Ubiquity Everywhere

This weekend I’ve had a little play with Ubiquity, described by Mozilla Labs as an experiment “into connecting the Web with language in an attempt to find new user interfaces that could make it possible for everyone to do common Web tasks more quickly and easily“. It’s currently available as an extension but I think the intention is add it to an upcoming version (3.2) of the Firefox browser.

There is a really useful video on the main Mozilla site.

Anyway sounds good doesn’t it!

OK so what do I think and what implications does it have for remote workers?

Ease of Use

Ubiquity is really easy to use. To get it to pop up in your browser you just press Ctrl + Space and your cursor will appear in Ubiquity’s command line. It handles natural language command phrases so the idea is you just type something in the way you would speak e.g “add 5pm lunch with Fred on Friday“.

I tried out a few commands but there are a lot more available:

  • Map – Inserts a Google map
  • Email – Not a lot of use to me as it uses gmail, which I rarely use
  • Google – Type g search term
  • Wiki – Searches Wikipedia
  • Add – Adds an item to Google Calendar
  • Weather – Plus postcode or town, seems to use http://www.wunderground.com/
  • Twit – Send a Twitter message, I couldn’t get Tsearch (the Twitter search) working
  • Word count – Select a section and it will count the words
  • Translate – Translates a selected section
  • Highlight – Highlights a section
  • Define – Dictionary definition
  • Delete – You can actually delete images and text on Web pages
  • Undo – Undoes highlighting and deleting


Really handy stuff. I guess the test is trying to do this as part of your normal working practice. I have a feeling I’d forget, but then maybe given time…

The Future

I recently saw Ryan Carson (from Carsonified) talk about Ubiquity and he was quite fired up about it. He saw its use as a radical shift in the way we use the Web. As he says on his blog:

As we move forward, people won’t say ‘I’m browsing the web’. That’s like saying “I’m using electricity.” Using electricity isn’t the point – you want to do something with electricty. The web is the same. The data and services from the web will be used to execute actions like map, translate, communicate, filter, post, etc. I’m excited about Ubiquity because it’s a step in this direction.

This is also an extendable application so people can create their own command lines. Mozilla link to a collection of commands in the wild. They do warn you to be careful with these though as Mozilla have no control over them, so heavens knows what kind of code people could be using.

I suppose one of the issues it could be seen as too techy right now, and also some people might prefer it to work from the desktop rather than in the browser. It’s still only a beta though so they may well change bits of it.

Remote Workers

I’m not sure if this has any specific implications for us remote workers but it is all part of us doing our work using the Web. It might help pull together a lot of the applications we currently use as at the moment things do seem a bit disjointed. I sometimes flit from application to application with the attention span of a goldfish. Hmmm…I think that goes back to the “Google is making us stupid” syndrome, I don’t know if Ubiquity quite has the answer to that yet.


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