Backtick: Keyboard Commands Meet Bookmarklets

There’s Alfred and Quicksilver for the Mac, tools that make help you get tons done just with your keyboard. On the PC, there’s Launchy that does much the same thing. And even in apps like Sublime Text, you can just type in the Command Palatte to get stuff done without resorting to hard-to-remember keyboard shortcuts or your mouse.

On the web, though, the best alternate we have is bookmarklets — typically javascript-powered bits of code that make sharing and tweaking sites simple. In Safari, you can access the first 10 in your bookmarks bar with simple CMD+number shortcut, but everywhere else you’ll have to click your bookmarklet or make workarounds for the ones you use most. It’s far from the efficiency of keyboard-driven launchers.

That is, unless you install the new Backtick.

Keyboard commands for the web.

Keyboard commands for the web.

Backtick is a new Chrome extension that brings keyboard productivity to the web. Install the extension, then tap the backtick (`) key on your keyboard, and a small dark text box will appear in the top left corner of your site. There, you can type to find the commands you want and launch them just by tapping your return key.

Try typing, say, Twi, and you’ll see an option to tweet the article — tap return, and the Tweet window will popup with the article link already included. Type Rea, and you’ll be able to open the Readability view of the site in a tap. Same goes for saving an article to Instapaper or Flipboard, or viewing the Wayback Machine cache or Google Translate copy of the site. There’s more, too: you’ll find options to download the video your watching, see what fonts are on the site, and more. All of these tools are available in standalone bookmark lets, but Backtick makes them insanely simple to access with a quick tap of ` and typing a couple characters.

That’s not all: you can add your own commands to Backtick, which gives you a way to turn any bookmarklet or your own javascript-powered idea into a command that’s just as easy to launch in Backtick. It’s a tiny bit complex, though: you’ll need to make a new Gist on GitHub, add your command .js file and a companion .json file with the command description, then add said Gist to your Backtick settings. Or, of course, if Backtick got more popular, there’s a decent likelihood that sites with bookmarklets would start saving their own Backtick-compatable gists for you to add easier. It’s not as simple as saving a bookmarklet, unfortunately, but it’s a nice way to make the web work the way you want if you’re willing to go to a little trouble. And, of course, it’s got enough built-in functions to make it pretty awesome on its own.

Conclusion

If Backtick were a tad simpler to extend, and if it was available for Safari and Firefox as well, it’d be perfect. For now, hough, it’s still a great tool for Chrome, one that’ll likely speed you up if you use bookmarklets or other apps for many of its functions throughout the day. You’ll have one less reason to reach for the mouse, even if you’re on the web.

Go try it out in Chrome — you’ll be glad you took the time. I’m pretty sure of that.


Summary

A simple tool to let you save, share, and tweak sites with Javascript snippets right form your keyboard in Chrome. It's Alfred for the web.

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