Elgan: Got a subnotebook? Get Ubiquity

Cramped laptop keyboards, tiny screens are easy to use thanks to new Mozilla software

Cheap and tiny subnotebook computers have become, well, ubiquitous. Dell is the latest company to ship one, joining a list that includes ASUS, Acer, Everex, Fujitsu, Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo, LG, MSI and many others.

Subnotebooks are easy to take anywhere, but hard to use once you get there.

Cramped keyboards, tiny screens and undersized touchpads make subnotebooks slow, awkward and difficult to use compared with desktop PCs and even full-size laptops.

Usability is one problem. Performance is another. Loading several simultaneous applications and Web sites can slow down systems with minimal RAM and microprocessors designed more for battery life than for performance.

Enter Ubiquity

Mozilla, the company that makes the popular Firefox browser, announced last week a software plug-in for Firefox called Ubiquity, which does some surprising and useful things.

Ubiquity wasn't designed for, and isn't promoted as, a subnotebook usability enhancer. It's meant to be an all-purpose Firefox booster. But it turns out that Ubiquity is especially powerful on subnotebooks. The reason: Ubiquity replaces the act of opening multiple browser windows or tabs to perform multi-site or multi-page tasks with simple commands that give you the same result.

After installation, launch Ubiquity from Firefox by pressing Ctrl+Space (Option+Space on a Mac), which brings down a command-line menu. You type a command, and the magic happens.

When you type a letter or two, Ubiquity drops down a list of suggestions, of guesses as to what you intend to type. Once you see your intended option on the list, you can stop typing the service and go on to type the rest of the command. For example, let's say you want to find a video demo of Ubiquity on YouTube. You type "y" (without quotation marks), and "Yahoo," "YouTube" and "Yelp" come up on the list. Go ahead and type "o," and YouTube remains as the only option on the list. Leave it at "yo," hit the space bar, and type "ubiquity." Before you hit the enter key, several thumbnails of videos on YouTube pop up, and two of them are Mozilla Ubiquity demos.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Mike Elgan

Computerworld
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?