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I'll concentrate mostly on Firefox since that's the most popular Linux browser. But most Firefox tricks will work in other Mozilla-based browsers, and some will even work in non-Mozilla browsers like Konqueror and Opera.
I'll start the series with my favorite trick that not many people seem to know about: Bookmarklets. If you're a regular user of Firefox, I'm sure you're familiar with bookmarks, and you probably have a long list of them. But you might not have seen their most useful form.
Google's great, but what if you want to search with Yahoo and see how it compares? Of course, you can go to yahoo.com and type some search terms; but what if you do that all the time? A Yahoo search bookmarklet is just the ticket.
First you need a URL for your bookmarklet. Go to Yahoo, type in a search term like banana and see where it goes. Yahoo will take you to a URL like this:
Go ahead and save that as a bookmark, using Firefox' regular Bookmarks->Bookmark this page menu item. Trim it down if you want to -- http://search.yahoo.com/search?p=banana works just as well as the longer version.
Setting a keyword gives the bookmark a useful property: if you type that keyword in the URLbar and hit return, Firefox will go straight to that bookmark. If you're a commandline user, that's already a win -- it's easier for some of us to remember a word like "yahoo" than to navigate a bunch of hierarchical bookmarks menus.
Now comes the important part. Replace the term you searched for, banana, with %s in the Location field (figure 1). Go ahead and dismiss the dialog -- you're done with it.
The magic "%s" tells Firefox, "Replace me with a string supplied by the user." You'll supply it by typing it in the URLbar. Try it now. Go to the URLbar -- Control-L is a handy shortcut that takes you there and highlights whatever's there so you can replace it, but doesn't overwrite your X selection in case you want to paste. Type yahoo bookmarklets and hit return. Firefox should take you straight to the Yahoo's search results page for "bookmarklets": http://search.yahoo.com/search?p=bookmarklets. Neat! It even works for multiple search terms and quoted strings.
You can use the Keywords trick to set up bookmarklets for all sorts of different searches, like Google Images at http://images.google.com/images?q=%s, Google Maps at http://maps.google.com/maps?q=%s, and Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/w/wiki.phtml?search=%s. Getting the Wikipedia search URL is a little tricky, since their search redirects you to a wiki page, not a search results page. Sometimes you have to poke through View->Page Source, or ask around to see if anyone else has already figured out a query.
Simple bookmarklets are also great for developers and QA people who need to access online bug systems. I have bookmarklets for several different Bugzillas: if someone references a Mozilla bug by number, all I have to do is type in mozbug 233853 and it goes straight to https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=233853, while gimpbug 120829 will do a comparable search in GIMP/Gnome's Bugzilla.
These examples all have simple URLs, but they don't have to. I once built up a complex Google query to find XKCD cartoons by keyword: xkcd %s site:xkcd.com -site:forums.xkcd.com -site:fora.xkcd.com -site:blag.xkcd.com. Of course, I saved it as a bookmarklet. Now any time I want to search for a cartoon, all I have to do is type xkcd keywords.
This article was first published on Linux Planet.