The Other Kind of Web-App Plug-in

A lot of plug-ins are being developed for Firefox, some interesting, some less interesting or useful. There’s also a group of plug-ins that doesn’t seem very special on the surface. That’s until you see an example of what you can do with it.

An example of this is “Greasemonkey”:http://greasemonkey.mozdev.org. From the Greasemonkey website:

Greasemonkey is a Firefox extension which lets you to add bits of DHTML (“user scripts”) to any webpage to change it’s [sic] behavior. In much the same way that user CSS lets you take control of a webpage’s style, user scripts let you easily control any aspect of a webpage’s design or interaction.

OK, that’s ehm, well… that sounds nice in theory, but does it have much practical applications? It appears that it has, and when I saw it, it blew me away. Some guy “succeeded in adding persistent searches to Gmail”:http://persistent.info/archives/2005/03/01/gmail-searches. Nearly every normal mail client has those these days, sometimes they’re called smart folders or vFolders; what they do is the same: create a “folder” that contains all the mail matching certain criteria. For example all the mail you received from your granny.

After installing Greasemonkey in Firefox and installing “the user script”:http://persistent.info/greasemonkey/gmail.user.js this what it looks like when you visit your Gmail mailbox:

Gmail Greasemonkey

The searches are performed instantly and can be updated by pressing the little refresh button at the top-right of the box. When you click one of the persistent searches it will show the result in the usual search-result fashion. You can also add new persistent searches. Only drawback is that the searches are stored in a cookie, so they’re not there if you login to Gmail with another computer.

Still pretty impressive, though.