Mozilla’s Ubiquity

It’s still summer, if only barely, and there’s a long weekend ahead of us, which might mean that you could make some time to play around with a new piece of software. Let me suggest Ubiquity. Mozilla has released this program in alpha, and I haven’t been this excited about an application since… I can’t remember when.

In a nutshell: it’s a Firefox 3 plugin that lets you issue commands from within your browser to web apps even when they’re not currently open. I can, for example, highlight something on a web page, call up Ubiquity (hot-key: alt-space, but you can change it), tell it to mail the selection to anyone in my list of Gmail contacts, and tell it to call up a Google map and insert it into my email. I can select a portion of a page that’s in a foreign language and tell Ubiquity to produce a translation of that portion. And on and on. There are currently some 50 commands, most all in nearly “natural” language that you simply type into the popup Ubiquity box to get it to do your bidding. And, if you’re truly keen, you can create more yourself.

This thing has tremendous possibilities. If you needed one good reason to switch to Firefox — and you’ve been given many more than one — this is surely going to be it.

I’m embedding a video below, which I normally wouldn’t do, because embedded movies have a tendency to slow down Slaw’s loading; but I think this is worth the cost.

Ubiquity for Firefox from Aza Raskin on Vimeo.


  1. For fun I’ve done up a simple command for Ubiquity — slaw — that lets you search this site for a selected word or phrase on any webpage. You have to “subscribe” to my command, and to do that (with Ubiquity installed) you go to and a bar will drop down in Firefox inviting you to subscribe. You can, of course, unsubscribe later if you wish.

  2. I’ve created another Ubiquity command, this one searching CanLII for any term that you’ve selected in a web page or that you enter into the Ubiquity popup. Once you’ve installed Ubiquity, you can subscribe to this command at: