Typing URLs and email addresses

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh
September 12th, 2003 • 4:58 pm

Software makers have come up with all kinds of tools to try and make using web URLs (typing them, copying them, exchanging them, storing them, etc.) easier for the end user.

I’ve already described how I use drag-and-drop and a Dock folder menu to manage my bookmarks in the Finder (rather than using a given web browser’s proprietary way of handling this).

And I’ve also indicated that I use LaunchBar and other auto-completing tools. I also have shorthand abbreviations in Spell Catcher X for all the URLs that I use most commonly. For example, if I type “ublog“, Spell Catcher automatically expands it INTO “http://www.latext.com/pm/betalogue“, which is the URL for this blog — no matter in which application I am typing. (I’ve defined it as a “universal” abbreviation.)

Yet at this point in time managing URLs remains excessively frustrating. There’s still too much copying and pasting that needs to be done manually with the mouse whenever you want to type a URL somewhere. And copying a URL from Safari’s address bar only works half of the time, because for some reason Apple’s engineers have decided to use the address bar as a progress bar as well, and when it’s in “progress bar” mode, it can look deceivingly like the URL in there is selected, and you think you’ve copied it by typing cmd-C and go to paste it somewhere and then you realize that your Clipboard is empty and have to return to Safari and SELECT the URL properly again.

This is just an example. There are tons of problems with typing and sharing URLs (and email addresses for that matter).

My idea would be to have some kind of “universal auto-completing” feature that would let you access your database of URLs from anywhere with the keyboard and automate the insertion of the address you want to insert.

The closest I’ve found to this is LaunchBar. Invoke it using the appropriate shortcut, type a few letters, SELECT the appropriate expansion, and then instead of hitting return to actually open the URL (in Safari, Mail, or whatever), use cmd-C to copy the URL that you have selected in LaunchBar. Then escape your way out of LaunchBar and paste the URL in the window where you wanted to type the URL.

It’s not perfect, though, because, as far as I can tell, LaunchBar only rescans your hard drive for new URLs each time you log out and log back in. You can ask the application manually to rescan, but it’s an extra step… Ideally scanning should be an ongoing process that never really stops or waits for you to restart it. And then there are still a few too many keys to hit just to invoke LaunchBar and then get out of it.

I’d like something with the power of LaunchBar and the simplicity of Spell Catcher X — something that “guesses” when I am trying to type a URL that is part of the URLs that I have stored in various places, and offers to type it for me.

Maybe the Spell Catcher X and LaunchBar guys could get together…

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