Adding Your Own Tools To Google Search

Google-subscribed-links-add-on
This might be a couple years old but I just happened to stumble upon this feature last weekend. Google has always had shortcuts built into it’s search results for things like mathematical calculations (10! / 2 -12), definitions (define: boisterous ), and local weather results (weather 90210). With Subscribed Links, you can add your own custom functionality to specific searches like nutrition data for food items via CalorieLab.com or a list of the cheapest gas stations in your area by GasBuddy.

This is a neat customization that I’m surprised has n’t changed much since it was brought back nearly two years ago. Adding custom functionality to your searches is kind of like adding custom programs to your command line. My only complaint is they don’t behave like I expect them.

For example, the subscribed links are never near the top. They always seem to be mixed into other results. If I explicitly signed up for added functionality and I need to use a custom syntax like “gas prices 20906”, I expect the add-on to be the first result. The Weather Radar add-on is a bit too small and cramped to be of any real use. It also shows up four items down below Google’s default 5 day weather outlook which comes up on top.

Google-subscribed-links-add-on-weather

I hope Google has plans to expand these search add-ons. I can only imagine there are heaps of companies that would like to provide an add-on that puts their products and services front and center in the crowded search results.

target=”_blank” vs. target=”_new”

Bullseye Target for Archery Practice

The target attribute of a link forces the browser to open the destination page in a new browser window. Using _blank as a target value will spawn a new window every time while using _new will only spawn one new window and every link clicked with a target value of _new will replace the page loaded in the previously spawned window. Try it out for yourself:

Links with target=”_blank”

Google | Yahoo | Bing

Links with target=”_new”

Google | Yahoo | Bing

target=”_new” is not a standard target value. You could use any term you like and any link that has the same target value will open in a previously spawned window. See the target=”booger” example below.

Links with target=”booger”

Google | Yahoo | Bing

How can I force a link to open in a new tab instead of a new window?

There is currently no way to force a window to open in a new tab for browsers with this feature. This functionality can only be set in the preferences of the browser (see other resources section below).

What if I want the new window to display at a certain size?

The only way to do this is by using JavaScript. I recommend the method outlined at Quirksmode.org.

Other Rescources

Of course all of this is moot since opening pages in new windows is a usability annoyance.

YouTube Brings Choose-Your-Own Adventure Videos To The Web

NewTeeVee ran a post over the weekend about choose-your-own adventure videos on YouTube. The creators used the Video Annotation feature allowing them to place a link over a certain part of the video in order to string multiple clips together in a unique sequence. Through careful planning, an engaging, interactive experience can be created just like those old choose-your-own adventure books that were all the rage when you were a kid. Bboy Joker, a stop-motion animation film, is my favorite example of this genre.

Annotations make it possible to link multiple YouTube videos together creating interactive experiences.

I had a similiar idea for a DVD just before I went to college. I failed to act on it however due to the less than stellar experience navigating a DVD menu and the sheer idea of planning a comprehensive story with multiple plot branches. I’m more of a techno wizard than a storyteller. I vaguely remember reading about a professional DVD that pushed the boundaries of DVD interaction by including transparent cut-outs over live video so when you clicked one of them it would take you to a video glossary. I can’t seem to find the link, but it sounded like a ton of work just to author it back in the day.

Adding a bit of interactivity to video is better suited to the Internet, which is considered a lean-forward or engaging experience, as opposed to the traditional TV which is a lean-back or passive experience. While this format isn’t applicable to most of the videos published on the web, for the ones where it does work, it takes the experience to a whole new level.