for more commands to memorise when you've got nothing better to do.

For those who already use Firefox's Smart Keywords, here's an amazing way of incorporating YubNub commands to your address bar without overriding your existing keywords: Add YubNub to your Firefox address bar by going to about:config and changing the value of keyword.URL to http://yubnub.org/parser/parse?command=

(See the Installation page for more tips on how to use YubNub on your favorite platform.)

Finally, the YubNub command box defaults to Google.com, so if the parser can't understand your keywords, they will be sent directly to Google Search. Neat.