Friday, August 29, 2008

Leveraging the Ubiquity FireFox Plugin To Access CFQuickDocs Pages

If you're a FireFox user and you haven't tried out the new Ubiquity plugin created by the folks at Mozilla Labs, you should.

What is Ubiquity? The short answer is it's a command-line interface for retrieving and re-purposing web content. For example, the "wikipedia" command built into the plugin takes the word you type in, retrieves data from the top 5 matches for that word (as you type it, no less) in Wikipedia using an API, and displays that data with clickable links to the Wikipedia pages in the command window:

You can see even more interesting uses for Ubiquity by watching the video clip in the Ubiquity blog post.

One of the things about Ubiquity that hasn't been talked about very much is that you can create your own Ubiquity commands using JavaScript and then share those commands with other Ubiquity users (note to jQuery users: Ubiquity commands can use jQuery functions as well as regular JavaScript functions). To that end, I created a very simple command that lets me call up a particular CFQuickDocs page by typing "cfquickdocs" and the name of the CFML tag or function I want to look up:

As Ubiquity commands go, it's not that impressive, but it does let me pull up a particular entry faster than I used to (which involved going into my bookmarks, clicking on the bookmark, waiting for the page to load, and then entering the tag or function I want to read about). And all it took was one function call with four parameters:

  name: "cfquickdocs",
  url: "{QUERY}#{QUERY}",
  icon: "",
  description: "Searches the CFQuickDocs for the CFML tag or function you enter."

Sharing a Ubiquity command is simply a matter of putting the command in a JavaScript file and then creating an HTML page that calls that file. So if I wanted to host/publish the above Ubiquity command, I could just add it via a <link> tag to an HTML file and host it somewhere, and a Ubiquity user could simply visit that page to install it.

If you don't have Ubiquity installed but want to learn more about developing Ubiquity commands, there is an online tutorial that explains the basics. Once you have the plugin installed, you'll have access to a command editor that lets you try out your commands as you code them, and you can read the code for all of the functions that come built into the plugin.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

If You Build the App, Someone Just Might Use It: You Never Know

I was rather surprised to see my colorPicker AIR application included in a list of 10 AIR apps for web designers on the Six Revisions blog this past week. Then Gary Gilbert gave it more exposure by blogging about the Six Revisions post.

After seeing the Six Revisions post, I decided to check colorPicker's download numbers on RIAForge and got another surprise: the download count was just shy of 800.

As of today, four days after the blog exposure, the download count stands at 1119.

I built the colorPicker mainly for myself (and I still use it). I put it up on RIAForge because I thought a FEW people might prefer something a bit simpler than Kuler (Adobe's color palette tool). But given the number of slick color designer AIR apps that are out now, I would never have expected that many people to have given colorPicker even a glance.

It just goes to show that you never know what apps or code other people might find worthwhile.