Toolbar Beta 4

Google has just opened the beta test of Toolbar version 4. Here’s my take on it:

- Suggestions as you type. You’ll either love this or it will leave you cold. As far as I can tell, it’s just some deep personality test, like whether you’re an Elvis person or a Beatles person. Personally, showing suggestions as you type tends to distract me. But then, I get distracted by shiny metal objects from time to time. :)

- Send web pages via email (or blog, or SMS). This is very useful. I often find myself wanted to email a snapshot of a whole web page, pictures and all, to someone. I even installed a third-party extension in Firefox to do something similar a while back. It didn’t work though.

- Server-side bookmarks. This is really handy. You can have the same set of bookmarks on your work computer, laptop, and home computer.

- Custom buttons. I have to admit, this is my favorite feature. It’s almost enough to pull me back to Internet Explorer.

So what’s a custom button? It’s a little piece of easy-to-write XML code that lets you quickly add a custom button to your toolbar. Imagine that you want a whois button, for example, that lets you select a domain name and click to run a Whois search on whois.sc.

Damn! Those fiends on the toolbar team have made it even easier to use! I was all excited reading through the API and dreaming about writing the definitive post on how to craft the XML for a toolbar button. But there’s a trick that makes it so you don’t even have to write any code!

Let’s take building a custom whois button for whois.sc as an example. Go to http://www.whois.sc and right-click on the search box, then select “Generate Custom Search…” Here’s what it looks like:

Generate Custom Search...

That’s all you have to do–no XML or code required! The toolbar will even grab the favicon from the site so you can tell your buttons apart. Now let’s see how easy it is to use. Suppose I do a search for [flowers] and I want to run a whois query on a domain that I see. I use the mouse to select ftd.com or www.ftd.com and just click my new Whois button. Here’s what it looks like just before I click my whois button (it’s the red square two icons to the right of the search box):

Selecting www.ftd.com

And when I click the button, I get delivered to a page showing whois info for FTD on whois.sc.

I’m sorry, but I have to say that as a geek, that’s just a lot of fun. Here’s a few questions and answers about making buttons.

Q: I’m assuming that there’s some code or XML I could edit myself?
A: Ah, now we’re into the fun stuff. On the toolbar, click on “Settings”, then the “Buttons” tab. Click on “whois” and then “Edit…” and then finally “Use the advanced editor…” to see the button in all its XML glory. It’s only a few lines and the syntax is pretty clear, but you can also find out more info about how to make a custom button from the Google Toolbar button API page. There’s also a toolbar button gallery with lots of examples.

Q: I’m a whois expert and I noticed that you selected the text “www.ftd.com” instead of “ftd.com”. Why did it still work?
A: The custom button did a search for “www.ftd.com” on whois.sc. Luckily, whois.sc is smart enough to just pull out the domain name ftd.com and use that for a search.

Q: If I selected the text “www.ftd.com/” would it still work?
A: It all depends on what the destination site supports with its search box. whois.sc doesn’t like if you include a ‘/’ in your query. I’m sure the smart folks over at whois.sc will make it so that their search will support queries with ‘/’ though. Hint, hint. ;)

Q: But what if I wanted to get whois for whatever domain my browser is currently on? I’m much too lazy to click and select text with my mouse!!
A: I’m lazy too. Let me help. If you edit your button, there’s a syntax called “<site>” which says where the button should go if there is no new text in the search box. By default after using the right-click method to create my whois button, the value for <site> looked like this:

<site>http://www.whois.sc/</site>

which means that if you click the whois button with no text selected, it just goes to the root page of whois.sc. After digging through the API documentation for 3-4 minutes, I changed it to

<site>http://www.whois.sc/name-spinner/?q={url.host}</site>

Now imagine my browser is on www.ftd.com without any text selected or any text in the search box. When I click my whois button, it goes to the url found in <site> and at the same time fills in url.host with the host that the browser is on, namely “www.ftd.com”. As we’ve seen, whois.sc is smart enough to handle that. The net result is that if you don’t select any text, our whois button will fall back to doing a whois search for whatever host your browser is currently on. Neat, huh?

Q: Can I have your whois button? I’d like to look at the source code and play with it.
A: It’s just XML, but sure! The button is at http://www.mattcutts.com/files/whois-button.xml . I would quote it on the blog, but WordPress does some funky escaping of quotes and such, so I’d rather just point you to the raw file. If you would like to install my little whois button in your own Google Toolbar, clicking on this url should add install my whois button: http://toolbar.google.com/buttons/add?url=http://www.mattcutts.com/files/whois-button.xml .

