2006-05-15

microsummaries in Firefox 2.0 alpha2

The Microsummaries feature I proposed a few months ago in this blog--and have been developing since then--has landed in time to make Firefox 2.0 alpha2.  Or rather, an initial version of it has landed.  UI and other elements are still undergoing refinement.

But there's something to play with now, so play, and let me know what you think!  To use the feature, you first have to install some microsummary generators, which are the things that extract microsummaries from their pages.  Get started with this page of sample generators.

To install a generator from that page, just click its link (f.e. the Yahoo! Finance Stock Quote link), click OK when Firefox asks you if you want to add the generator, go to a page to which the generator applies (f.e. the Yahoo! Finance Stock Quote for Apple Computer), and then select Bookmark This Page... from the Bookmarks menu.

In the Add Bookmark dialog, select the microsummary from the Summary drop-down menu, then select the Bookmarks Toolbar from the Create in drop-down menu.  Press the Add button to add the bookmark.  A bookmark to the page should appear on your bookmarks toolbar (or its "chevron" overflow menu, if you're out of space on the toolbar proper) with the microsummary you selected as its label.

If you're having trouble, see this set of unit tests, which take you through step-by-step instructions for testing the feature.  If you want to create your own microsummary generators, see this tutorial on the subject.

Up next: bug fixes, UI brainstorming, a presentation Wednesday at XTech, and perhaps a pre-alpha microsummary builder extension if I can get to it.

5 comments:

gknaddison said...

What's the difference between microsummaries and microformats?

Myk said...

Despite both having "micro" in their name, microsummaries and microformats are different animals. Microformats are specifications for embedding metadata into HTML (f.e. contact information metadata into an HTML page that mentions a person), while microsummaries are succinct summaries of web pages (f.e. the stock ticker symbol and current price for a stock quote page).

RenegadeX said...

Hey myk - I could have sworn back when you first introduced us to microsummaries I tried it out on an eBay page, and was able to edit the live title to show just the current price. I tried it out yesterday on FF2.0b1 and I bookmarked an auction I was interested in .. then edited the live title to show just the price. A day later, the price on my bookmark is the same, though it's gone up on eBay. Checked the Properties, and sure enough, the live title info was actually correct.

So the problem is - either I was imagining things back then and there's no way to do what I thought I did, OR I'm being stupid and am missing something obvious.

Right now, my ebay item's title is 42 characters long (including spaces) -- so long that it's moved itself off the visible portion of the Bookmarks Toolbar. Kinda defeats the purpose...

Please confirm which of the above is true! ;o)

Myk said...

Currently, when you select a "live title" in the bookmark properties dialog and then edit the text of the title, the title gets converted from a microsummary into a static name for the bookmark.

So there isn't a way to edit a microsummary and have it continue to update dynamically, although the editability of the "live title" makes it appear to be possible, which is unfortunate.

Making the microsummary actually be editable turns out to be a pretty hard problem. Until we solve it, we should fix the UI so that it isn't misleading.

In the meantime, if you're a power user comfortable with editing files in your profile, you could make your eBay microsummary generator show you only the price by editing it to remove the part that also adds the time remaining.

You can find the generator in the "microsummary-generators" subdirectory of your profile directory, and it should be fairly obvious which portion to remove from the file. Then just restart your browser so it reloads the generator, and select "Reload Live Title" from the bookmark's context menu to update the microsummary.

FWIW, I know the eBay generator tends to produce overlong microsummaries, especially when the auction is ending more than a day from now. The microsummaries get shorter once the auction is less than a day away (because they convert from an absolute date to the number of hours and minutes remaining). But perhaps there's something I can do to make them shorter all the time. I'll look into it.

RenegadeX said...

Thanks myk for the prompt reply.
Looks like my memory was imagining things then. With the tip you provided, I quickly got it working just the way I need it.

Now.. your little explanation of the limitations got me thinking..
-- not sure if it's possible within XML or if it would need an extension or something to handle it, but what would be ideal would be to have the generator present an on-screen interface that allows the user to check off which info to include in the microsummary live title.
The tooltip info should, however, still include all the info.
So in my eBay example, all I'd pick to display on the Bookmarks Toolbar is the price, but when I put my mouse over it, I can still see the item name, price, time remaining/end date.

Now that would be neat!