OUseful Search Tools

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OU Firefox Search Plugins

Some people, it seems, just don't get Firefox... Presumably they didn't get the idea of Mosaic when it came out either, and steadfastly refused to use any search client other than Veronica. I can just imagine them arguing instead that gopher would never be replaced by fly-by-night protocols such as http, for example...

Anyway...one of the reasons I like Firefox is that it allows me to muck around with the browser, as well as the web pages. As soon as I get my head round writing XUL plugins, I'll have a go at an OU Firefox toolbar... But that'll take a bit of learning time, I think, so here's something simple to start with - a couple of plugins to the Firefox search tool.

The Firefox search tool provides a text box that allows you to fire off a query to your search engine of choice. The default is probably Google:

Firefox search tool

You'll also notice that you can add alternative search engines as the focus of your search. The Mycroft project has dozens of examples (though not the OU - yet ;-)

The Mycroft site also provides a wealth of information about getting started with writing Firefox search tool extensions, so I thought I'd knock a couple up that link into the OU search engine andf the OU LIbrary catalogue. And here they are:

- Open University Search Engine

- Open University Library Catalogue

If you follow either of the above links in Firefox, you should be offered the chance to add the corresponding search engine to the list... However, the plugin may not appear until you shut Firefox dwon and then restart it...

Next stop - an OU toolbar (or should that be tOUlbar?! ;-)

Update 20/5/05

Another search plugin - Open University Knowledge Network (Public Site)

OUseful Firefox Library Toolbar 0.1

A couple of days ago, I Scop[ed] an OU Library Firefox Toolbar, so here's just a quick post to blog the upload of my first attempt:

OUseful Library toolbar v0.1.

Download the script then File Open it, or drag it directly into, Firefox and it should install itself (though you'll have to close all open Firefox windows and restart it to actually see the benefit, as is commom to all Firefox extension installations).

It's not pretty - and it's not that clever, more of a testbed and play around with the sorts of things that are described in Jonah Bishop's Firefox Toolbar Tutorial.

I need to do some thinking about just what sort of thing can sensibly be included on a toolbar - just having a surrogate bookmark list is not making best use of the space, I think (though it does give an organisation a continued presence in the presence even if they're not at your site). Tools like the Library Lookup, which can be applied to lots of pages, are arguably more useful; and I guess login helpers cut out login hassle...

Anyway - more on that another time. Here's a quick overview of v0.1 of my OUseful Library Toolbar:


By default, if you type something in the search bar and hit return it will be treated as a keyword search on the Voyager catalogue. Hitting the Voyager Search button is an alternative to hitting Return. You can also use the term as a keyword search on ROUTES - just select the ROUTES option from the drop down list by the Searches button.

The searches actually employ OUseful redirects - I always knew they'd come in handy!

To the left of the text box is a drop down menu that provides links to the OU Library, Voyager catalogue and ROUTES homepages.

The Librarians on Call button takes you through to that service (though I'm not sure if the URL is a persistent one...?),

If you click on the Library Lookup button when you are looking at a particular book in Amazon, you can see if it's in the OU Library catalogue...:-)

To Do
Very obvious things on the to do list are:

- rewrite the code so it's not so obviously ripped, cut and pasted from the tutorial...
- more (and neater!) graphics on the toolbar;
- better layout;
- fix the drop down history list in the search text box;
- preferences for My Library Record and MyOpenLibrary;
- preferences for additional libraries to Lookup;
- town/postcode search for local, OU affiliated libraries, with route planning info based on user preferences (e.g. home/work postcode);
- work out how to pull an RSS feed equivalent from a search into a Live Bookmark like menu;
- generate an RSS feed by scraping My Library Record, so it can be fed into a Live Bookmark.


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