New TERMIUM interface supports LaunchBar search templates

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Language, Macintosh, Technology, Writing
August 21st, 2007 • 2:34 pm

As a professional translator working in Canada, I constantly use the TERMIUM terminology database.

Until yesterday, the database’s web site was very window-centric as opposed to user-centric. You had to load the login page in a web browser window, log in with your user name and password, and then stay within that window to use the database’s interface, which was frame-based and never looked exactly right in Mac OS X’s Safari. If you accidentally closed that particular web browser window, you had to start all over again, because the database’s server was unable to remember that you were already logged in and wouldn’t let you reload the main page directly in a different browser window.

These limitations were somewhat annoying, especially in the context of the workflow of a professional translator. If you were working on a document in your word processor and needed to look up a term, you had to select the term in the word processor document window, copy it, switch to Safari, switch to that particular Safari window with the TERMIUM interface, find your way to the field for entering the search request either with the mouse or with multiple tabs on the keyboard, paste your term, and then hit Return.

Well, as of yesterday morning, this is all changed. For accessibility purposes, TERMIUM had to revamp their entire interface, and the new one, while not particularly pleasing on the eyes, is actually much more user-friendly in the context of the workflow described above.

Now, once you’re logged in, TERMIUM remembers that you are logged in and let you load as many different pages with different search requests as necessary. The UI no longer uses frames and looks OK in Safari (i.e. it looks the same as in other browsers). This means that the main URL of the page is now a URL that actually contains the search request in a format that can be used by a search template in LaunchBar.

Here’s the template I am using:*&go_search.x=0&go_search.y=0

The * character is where the actual search query goes.

So now when I need to look up a term, all I have to do (with LaunchBar 4.3) is select the term in the document that I am currently working on, press-and-hold the shortcut for LaunchBar (command-Esc on my machine), type my abbreviation (“term”) to invoke TERMIUM in LaunchBar, and then press the Return key.

This uses the TERMIUM search template to automatically build a URL around the term that I have “sent” to LaunchBar and then send that URL to my default browser, i.e. Safari. Provided that I am already logged in to TERMIUM, Safari opens a new window and loads the page with the results of the search for the term in TERMIUM.

It might not sound like much, but it is definitely a time saver and a good factor in RSI prevention, because it doesn’t involve any mouse clicks.

Of course, if I actually want to copy the result of my database search query back to my word processor, I will still have to use the mouse to select the term in the Safari window and copy it to the Clipboard, etc. This is because accessibility in web browsers doesn’t quite yet extend to efficient selection of important sections of text in a web page. (See the current problems with text selection in web pages on the iPhone, as described by John Gruber.)

But in many cases all I need is to see the result, because I will have to retype it in my word processor anyway. (When authoring a word processor document, there are too many issues around text formatting, smart vs. curly quotes and other punctuation inconsistencies to make it practical to copy short text snippets from the web.)

So the bottom-line here is that the new TERMIUM is good news for accessibility, and not just for the disabled. As a professional user, I find that these improvements actually help implement a more user- and text-oriented workflow. Mac OS X, like other operating systems, is still too application-centric and still requires too much mouse clicking for people working with text, but there are ways to improve the situation, and the new TERMIUM offers further improvements for users of that database in that particular department.

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