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Preview hyperlinks with Interclue

By Mayank Sharma on August 20, 2007 (4:00:00 PM)

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Interclue is a Firefox extension that lets you preview whatever a hyperlink on a page is pointing to. Unlike other link previewers, Interclue doesn't just display a tiny replica of what's hiding under the link. It uses algorithms to intelligently construct a summary of the target page and displays it in a window with lots of other information and statistics about the page.

 Essentially the goal of a link previewer is to save you clicks. But the way Interclue has been designed, it saves you a lot of time as well. It not only allows you to preview the link but also offers options to use the link itself in a variety of ways -- you can bookmark it in your browser and at del.icio.us, email it, or Digg it. If it's pointing to a Flickr image or a YouTube video, you can see the image or watch the video from within the preview window itself.

To install the extension, head over to its page on Firefox's Add-ons Web site and click on the green "Install Now" button. The extension has a privacy policy, and you'll have to accept its user license agreement before installing. Once you've read it, click on the "Accept and Install" button to install the plugin.

Using Interclue

When the browser restarts after installation, you get a brief hands-on tutorial of Interclue, which is adequate to get you started. So when you move your mouse over a link, Interclue displays a small icon called a linkclue or fetches and displays the favicon of the site behind the link, or both, next to the link. It displays the preview only when you move your mouse over these elements. This additional hover over the icon is keeps the previews from becoming irritating.

Linkclue icons visually provide a little information about the link. So for example, there are linkclues that will help identify the type of file (PDF, MP3, Flash, OpenOffice.org, etc.) or give information about the link, such as when the file it's pointing to is not available, or the page is taking too long to load, or if it's an anchor on some other page.

When you hover over the favicon or the linkclue, the extension grabs what's behind the link, strips navigational text, and displays it in a box called a clueviewer along with lots of meta information and action buttons. The content of the clueviewer varies depending on the content of the link. It can display a text summary, or multimedia elements like pictures and videos. For other types of documents like PDFs and Office files, it displays name, size, and date when the document was last modified. The clueviewer also shows a small thumbnail image of the sites that the link belongs to.

If you have the link open in another tab, Interclue will show a linkclue telling you that and offer to take you to that tab. This is the only area of Interclue that doesn't work as it should. Even after you close the tab, Interclue refuses to show a preview over the link, arguing that the link is still open.

In addition to the preview, the clueviewer has a set of action buttons. You can use these to bookmark the link, make a printout of the clueviewer, increase or decrease font size, or email or Digg the link. It also displays some additional meta information called metaclues, such as word count, number of incoming and outgoing links from the link's target, number of files (images, scripts, stylesheets, etc.) that will be loaded with the page, del.icio.us tags and Digg count for that link, and so on.

Configuring Interclue

While the default options will work for most users, if you feel like tweaking Interclue you're in luck. You can tune its features from Interclue's Options window, accessible via Firefox's Tools menu (Tools -> Interclue Options). The options window is divided into three tabs -- basic, advanced, and about. The about tab provides version and other contact and support information about the extension.

The basic options influence the time it takes to display the linkclues and the clueviewer. You can also specify the hotkey that'll show the clueviewer from the link itself (it's Ctrl key by default). Just hover over the link and press the hotkey to launch the clueviewer.

The advanced options is further divided into 13 subsections that control everything from which metaclues to show, what clueviewer and Firefox statusbar buttons to show and hide, and the length of the text summaries, to performance tweaks like eliminating the graphical effects on slower computers.

For certain features like thumbnail images of popular sites, the extension relies on third-party sites like Thumbshots and WebSnapr. But if you want, Interclue allows for certain sites and domains to be marked private. For these sites, the extension will not query external Web sites.

Final thoughts

While Interclue is available for free, the developers are planning to offer a subscription service to provide additional features, such as faster-loading summaries, customized summaries, and more information relevant to links.

Interclue is a useful and feature-rich link previewer. Not only does it do a nice job of summarizing links, it also provides quick access to action buttons and meta information. You can easily submit a link to Digg and del.icio.us, email it, or make a printout -- all without ever actually visitng the link.

