Greasemonkeying Around

Lately I’ve been trying hard to improve my meager skills at work by reading the excellent new book DOM Scripting by Jeremy Keith, the contents of which are too techy to go into here. Let’s just say it appeals to the geek in me.

DOM Scripting by Jeremy Keith

Anyway, the book got me thinking about this clever little extension for Mozilla Firefox (a web browser that you really should use if you don’t already) called Greasemonkey. The idea behind Greasemonkey is that users can create “scripts,” or little snippets of code, for a particular website that will make that site look or act differently than it was originally intended. So, for example, someone might write a script for a website that makes the pages appear without any of the ads or one that compiles any multi-page article into a single page. Someone else might write a script that adds a feature to one of the popular web-based email programs. These scripty folks then make their enhancements available (usually at userscripts.org) to anyone else who wants their online life to be just a little bit more pleasant. [Note: For a much better explanation of what Greasemonkey is all about, read the article in Wired.]

amazontogrpl.gif

One type of user script that especially appealed to me turns amazon.com into a conduit for a local library search. I downloaded one that adds a search link from amazon.com to the Seattle Public Lirbrary, looked inside the file, and started tinkering with it until I got it to work with the Grand Rapids Public Library. The search by ISBN number turned up some pretty crazy books when it didn’t find an exact match, so I added a second link to search by title.

Now, if I’m tempted to buy a book while browsing through amazon.com, I can just click on the Grand Rapids Library search instead and see if I can check it out for free.

If any of you are interested in trying this one out for yourselves—and why wouldn’t you be?—here are the instructions:

Prerequisites

  1. Mozilla Firefox web browser
  2. Greasemonkey extension for Firefox

Installation

After you have downloaded and installed Firefox and added the Greasemonkey extension to it, you’re ready to start adding user scripts.

  1. Click the right mouse button on the link below
  2. From the menu that appears, choose Install User Script…

amazon.com to Grand Rapids Library

Update: Oops! If you tried to install this user script before 9:10am on 2/23/06, you’ll have to try again. I originally linked to a non-existent file. Silly me.

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