You can also do some really neat things with RSS feeds. You can create drop-downs. You can send POSTs instead of GETs. You can send the browser’s current url (escaped or unescaped). You can modify your button’s icon or tooltips dynamically. There’s also an intriguing <option> field that lets users specify their own parameters (e.g. a zip code), which can then be sent to any url when the button is clicked. And if you’re going to make a professional button, there’s fields like <update> that you can set so that your button will update, and you can use <locale> to provide text in different languages.

But I gotta catch some sleep, so that’s enough for now. I’m sure other people will check out the shared bookmarks or the ability to email a page to friends, but I’m all about the custom buttons. Feast your brain on the button documentation, and I hope that people will post links to some neat buttons in the comments!

Update: I picked whois.sc as an example in the first place because it lets you throw in a hostname and it will do the intelligent thing and run a whois for that domain. Looks like the smart folks at whois.sc are changing their search to let you throw just about anything in, which makes my whois button work better without any work on my part. :)

59 Responses to Toolbar Beta 4 (Leave a comment)

  1. Harith

    Hi Matt

    Very nice and interesting introduction.

    However, I see the folks asking mostly for feedback on two issues:

    - a weather report of BigDaddy progress

    - Spam reporting to Google. Are you still paying attention and taking actions on webmasters spam reports

    Thanks a bunch :-)

    Wish you a great day and a successful week.

  2. Harith, I’ll do a report on both those later this week.

    P.S. Do you ever sleep? ;)

  3. michal

    hi Matt,

    get it for firefox and i will be happy to try that out.
    IE is simply not a browser i wish to use. no matter what.

  4. Harith

    Thanks, Matt. Much appreciated.

    I start my working day at the same period of time that you are on your way to bed.

    So I wonder why do you always work and sleep at the wrong times :-)

    Sleep well and God bless..

  5. Hi Matt

    There are some nice features on the new toolbar. I like the option to send a copy of a web page via e-mail, even though you do need a G Mail account to do it. However it would be nice to have the option to show the url of the page you have sent as this does not seem to be shown on the email. The recepient of the email gets a copy of the page but can’t click anywhere to navigate to that page.

    David

  6. Stephen

    Whoohoooo an update on BD to come :)

    Matt

    What a lot of us are seeing is that Google is identifying the Canonical or the destination page better in redirect situations etc – but these pages dont seem to be able to rank or anything.

    Can this be covered in your update on the situation – plllleaaaaaseeeeee ;)

    Also TB – added my site search function to the toolbar and clicked the smiley vote button too – will this help my site regain its pagerank it lossed due to Canonical/Redirect ? Lol ;)

    Stephen

  7. Hi Matt
    Yes a beta for Firefox would be helpful.While you are it how about creating a version for Opera. I noticed that the toolbar has never really made it’s way there. Understandably the interface and functionality would have to be slightly different but still nevertheless useful.

    For the Beta version of the toolbar that enables posting to blog is this strictly blogpsot or will it work in a similar vein to the Flock browser where you can log into any blog type and make posting?

  8. Good feedback, David. I’m sure the toolbar team will read this; can’t promise that they’ll implement it though.

    Fair enough, Harith. :)

  9. Steve

    The toolbar really is excellent, many useful features that are worth giving up the pixels for. Looking forward to it getting out of beta and into firefox 2.0.

    I’m sure everyone here would like to see a “negatives” page rank indicator / bad nieghborhood warning, maybe a dialer or spyware indicator as well (if this is already there cool, haven’t come across it – and that’s a good thing)

    Also I really with there was some more info about the RSS Post. I did not see anything about it on the toolbar site. Is this something that will allow us to add info to an RSS feed on the fly? Is it looking toward the future of microsoft pushing the two way rss thing? (http://blogs.msdn.com/rssteam/archive/2005/12/07/Microsoft%20Team%20RSS%20Blog.aspx )

  10. Steve, I gather that you can power a custom button with an RSS feed. I haven’t dug too deeply in, but I’m sure other people will soon. G’night..

  11. Really good add on, much along the lines of YubNub and other search as command line techniques that have been doing the rounds recently. Good stuff for workflow productivity.

  12. Michael Scott

    What about international support for sms etc?

  13. Sandra

    Doesn’t Firefox already do a version of the “Custom Button” with its “Add a keyword for this search” feature?

