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Making your life more efficient, one keystroke at a time

Using lookuplet

lookuplet aims to be simple to use, but can also be a bit non-obvious to the first time user because of it's goals of being unobtrusive and efficient. To help initiate you, our lovely target audience, into the wonderful world of lookuplet, we provide this handy tutorial.

Assuming you've installed lookuplet, go ahead and invoke it now (by running the program named lookuplet) and you'll see a window that looks something like this:

The text in the text entry box may be different or blank (depending on what was active in the X Windows selection at the time). Regardless, go ahead and type something into the text field and press Control-g (that means holding down the control key and pressing the g key at the same time). This should make lookuplet go away and a browser window should shortly appear with a Google search on whatever terms you had entered into the text box before pressing Control-g.

This is the essence of lookuplet. You enter some text or other, and press some key combination and lookuplet either does a web lookup or runs some application with the text you entered as an argument. It seems simple, but if you're like me and you're constantly using web services to look things up, you'll find that the time you save by not having to open a browser window, type in a URL (or select a bookmark), wait for the query page to load, type in the query and then click submit, is substantial.

The real power of lookuplet comes when you configure it to launch queries for the services that you use frequently. To do that, we turn to the inconspicuous little button next to the text window that is labeled Prefs. Run lookuplet again and click on the prefs button. This should pop up a window that looks something like this:

You probably won't have the exact same entries that are shown here, but some of them should be the same. These are all of the mappings that lookuplet currently has configured. The left column describes the key combination that must be pressed to invoke the mapping and the right column is a descriptive name of the mapping. To see more closely what's involved in a mapping, let's edit the Google search mapping by clicking on it and then clicking on the Edit... button.

You should now see a window that looks like this:

Here we can see exactly what's going on when we invoke the Google search binding. The Key field shows us what key we press to invoke the binding, the Name field shows the descriptive name of the binding. The URL dropdown shows us that we're going to be launching a URL rather than executing a program, and the text box next to the URL dropdown shows us exactly what URL it is that we're going to launch.

The important thing about the URL, aside from the fact that it's the URL that is shown at the top of your browser when you do a Google search, is that it contains %U. That is where the words that you type in will be substituted into the URL before it is sent to your web browser.

So as you can imagine, any web service where you type in some query terms and the result is displayed in your browser, can be made to work in lookuplet. You simply perform some search on the service, then copy the URL from your web browser, create a new binding in lookuplet and paste the URL into the box. Then look for the part of the URL that contains your search terms. It's usually best to search for a single, uncommon word so that you can see exactly where it shows up in the URL. You replace that word with the string %U and away you go.

Note that some web services are structured in such a way that you can't just grab their URL and use it in a program like lookuplet (probably because they want you to see the ads or other marketing information on their main page if you're using their service). If you perform a search on a service and the words you used in your search don't appear in the URL of the results page, then you've probably run into such a service. In most cases, you can reverse engineer the URL used by the service to make the search request and create a configuration for lookuplet that will work with this service. The IMDB Title search was reverse engineered thus. But the method by which this is accomplished requires a sophisticated understanding of how web browsers interact with web servers and is beyond the scope of this tutorial. Find a friendly neighborhood geek to figure out the URL for you if you can.

That's about all there is to say. Have a look at the other examples to get a better idea of what different bindings might look like. I should also mention that while you use %U when substituting terms into a URL, you can use %T when substituting terms into a command line (for executing a program rather than launching a URL). %T doesn't URL encode your search terms it just inserts them as-is.


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