Because I’m thinking of Ubiquity in terms of a natural language UI, I’m calling the commands “verbs” and the content that verbs act upon “nouns”. More about this in my next post.
At our presentation last night, we showed off several useful verbs that we’ve already implemented. Ubiquity can take content you’ve selected on a page and email it to someone, pictures and formatting included. It can translate text to another language, right in the page; it can define selected words for you, map an address (and insert the resulting map into the page for you, if you like), google for things or look for them in other search engines, etc. Obviously, all of this is stuff that you can already do on the web thanks to various web applications. But normally, you would have to do an annoying dance: Select stuff on the page you’re on, copy it, open a new tab, type in a URL, find the appropriate input box on that page, paste into it, and hit a “go” button. In some use-cases you’d then have to copy the results, go back to your original page, and paste them in. Ubiquity lets you do all of this in one step and without leaving the page you’re on.
It’s no coincidence that these example commands are similar to ones we had (or wanted to have) in Enso. But Ubiquity is going to be way better than Enso. It is turning out to be many, many times faster and easier to develop a command system on the Mozilla platform than it was to do it on the Win32 platform. Plus this way we get cross-operating-system-ness for free. And the fact that it’s tightly browser-integrated and web-centric lets it do cool things that Enso just couldn’t do.
Ubiquity is getting some good feedback already. It’s even been noticed by ReadWriteWeb who wrote an enthusiastic article about it. (I notice happily that the article picks up on my “verb” terminology.)
We’re getting ready to give another presentation about Ubiquity to a much larger audience at the Mozilla summit next week. But if you want to try it out, you don’t have to wait until then. You can download it right now. You just have to have hg (aka Mercurial) installed:
In an upcoming post, I’ll talk about the behavior I’ve been working on with Ubiquity’s linguistic UI, and compare it to the list of requirements I laid out last time. I’ll explain how it works in the places where it measures up to the requirements, and ask for your ideas for the places where it still falls short. See you then!
P.S. I really dislike the name Ubiquity! (Even though I think I’m the one who suggested it in the first place…) It’s too Latinate and abstract and polysyllabic, like an S.A.T. word. I hope we can replace it with a simpler, more fun name for production. Because the idea of verbs is so central to the project, yesterday somebody proposed just calling it “verbs”. As in, “Hey dude, I just made a new Verb, it’s on my page, go install Mozilla Verbs so you can try it out.” I like it. But I’m open to other suggestions.