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Tag: Firefox

There are two customizations I always perform when I install Firefox on a computer.

First I merge the location and search bars into a single bar that can be used for either. This is especially useful if you ever have problems with the bars getting too scrunched up when you’re not using the whole screen for your browser.

The second customization is setting up search bookmarks. These time-saving shortcuts that let you do searches on a specific site without going to the site first.
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I’ve long been an occasional user of the Perapera-kun plug-in for Firefox. It’s pretty handy for quickly looking up Japanese words online.

Once it was installed, you could right-click on any web page, pick “perapera” from the right-click menu, and then hovering the mouse over any word bring up a pop-up display with both the English translation and the pronunciation of the word in question. The Chinese version worked pretty much the same way.

Unfortunately, the developer decided to merge the Chinese and Japanese plugins and abandon the old right click interface and instead add an icon at the bottom right hand corner of the screen (incidentally, the same spot I use for my pinyin plugin). Instead of text, the developer decided to use flags.

Here is the result:

Why a flag?

Using flags is a poor user design choice

Needless to say there are a lot of people in Taiwan who would rather not fly the PRC flag on their desktops. Though I’m not a very political person myself, I felt a bit uncomfortable with this on the computers at my office after the upgrades today. I doubt the secretary would much care for seeing it and while I could explain it to her, it could be more awkward if students see it on the computers.

An icon with the character 中 would be a better choice. Also, from a purely functional standpoint, I miss the right-click interface. It was much quicker than having to go to the lower right-hand corner of my browser and make two clicks.

I’ve made a Firefox extension that converts pinyin with tone numbers into pinyin with tone marks. The specifics of the conversion process are identical to those of the online pinyin converter I wrote earlier.

After installing the extension, a blue square will appear on the right side of the status bar at the bottom of your Firefox web browser. To use the tool, type some pinyin with tone numbers into any plain text field on any web page. Then highlight the text and click on the blue 拼 on your status bar. It will convert the tone numbers into the appropriate marks over the appropriate

For example, if you type in “zhong1wen2”, highlight it and hit the button, then it will be converted into “zhōngwén”.

Thanks to John for feedback on the design, and to Wayne and Andrew for testing on Mac and Linux machines.

Go to the download page to get it.

Chinese Perakun is one of my favorite tools for reading Chinese online. It’s a Firefox plug-in for Chinese learners. When it’s enabled, it displays a pop-up with an English translation a pinyin pronunciation and larger version of the character. Below is an example, in which I hovered the mouse over the phrase “導體”.


Perakun pop-up translations work on anything displayed on a Firefox page, including news sites, email and chat windows. It handles both simplified and traditional characters and it’s got a pretty big dictionary. Go to the install page to get it.

Note: I’ve been big fan of perakun for years. The only reason I haven’t written about it sooner is that I thought everyone knew about it. I recently found out that a couple of my friends who are more motivated about Chinese learning than I am didn’t know about it and that’s why I’m writing now.

Hello, all. I’ve made some improvements in the way tags are implemented on this site. Hopefully this post will help those of you who love reading what I write about language learning but can’t stand reading what I write about investing, or visa versa. At the bottom of each post, there is a tag. Click on that tag, and you’ll get a list of all the posts with that particular tag. As of today, each post in such a list will have an expandable summary and list associated tags at the bottom of each summary.

Advanced Searches

Beyond being able to search the posts under a single tag, you can also do AND searches with the logical operator “+”, and OR searches with the logical operator “|”. For example,, will show you you all of my posts about geekery. If you wanted to see any post tagged both “Matt” AND “evil”, then you’d go to Similarly, if you wanted to see any posts about “science” OR “culture”, then you’d go to,culture.