    Just go to any search box in Firefox, right click, and add a keyword. Then if you want to do a search on that page, you just have to type “[keyword] [searchterm]” into your browser. For example, I can find out about my favorite actor by typing “imdb brad pitt” into my firefox bar, or see what happened on TV last night by typing “tv desperate housewives” to go to the TV tome search I set up.

    That was actually the feature that sold me on Firefox.

    Or am I misunderstanding something about the new “Custom Button” function?

  14. Peter Frandsen

    Custom buttons…

    In Firefox you can add a new bookmark and attach a bit of JavaScript to it. To create a link to wikipedia do the following:

    right click on the the toolbar and select “add new bookmark”
    set the name to “Wikipedia” (or whatever you like)
    set the target to (in one line)
    javascript: var url = %22http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special:Search?search=%22 + window.getSelection(); if(window.getSelection()!=%22%22) {window.open(url, %22_self%22); } else { alert(%22Select text to search for%22);} void(0);

    Now you can select text in a web page and perform a search for it on wikipedia.

    regards,

    /Peter

  15. Wow, next step in direction Social Search Engine, without looking like that… or almost not, nice one

  16. Tony Ruscoe

    Nice write up. Of course, it’s possible to create custom search buttons in the previous version of Google Toolbar (V3) that work in IE *and Firefox* but instead of easily creating XML files, it involves editing your registry.

    Instructions here: http://ruscoe.net/blog/2005/09/google-toolbar-custom-searches.asp

  17. - Send web pages via email

    Send as block would pose copyright problems for the use. It suggests it’s OK to copy a page from one site and post as your own content.

    - Server-side bookmarks.
    Great- I can see how Google could make money selling this info. How about letting the user gain some of the money made from the market researchers.

    - Custom buttons. Might be dangerous. How about an “Approved by Google” ID required to mitigate the malicious coders.

    Regards
    Steve
    Googaholic webmaster

  18. Sue

    Google just doesn’t support Opera in anything – I can’t use it for the toolbar, Gmail, or my Personalized Homepage.

    Right now, I don’t do the toolbar at all (well, an old version is installed on IE, but I don’t use it). I run Firefox for Gmail and my homepage, and Google searches (for the search history), and Opera for everything else. I frequently get ticked at Google because I can’t use my preferred browser to use Google’s cool features. I’d like to manage my bookmarks in Google, but I refuse to completely switch. Firefox has memory problems, but more than that – I just prefer Opera.

  19. These are really cool ideas, especially the custom button feature. But you really need to make some Firefox extensions that do this stuff. The toolbar team knows they want to.

  20. ” Server-side bookmarks” – didn’t yahoo just drop a few million on something similar called del.icio.us. They wont be too happy – though I suspect they wont be too surprised either.

    you guys really need to start patenting your ideas otherwise you’ll just end up like clones of each other.

    BTW – the big advantage del.icio.us has for me is that I can go to any PC and type in “del.icio.us/floodle” to see my bookmarks regardless of which web browser / toolbar they have installed.
    Maybe the two could be configured to “sync” but then that would require collaboration between Yahoo and Google which aint too likely however there’s nothing to stop Google creating a “migration path” for del.icio.us bookmarks.

  21. Matt,

    Thanks for the heads up. I look forward to installing the new beta.

  22. Custom buttons! I’ve been waiting for this. Can’t wait for the Firefox version to catch up. =D

  23. I am with many of the previous commenters. I REFUSE to use IE anymore and thus won’t be using this Toolbar sadly. :(

    IE just always seems to cause problems with spam getting on my computer besides the fact it’s an M$ product.

  24. spectator

    hey -

    Why doesn’t TB V.4 have an option for an info button?

    I use the cache, backlinks and related shortcuts all the time, I like the buttons feature, but I use the info button far more frequently.

    Maybe someone can add one to the buttons page for folks like me that *need* it – otherwise I will have to uninstall TB4….

  25. no firefox version? Get consistent here Google… You pay adsense content providers to advertise firefox, you think you’d at least code for it too!

    Yall should hire me and give me the job of coming up with ways to integrate all of the google services with each other. Right now they’re like 100 stand alone services that would be 30X more powerful if they knew of each other’s existence.

  26. Whaaaaaaaaa I want it for Firefox!

  27. jim

    I always find it hilarious to see people gushing over the google toolbar, as if it were something new and innovative.

