Gathan Beaga

a greasemonkey and a platypus

The latest over-hyped web technology revolution finally, a few months late, hits my Mac.

So imagine there’s a large website you use every day. But there’s something that’s always bugged you about it. Maybe the colour is a bit grating; or those buttons are naff; or there’s some blindingly obvious feature or User Interface opportunity that the site owners just don’t get.

Up until now, your options were to:

  • Grit your teeth and continue using the site; or
  • Send them an email that would get lost in the 15 layers of misdirection between the people responsible for responding to emails and the people responsible for site design and maintenance. Assuming the latter were interested in what you, a mere user, could possibly have to say.

Well, no more.

Greasemonkey is a Firefox extension that allows user-definable JavaScripts to be run on any particular page that the user wants. WTF? I hear you say? OK, a more concrete example.

Imagine you use Google a lot. One thing you’ve always wanted is the ability to quickly employ the same search terms on other search engines. Well, using Greasemonkey, plus a JavaScript called Butler, you can. Butler places search links to other search engines directly into the Google search results displayed by Firefox. (See a screenshot of this in action.) And the cool thing is that Butler is one of literally hundreds of user-contributed Greasemonkey scripts.

For me, I use Online Banking at one of the big banks here almost every day. But when displayed in Firefox some of the gaps between blocks of text on the Account Balances page are too small, making the page hard to read. Using another new Firefox extension, called Platypus, I was able to insert a couple of breaks between the blocks, and save the result as a Greasemonkey script that will run in future everytime I load that Account Balances page. This took less than 10 minutes; I didn’t need to know any JavaScript; and now a petty web annoyance of mine is gone forever.

Greasemonkey and Platypus: returning power to the people.