Ubiquity: turning us all into power users

Ubiquity was officially announced this week. I installed it and I find myself using it all the time for really simple, but very useful, stuff. I use a calculator a lot. Now, when I’m in the middle of typing an email or reading a web page, I just hit two keys and type "calc 3256/3+2456" and there’s my answer. If I see a word I don’t know, I just hit two keys and type "define hello", read the answer and hit escape and go back to what I was doing. If I want to email something interesting that I’m looking at, two keys and "email this to mike" and it emails whatever’s on my web page to Mike. (Actually it gives me a choice as to what "this" is and then it brings up Gmail with an email all addressed to Mike and filled out with the information from the web page I was looking at.)

So easy, so fast.

Have you ever watched one of those power command line users? Or power emacs users? Or even people who use the keyboard exclusively? Their fingers just fly and magic comes out of their computer. I feel like Ubiquity brings that power to the average web user. With just a couple of keystrokes and intuitive commands, they can make the computer magically generate the answer they are looking for.

Ubiquity works in the web browser and can do most things I can do inside my web browser. Now wouldn’t it be cool if Ubiquity also knew about my computer and all the applications and data I have on my computer? So now I could also say "email myspreadsheet to mike" and it would find "myspreadsheet" and email it to Mike?

Luis pointed out that since Mozilla’s projects are all open, and the GNOME Foundation and the Mozilla Foundation work together, we should be able to do that with GNOME. And Abhijit Nadgouda’s post reminded me that we might not be the only ones who’d like Ubiquity to know about our desktop. Plus, GNOME already knows how to do task oriented commands – GNOME Do has provided Ubiquity like functions for a while now. (I’m a big GNOME Do fan as well.) Can we integrate those desktop tasks into Ubiquity?

It seems to me that since Ubiquity, Firefox and GNOME are all open source we should be able to make that happen. It’s a unique opportunity to integrate the web and the desktop. I shouldn’t have to remember what functionality is part of the desktop and what is part of my browser. If I say "add this to myspreadsheet", the data I selected on the webpage should just be added to "myspreadsheet" on my computer.

7 Replies to “Ubiquity: turning us all into power users”

  1. I was thinking along these lines while I was using ubiquity. I started to find myself trying to use it while I was not in my browser, and then realizing that normally I use GNOME Do for that part, but for some reason I find the “natural language” part of ubiquity easier to think out than the “commandargumentargument”.
    Maybe someone can bridge ubiquity<->gnome do together and/or enable ubiquity to do more things out of the browser. For example it’d be nice to get that “insert map” feature to run inside evolution.

  2. Finally! We have discovered that the trick to making the command line not suck is making it usable in our native language! Bravo!
    I alias commands all over the place. I’ve got my ‘install’, which is actually ‘sudo apt-get install’.. I’ve got my ‘uninstall’, which is actually ‘sudo apt-get remove’, I’ve got my ‘frigging’, which is actually ‘sudo’…
    Command line is amazing if it’s done right.

  3. Deskbar Applet is infact included in the Gnome Desktop module. See http://www.gnome.org/projects/deskbar-applet/.
    It can do everything you mention and more. It was the first of the search/command-interfaces in the Linux world to my knowledge and is still lighting the way for many related projects IMHO (me – being one of the bug contributors – caveat emptor! :-D)
    Gnome Do is also excellent, but not exactly my type of UI.
    But is it really necessary to type ‘calc’ before your expression? Surely the application knows if ’17*23′ is a mathematical expression or not. Deskbar does at least 🙂

  4. > Can we integrate those desktop tasks into Ubiquity?
    Why not, but I think this is backwards. It’s natural that Mozilla wants the browser to do things like this, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea from a desktop perspective.
    Firefox should export the details (like things needed to define ‘this’) via an API and Gnome Do should include the web based tasks that ubiquity does so well now. That would be “doing one thing and doing it well”.

  5. If the functionality exists, we should make Ubiquity commands for it so that Ubiquity users can use it as well. I think it’ll be easier to get Ubiquity users hooked on desktop functionality and then want to use it in other apps, than it will be to just convince them to use Deskbar-Applet without knowing what all it does for them.

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