What is Bookmarklets and how do I use it?

Today we are going to learn all there is to know about what a Bookmarklet is, how to use them and some popular and interesting bookmarkets to get you started.

A bookmarklet is basically a short snippet of Javascript code, which is saved in the form of a bookmark. The difference between a bookmarklet and a regular bookmark is that a bookmark will direct you to a site which you’ve bookmarked in the past, while clicking on a bookmarklet will run whatever the Javascript code is programmed to do.

Firefox 3

Usually the bookmarklet provides some very nice functions which can be pretty complicated to explain in one sentence, so I won’t and will leave it for the next section. Suffice to say that a bookmarklet can in many cases be used as a substitute for extensions for browsers like Firefox.

The advantage of a bookmarklet is that it does not take up any extra space of processing power, as it is essentially just a bookmark. Less crashes and performance issues can be important if you are a heavy computer user. There is no need for installation procedures and you can easily sync your bookmarks/bookmarklets across different browsers, and the same can’t be said for installed extensions. Finally, bookmarklets are universal and can be used on any operating system on any browser, be it Google Chrome, Firefox, or even Safari!

So now that you have a slight idea of what a bookmarket is, here are some good examples that you can use immediately. Simply right click on a link and choose add to bookmark and you are done! You can even drag the link into your browser’s bookmark bar (if its open).

  • Gmail This! – A very useful bookmarklet where you select some text and when you click on Gmail This!, it will open up a small window pointing directly to the Gmail compose new message page with the highlighted text already inserted and ready to be sent to all your friends. Also a quick and easy way to write a new message without having to log into Gmail and click on the Compose link.
  • In Techmeme? – This bookmarklet works like this: when you come across a new technology news blog, you call it up and it will show you whether there are any recent posts on the blog that has appeared in Techmeme, a news aggregation site. If it has, chances are its quite popular or at least good with the community, and you should bookmark it. Otherwise, skip it and go for something else.
  • Readability – Turn fancy web pages into distraction free and work-safe sites! When you activate the link, it will remove all images from the website and convert it into an e-book or newspaper-like site so that the text gets your focus and attention. All background images, flash and annoyances are removed rendering the page safe for work, as it looks like you are reading some serious document when in fact you are surfing and checking out the latest gadgets.
  • Capture Screenshot – Takes a picture of whatever your browser is viewing and uploads directly to popular web picture sites such as Flickr and Evernote.
  • ToRead.cc – With a single click, the webpage you are currently reading is emailed directly to your inbox for later reading. For even more power, use this feature and sync with your iPod so that you can have save things you want to read for later (eg, while you are still at work) and read them when you’re travelling around directly on your iPod without having to install any fancy apps. Currently it’s my best way to keep track of blog and tech news. I used to use Instapaper, which still works wonderfully well, but this method works better due to the automatic push email that Gmail has enabled for my iPod Touch, while if I am using Instapaper, I need to remember to open the app and sync it when I am near a hotspot.

    There is also a mobile option where only text is saved, for people on slower connections. It is also useful for small screens where navigating a full website can be troublesome, and you just want the gist of the information available.

  • Download PDF – Clicking on this link allows you to download the current website in PDF format, perfect for keeping copies for viewing later or for emailing to your friends.

I hope you enjoy these bookmarklets and start using them as soon as possible!