25 July 2007

The Q's: Mouseless Browsing and Pagerization (for Firefox)

My inner geek must come out, and today I'm blogging on something that's normally shelved in the Q's.

Lately PubMed has been driving me snaky. I nearly lost a big search when, for whatever reason, it decided to go and commune with the ancestors for a few minutes. No amount of clicking would revive the My NCBI Collections create box. Having lost my Clipboard in mid-search a number of times this summer, I braced myself for the annihilation of more than a hundred carefully gleaned citations on CPOE. Miraculously, PubMed recovered and I lost only my temper, not my search results.

Seeking to forget how sore my arm had become after hours spent in my PubMed click-a-thon, I decided to investigate Mouseless Browsing more thoroughly. This is a Firefox add-on I mentioned in a recent post. It works by adding small numbered boxes (called IDs) beside every important link, frame and form element in the browser. Instead of further inflaming the tendons of my right forearm, I can now type a number with my left hand, never having to leave the keyboard. And it works in PubMed.

By combining the new add-on with a couple of other tricks, I have been able to reduce my daily mouse use by more than half. Here’s how to do it:

1. Install Mouseless Browsing (for Firefox only) and enable IDs. There are various options. I prefer to use my keyboard’s Pause key to turn the program on only when I need it.

2. Go to the Google home page and select Preferences. Change the “Number of Results” to 100 (the maximum). This supposedly slows Google down, but I have noticed no appreciable difference.

3. Install the Greasemonkey add-on for Firefox. (More on Greasemonkey in another post.)

4. Install the Pagerization script.

By the way, all this is freely available on the web. You don’t need any programming skills to use Greasemonkey, and the installations are accomplished with a click or two.

Pagerization does one thing and it does it well. It automatically appends the results of the "next page" button to the bottom of the web page you are currently on. Pagerization works on most sites (including Google, Google Image Search, Flickr, Yahoo!, del.icio.us, and YouTube) by automatically rendering the next results at the bottom of the current page. This saves a healthy amount of browsing time and tendon abuse.

Here is how Mouseless Browsing and Pagerization work together in a Google search:

Sadly, I can't pagerize PubMed, but with the database's ability to display up to 500 citations, I'll live. I will voice a small complaint, however. Why can't PubMed be modified permanently to display more than 20 citations at a time? This option should be added to the My NCBI user preferences.

Final hint: I select "Citation" for the "PubMed single citation display" in order to find relevant MeSH headings more quickly.


F said...

Thanks Mark! You have just made my life a whole lot easier. Now I just have to remember to not reach automatically for the mouse...

I wonder if you can help me even more- I use gmail (maybe you do too?) and I find that the numbers that appear right next to each email are kind of squished so that I can't see them- if I select the tiny bit visible and paste elsewhere then I am able to read the number- any ideas how to fix this?

Francesca Frati

The Shelver said...

Hello Francesca.

You're right. Mouseless Browsing doesn't work well with the Gmail list of messages. I too get truncated boxes. I don't see how to fix that. You should notify the developer.

However, because Gmail has its own internal keyboard commands, you can still manage quite well without a mouse. I use J and K to move from message to message, hitting Enter to view, T to delete, etc. You require fewer pressed keys using this method. If you haven't found it yet, check out the Firefox add-on "Better Gmail" (available from addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/4866), which offers even more ways to use the keyboard. An outstanding Gmail extension.


F said...

Hi Mark,

Of course! I had completely forgotten Gmail has its own keyboard shortcuts.