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I suggest LinkAlert

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 82.227.137.141] on August 20, 2007 10:15 PM
<a href="https://addons.mozilla.org/fr/firefox/addon/3199">LinkAlert</a> is another Firefox extension that does a bit of what Interclue does, meaning, overlaying an icon next to the mouse cursor showing the type of file or link (new window, JavaScript, PDF...). It's not a complete replacement but at least in my understanding it's Free Software, which you can use, study AND modify AND share, the two latter rights not being granted to you by Interclue.

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Great review! Cheers!

Posted by: Seth Wagoner on August 21, 2007 05:37 AM
Hi Mayank. Thanks very much for bringing our extension to the attention of the Linux.com audience. We love the fact that Firefox allows us to support everyone no matter what O/S they're using - we're running a severely mixed bag in house, but there are more linux boxen here than anything else. We've also made a special effort in the latest version to do great summaries of links to Trac and Bugzilla tickets, which should appeal to many in the audience.



Just to let you know, the free version will continue to improve, and any suggestions for new improvements are welcome. We've got a bunch of great things in mind for the subscriber version as well, but most of those are going to require a server farm and all the time, hassle and expense that goes along with that. But it'll all be worth it if we can make our users even more productive, which we look forward to doing!



Regards,
<a href="http://sethop.com">Seth Wagoner</a>,
Geek in Chief,
<a href="http://Interclue.com">Interclue Ltd</a>

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Interclue vs Linkalert

Posted by: Seth Wagoner on August 21, 2007 06:08 AM
Hi there anonymous,



Linkalert does one thing really well, and it only requires 10k worth of XUL and Javascript files [1] to do it with. It's a lightweight, which is not necessarily a bad thing. It also seems to have no licence associated with it at all, which means it's not open source, strictly speaking. Standard copyright law applies in such cases.



Interclue is a heavyweight. Interclue does about a hundred things rather well, delivers a rather large productivity boost to the user, and is about 100 times larger than Linkalert [1] (which, as you can imagine, means about 1000 times more hours had to go into getting it right) . In truth, we should have been out ages ago, but I love features and I can be a bit perfectionist, and I've been the one calling the shots, for better or worse. On the other hand we have tried to make sure that the user experience is extremely "light" and takes as little mental brainpower (and system resources) as possible to achieve the maximum possible productivity boost.. We still have a way to go on this front, but our <a href="http://interclue.com/buzz.html">reviews</a> suggest we've made a very promising start. A lot of the code is also dedicated to giving the user options - the defaults work pretty well but we think everyone has their own optimal way of browsing and we want to help them find it.



It's true that at Interclue we are more about giving people free time than we are about giving them free software. But consider this: more free time means more time to write free software :-) And of course, the current version is free as in beer. So please, we're offering you a heck of a lot of free beer here, take a sip, go on, you know you want to :-)



More seriously, in Christchurch New Zealand, no one will pay you to build something "bleeding edge" and then give it away, and our attempts to pay our own way through the early development stages were extremely frustrating, so we bit of the capitalist fruit and took angel investment, and now we're honor bound to deliver an excellent return on that investment - and in todays business environment that probably means raising even more capital pretty soon, obligating us to make even more money further down the road. If it turns out that in the fullness of time the best way to move the business forward is to open some or all of our source, we'll do it. Well before that we will be improving, documenting and opening our APIs, and allowing people to build on what we have started, because I'm pretty sure that *is* the best way to move things forward, for us, for developers, and for what (in my more grandiose moments) I call the the global knowledge collective.



If it makes you feel better about trying our free beer, should we manage to make a few shekels from our efforts in the fullness of time, I know I'll personally be donating to support several <a href="http://mozilla.com">open</a>, <a href="http://fsf.org">free</a>, <a href="http://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Home">fair</a> and <a href="http://eff.org">just</a> projects going on around the world, and I'll be arguing for the company to do a certain amount of corporate philanthropy in the same direction. You can read more about my technoprogressive ideals on my <a href="http://sethop.com">blog</a>. But for now I'm just looking forward to helping people be more productive surfers and eventually having a few less instant noodles into my diet :-)




Regards,
<a href="http://sethop.com">Seth Wagoner</a>,
Geek in Chief
<a href="http://Interclue.com">Interclue Ltd</a>



[1] In both cases I'm ignoring the locale files and the images, and talking about the pre-squeezed version of the javascript and XUL files.

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Preview hyperlinks with Interclue

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 24.56.4.132] on August 22, 2007 01:29 AM
It would be useful to compare Interclue with other previewers, such as CoolIris.

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