    Back in 1996 (yes, 1996) my 5 person software company INVENTED the browser search toolbar. sold it to infoseek, and were in negotiations with yahoo to sell them a copy too but our company was sold before the deal was finished. ( i still remember jerry yang calling me up and saying “ok, so i guess we’re working with you guys now?” )

    1996, people. with a 5 person company, only two of which were coders.

    This isn’t rocket science.

  28. I am interested in what data Google gets in exchange for this free tool? Can anyone enlighten me?

  29. Hey spectator… that took me by surprise too, but I found those features as a drop down menu under the PR bar.

    What I’d love to do, similar to the whois button, is be able to highlight a URL that isn’t hyperlinked, and open it in a new window. I guess there’s a way to code it into a custom button?

  30. Matt! Now I need to reinstall the toolbar – looks like some nice new features though I don’t like the degree to which personal information is permanently stored.

    Aaron – they get a more robust version of what John Battelle calls the “database of intentions” = information about what makes YOU and ME tick.

    I hope they use it wisely but it’s also something to worry about.

  31. they also get a “constant” among all the pages you visit.

    Did most people click the #1 result for “widgets” then leave the page 10 seconds later? Hmm must not be relevant….

    Can’t get that information normally, and what better measure of “relevance” to a certain keyword than how long a visitor stayed on the site?

    They also get traffic ratings alexa style for sites by having a toolbar.

    And from a purely marketing point of view, they get you go use their search engine by having a box always there, thus you view their ads, and they make money.

    From a branding point of view, you have that nice google logo burning itself into your retinas every time you browse the web.

    There’s a lot of plusses for Google by having a toolbar.

  32. Thanks for the review Matt… I don’t understand why anyone would need the new toolbar for firefox. There are extensions that handle all the functionality of the toolbar. It makes perfect sense to me that Google wouldn’t waste efforts to make the toolbar for firefox.

  33. New Toolbar is very cool. The server side bookmarks are a great addition as is the type ahead with suggestions.
    Very well done.
    An info window on the site/domain like Alexa would a very nice addition. Maybe 4.1?

  34. Jay

    Looks like the smart folks over at whois.sc fixed that ”?” issue. In fact any garbage that comes in, if it has a domain in it will find the whois record.

  35. Ne1home

    Matt said, “Send web pages via email (or blog, or SMS). This is very useful. I often find myself wanted to email a snapshot of a whole web page, pictures and all, to someone.”

    Could you (or anyone else) post the code webmasters need to incorporate in their pages to *disable this ‘feature’ please*.

    It’s a real pain in many respects.

    Send the url would be acceptable but *NOT* the page itself.

  36. Yes, i can see how that feature would be used to send private data that requires authentication to somebody else..

    For example, my corporate website which requires a specific IP to be able to access it.

  37. Chris

    Cool new bar! Now where is the magic button to make my site #1 on ALL Google serps… yes that’s right, bigdaddy’s daddy? :)

    I’ve used IE for many years and just recently messed with the custom buttons enough to learn that it has a “mail” button for emailing an entire web page. Not sure if I’d ever use it though because I like emailing links. The same button also does that btw.

  38. Chris

    ps – the search suggestions feature is neat… “test” was the 1st word I tried… interesting results. I also like the define button.

  39. Hi Matt, I can’t help but notice that when I type the word ‘Matt’ into the new toolbar, I get suggestions for Matt Damon, Matt Drudge, Matthew Perry and Matt Czuchry… There seems to be something missing.. Can’t figure out what.

  40. I haven’t installed it yet… too many other things to do first!

    One thing that worries me slightly is the idea of “suggesting” search terms to surfers… surely that will encourage many webmasters to compete for the same – much more limited number – of specific keyword terms / anchor phrases and so make the web even more spammy then it already is!

  41. yeah, trying it would require me to actually use IE.. that’s just not going to happen.

  42. Buttons are definitely a nice addition.
    So nice that I wonder why our browsers do not come with them by default.
    Also looking to try the Firefox.
    Thanks

  43. I feature I would love to see is Firefox instead of “Microsoft Internet Explorer”.

  44. Matt_Not_Cutts, I’m definitely not on most people’s to-search list. :)

  45. Matt,

    I just added a button for your site with rss feed. It’s Great! All I have to do is click the arrow to see if there is new content on your site. I also created a custom icon with a green circle and an “M”.

    Maybe someone on this blog with graphic skills can make something cooler????