Now how about readers who want to see all of my posts, the WHOLE posts, on a given topic instead of just expandable previews? What about those who are just do lazy to click each post from a list, one by one? Do they get any love? You bet! If you use a feed reader, such as the Sage plug-in for Firefox, you can see all of my posts for a topic as if they were their own separate blog. If for example, you want to see the full posts of all of my Chinese textbook reviews, one after another type into your feed reader and you’ve got it! Feeds are available for both categories and tags, and you can use “+” and “,” operators for advanced searches, too.

feed of Chinese textbook reviews

Search Bookmark for my Site

For those of you using modern, powerful browsers such as Opera, Firefox, Seamonkey, or any other Mozilla-based offering, you can set up a search bookmark. I don’t think anybody, including myself, reads this blog enough to warrant it. That’s beside the point though. The whole point is you CAN make a tag search bookmark! Make a bookmark (of anything), and then edit the properties of the bookmark. Change the “location” to, and yes I know that’s an invalid page. Then, edit the bookmark’s “keyword” (which starts out blank) to “ts”. Save the bookmark, and you’re good to go. Then, anytime you type “ts geekery” into your location bar, you’ll go to; anytime you type “ts videos+books”, you’ll go to,books. Someday, I’ll might write a search box for my site to replace the Google one that will include this tag functionality, but for now you (hypothetical) guys (who I’ll pretend care about any of this geekery) will have to make do with the features I’ve added thus far.

CSS from Michael's blogBefore, whenever I wanted to test a new layout, I edited page and reloaded it. That’s slow. Then, I found a great Firefox (Mozilla) plug-in, called editcss. After installing it, all you have to to is right click on any web page you are viewing. Then, right below “view page source”, and “view page info”, there will be a new option, “Edit CSS”. When you click on it, the CSS of the site you are currently viewing will be loaded up into a sidebar on the left. You can edit the CSS, and as you do so, the layout of the site you are viewing will change.

Instead of actually changing any files on your server, you can just edit all of your blog’s CSS from your browser. You can see all of the changes immediately, and you don’t have to worry about breaking anything on the server and annyoing visitors. Best of all, once the site looks just like you want it to, you can save the edited CSS into a file and copy it over on to your server. You can also use this as a tool to see exactly what CSS layouts other sites use. I love this tool!

The screenshot above is from Michael Turton’s blog.

The current version of this entry is here: Firefox Tweaks: Search from your location bar

Back in the day, any time there was any problem to be solved, I coded a way and found a faster way to get stuff done. Back when I was really into Texas Hold’em in school, I was analyzing opening hand strengths against various numbers of opponents. I got the idea from my friend, Matt, who actually wrote a PokerBot. Anyway, what did I do once I decided which opening hands were worth playing from which positions around the table? I wrote a quick trainer program in perl to help me memorize them. What did I do when I finished a research project for my Language and Culture class? I wrote a perl script to organize my sources, of course. Oh yeah, I was a geek. But I got sh*t done.

After NOT being a programmer for 5 years, I felt really muddle-brained while I was writing that javascript pinyin tool a while back. I’m embarrassed to say, I spent EIGHT hours working all of the kinks out of it. Not cool at all. I’ve come to a point in my life where I really can’t save time by coding stuff anymore…

But, I can save time by tweaking Firefox!

Here’s what I did: I removed the google search box, and set it up so anything I type in the location bar that isn’t a URL gets google searched. But, if I type “amz” first, it searches Amazon; if I type “wp” first, it searches Wikipedia; and if I type “imdb” first, it searches IMDB. Wanna know how I did it?

1) First, get rid of the search box. When you’re done you won’t need it. First go to View, then Toolbars, then Customize. That will pop up a box with all of the possible wigits you can select. Then you click on the search box in the upper right portion of your Firefox window and drag it into that box. There, no more tiny search box wasting valuable screen space.

2) Since you no longer have a search box, now you have to make your location bar act as one. This will make Firefox perform a Google search whenever you type something other than a URL into the location bar. Type “about: config” into the location bar. Then you select “keyword.url” and enter “”. Now whatever you type into the location bar that’s not a URL will do a Google search. You have to exit and re-start Firefox for this to take effect.

3) The last step is to set up bookmarks with keywords. This will let you do searches on specific web pages from the location bar. You can make them for as many sites and you want. I’ve already made search bookmarks for, IMDB, and Wikipedia. We’ll start with Amazon. Go to and search for “voice recorders”. It will take you to this URL:<br />104-8870216-0509507?url=index%3Dblended&search-option=<br />search-amazon&amp;field-keywords=%s&Go.x=0&amp;Go.y=0&Go=Go
Bookmark the page. Then, go to your bookmarks and right click on your new bookmark. Select “Properties”, and replace the “voice%20recorder” part of the address with %s. Then, under keyword, type “amz”. Now, if you were to type “amz harry potter” into your location bar, it would do a search on’s page for “harry potter”. Useful, no?

My Search Bookmarks