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Making the Web your way with Greasemonkey

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Greasemonkey lets you run scripts when you visit a web site. Using a DHTML script stored on your computer it can change how a web site looks or functions to fit your preferences. Think of it as configuring a web site to your needs.

There are lots of uses for this functionality. For example, if you think that the text size on your favourite news site is too small you could make a script to magnify the text – every time you visited greasemonkey would automatically change the site for you. For a more visual overview watch this four minute video.

There is some concern about the impact of userscripts changing websites in ways that content publishers didn’t envisage. This could have a commercial and technical angle if their use becomes wide-spread. For me the wider their use becomes the better: greater user interaction (mash-ups) will benefit site creators, and having control over sites behaviour in the browser is great for users.

The first step to using Greasemonkey is to install the extension. When you restart Firefox you’ll see a cool monkey button in the bottom status bar. The best place to find greasemonkey scripts is the userscripts directory.

To install a script in Firefox take the link to the script so that it’s displayed as text in the browser window. Then in your browser click on the Tools menu and the Install this User Script… menu item.

The scripts I find indispensable are below, and as you can tell I use Google Gmail a lot!

Gmail delete button
The Gmail delete button script places an easily accessible delete key on the main bar. It may be passe but I don’t want a persistent archive of shopping lists and movie ticket confirmations so delete is my friend!

Gmail Secure
This script makes sure that all Gmail traffic is encrypted over SSL so that no-one can read your gmail. I decided to use the CustomiseGoogle extension instead as it has a swathe of google functionality.

Gmail Macros
Gmail already has some keyboard shortcuts but gmail macros extends it. Useful additions are “t” to trash a message, “p” to purge a message (mark it as read and archive). If you press “g” (for go perhaps) you can type the label name and it will take you there (works with inbox and trash as labels). Alternatively, if you click “l” and type a label name it will mark the message with that label.

Add to Delicious Focus 2.0
If you installed the Del.icio.us extension I discussed in my post yesterday then you can use this userscript to make it more usable. When the pop-up window shows this extension focuses input in the Description box, so you don’t have to click your mouse to start typing. It’s available from userscripts.

That should be enough to get started and I’ve only scratched the surface. If you find a really killer user script, or something that I should have mentioned please comment or trackback!

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Written by Steve George

January 20, 2006 at 13:21

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