    P.S. Don’t confuse me with that other Ben. You know, the one that thought you were a girl on the webmasterradio thread. ;)

  46. HeartSpam

    This totally sucks, where is the PAGE INFO button?
    Surely I don’t have to allow the PageRank feature to get the PAGE INFO button (i.e. check backlinks, load cached version, translate etc.) do I?

    Oh, I do?

    Ok it’s uninstalled.

    Matt, any comments, is this a “feature” or a “fubar”?

    If a feature, please file under “evil”.

    Ciao

  47. BobT

    “server-side bookmarks” is great. But why can’t you include some type of “import” or even in html would be nice. It’ll be easier to move from “Favorites” or other bookmarks.

    just a suggestion.

  48. I completely agree with your comment on being distracted when predictive text displays what you may be thinking of typing in. I have many a time typed what I’m thinking by mistake in a report.

  49. For the google web page mailer, you might want to consider a replacement. You can mail a page from any email client. It’s not restricted to gmail. And, it works for almost any page. You can get the button for the google toolbar at google itself or at http://www.jkn.com. It’s called the ‘Amazing Webpage Emailer’ or AWE.
    Bill

  50. love the new custom buttons , had to experiment and made a button to search Amazon….

    http://toolbar.google.com/buttons/add?url=http://www.keoshi.co.uk/IEbuttons/Amazon.xml

  51. I think the new IE is looking up…especially with as unreliable as Firefox 1.5 has been for me.

    As far as putting RSS feeds in the button goes, whenever I create a button that is for a blog powered by wordpress or movable type all is fine. When I create a button for a blog powered by blogger the feed preview will show up just fine on the buttons, but when I click on it to retrieve a post I get a login request.

  52. Hi Matt!

    first of all,you recently became part of my aggregator:D,second thing that i am pretty amazed that how googlers are doing wonders with xml and javascripts(google desktop sidebars) and i think that days are not far when every system would have API to interact with native system via Javascript or other easy-to-use-script(python).

    What i would like to see submenu feature which they have provided in Bookmark managment system that is Label->Actual Bookmark,right now feeds can’t be nested(AFAIK).

    anyway good work,hope to have this API much stable and rich

    -adnan

  53. Hello matt,

    Id like to be able to push content immediately to a button once it is updated… Any plans on the board (or hack available) to be able to have a feed ping the button to let it know new feed is available and to fetch it then instead of the next refresh interval…

  54. judy

    i am very angry at goggle

    i have used the google toolbar for about 2/3 years. when a new version is launched i always have a look at it. well a cafe i know had updated their google toolbar and i decided that i did not like the layout.

    my main dislike being the settings button. in the original bar the option button was like all the rest of the buttons removerble to a drop down instead in the new versions the setting button sticks out like a sore thumb were my child can see it and play with it. its needs to be hiden.

    so i decided to leave the original version (the one which works for windows 98). until recently all was ok i was happy with the 98 version on my machine i had no need or want for any of the other versions eg. 3 or the latest beta. then on monday i turned on the computer and about 5 minutes later i found that google toolbar had been automatically UPDATED WITHOUT MY CONCENT. i removed the tool bar and reinstalled the 98 version which is the one i wanted. only for it to be updated yet again without my concent this time within seconds.

    i chose to have an older version downloaded on my machine and chose to not have the newer version. as far as i am concerned google is breaching my right and freedom to choice. it is wrong of google to atomatically update without obtaining the permition of the computer owner first before updating the software they chose to have on their machine.

    the result now is that i have removed the toolbar totaly from my machine and mostlikly never be put back on.

    judy

  55. Hi Matt,

    Could you tell me if Google are any closer to ‘eliminating’ the spammers from the Google Adsense program who continue to use Google Arbitrage techniques and send us to site with ‘ONLY ADS’ on them and no text other than possibly a title?

    Many thanks,

    Kyle

  56. I think it will be hard for Google to stop this sites from popping up! The blackhatters will always find new ways to abuse advertisers like adsense. Even if you ban them from adsense they will find a way round it or by using other advertisers… This will be a long hard battle, but good will always win!

  57. I didn’t find Google alart key in toolbar and one more thing i need to know about that how we can edit auto fill information.

  58. Can you remove Search Box from Google Bar 5.0 ?

  59. This page came up as a suggestion based “Results from people in your social circle”
    Okay, so first off I see it is from 2006 and know this isn’t anything new. Furthermore I have seen the option to create a custom button (in IE & FF) before but have never tried it. I am glad I took the time to read this post because I have to say this is VERY cool. Thanks for the info!

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