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Bookmarklets FTW: The Case for Bookmarklets in Everyday Life

Abstract

So maybe there's a site out there that you love, and it'd be awesome if only there were this one last feature you crave. Whether you're getting started in open source, looking for a new pet project, or just need to change that background color: make a bookmarklet!

Bookmarklets are self-contained bits of JavaScript that enact certain functionality on a webpage. You drag one into your bookmarks bar and then click the bookmark when you're on a site, and instead of navigating somewhere, the bookmarklet triggers an action on the page. They have been around for ages, and their uses range from super useful (send a url somewhere like to Delicious or Pinterest) to super silly (e.g., http://kathack.com/, play Katamari on any website).

They also present a fairly approachable mechanism for letting developers -- from beginners to those more advanced -- manipulate other websites, or contribute functionality to a project online. Developing a bookmarklet for a specific site involves exploring the DOM of that site pretty deeply, and can help expand familiarity with how websites work, reinforcing the concept that the web is mutable and extensible. You can get into a site's code, mess around with it, bend it to your will, and learn something in the process.

While bookmarklets can enact the same functionality as an extension or user script, they have the advantage of being immediately available to use just by dragging a well-formatted script right into the bookmarks bar.

From personal experience, creating a bookmarklet was a great way to learn not just the methods but also the etiquette of using GitHub to collaborate on code. I made a bookmarklet called meatdelay (http://llkats.com/projects/meatdelay/) for the gif chatroom chat.meatspac.es that allowed users to delay their gifs for a few seconds. People really like the extra functionality and it's gotten quite a bit of use. Starting that project really kickstarted my involvement and confidence in contributing code publicly.

Together, we'll explore the history of bookmarklets, creating your own bookmarklets, useful workflows and tools (especially the browser developer console), and maybe demonstrate a few fun bookmarklets.

Speaker Bio

Lydia Katsamberis is a Javascript Engineer at craigslist. Previously, she was a Senior Front End Engineer at AOL, Front End Engineer at gdgt.com, and a web developer for United Business Media. Lydia loves JavaScript, is a Midwesterner at heart, and enjoys naps in the sun with her cat, Molly.

Connect with her online on Twitter at @llkats or visit her website at llkats.com.