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Show HN: A toolbar you actually want to use (No download, no registration)
14 points by photon_off 1948 days ago | past | web | 38 comments
http://www.dashler.com/toolbar/

Dashler Toolbar is a bookmarklet that opens up a toolbar of shortcuts to various webpages, and allows for super easy bookmarking. You can open the toolbar, highlight content, then open up a floating window of the results on any of (currently) dozens of websites, like Wikipedia, IMDb, various dictionaries, translate, etc. Some shortcuts use the URL or Domain of the page you are at. For example, you can jump to Quantcast/Alexa results for the page you're viewing, shorten the URL, or search within the site with Google and ilk. [Advanced: For shortcuts that use a URL, you can drag and drop links onto them to activate that shortcut. While dragging a URL, eligible shortcuts will turn green.]

The toolbar is customizable via drag and drop. You can drag and drop to re-organize the toolbar and/or add shortcuts and tools. Use "Quick Find" to find shortcuts for sites you're interested in, or related to the page you're viewing. For example, there are some neat HN tools (threaded comments, sort by hotness, etc) that I use daily. To add them, search for "HN" in quick find, or open the toolbar at a HN page and click "find related shortcuts". You can create folders / subfolders and organize your toolbar to your hearts content.

Dashler Toolbar also works well for managing bookmarks. You can bookmark the current page from the Main Menu, or you can drag and drop any links on the page you're viewing. Title and tags will automatically be pulled from Delicious, and you can instantly search for anything you've bookmarked by URL, title, or tag.

Finally, it works on all modern browsers. Create an account in seconds (no e-mail required, just username and password), and have a synchronized toolbar across all computers and browsers.

Let me know what you think.




It's novel and somewhat useful. I've added it and will see if I continue to use it. It's the first time I've seen the the bookmarklet applied like this, so that's cool.

It could benefit from some UI design - the icons are rough and there is too much stuff crammed on the menus.

I hope you're tracking which buttons people actually click and use. Use that analysis to streamline the UI and remove underused items.

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Thanks! I'm fairly confident it is the most technologically advanced bookmarklet that exists, at the moment. An insane amount of hacking went into making something that could work on every web page, with pretty much any browser.

The icons are automatically generated based on favicons, and the folder icons are from an old icon set I'd purchased years ago. They could definitely use the touch of a designer to make them more appealing. I don't have the skills or time to do it myself. I'm hoping the sub-par visual appearance of the toolbar isn't too off-putting, and that the functionality makes up for it.

The toolbar is customizable... just drag and drop items by their icon to move them, or delete them (by dropping them on the antiquated Trash icon). The default set-up was just my guess of what things people use the most. If there's something you're looking for, it only takes a second to search for it in Quick Find (ctrl + space), then drag and drop it to your toolbar. I'm tracking all of this so that I know which tools are most popular, and will use that feedback to generate a better "default" toolbar.

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I also suggest making it possible for me to extend it/customize it. You can then get a community around it to further develop 'plugins' to your toolbar. Your advantage is in the 'toolbar bookmarket' platform - esp if you make it easy to plug in javascript snippets to do other interesting things.

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This is definitely something I've been considering, but I first wanted to see if it's even worth investing more time into it.

It would be pretty easy to allow users to create their own shortcuts and tools. A shortcut is just a url that contains special keywords, like %url%, %text%, %domain%, and a corresponding text "Search Google %text%" (%text% gets converted to a textbox). The hard part, in my opinion, is explaining this, and providing an interface for the user to make it.

Javascript snippets is a whole other world. I wanted the toolbar to be able to use any GreaseMonkey script, but there are some things I can't make the toolbar do, since it's just javascript on a document (like cross domain POST). There are a large variety of GreaseMonkey scripts that would work on it, though, and I was thinking about allowing them to be easily integrated into the toolbar.

It was fun hacking together a few HN tools, like "sort by hotness" which I use all the time now. It looks at the stories of the frontpage and sorts them by how much activity (points + comments) they've received per unit time. To find it, search "HN" in Quick Find. So, I agree, there's potential for opening it up as a platform much like GreaseMonkey.

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The HN tools are neat. I would use some of them. That's similar what I had in mind. I shouldn't have to type HN though - it should have showed up automatically based on the page I am on. It doesn't find tools for news.ycomb... but you probably already know that.

I played around with Greasemonkey scripts a few years back but then abandoned them. I just looked into it again and spent 4 minutes trying to figure out how to use them on Chrome and then abandoned the search. I guess it supports it but it failed the 2 minute test for me. I even went to userscripts.org and then got even more lost. In my opinion, if you make that experience easier with your tool and show the top 5 scripts for the current URL then that would be a huge win. You could do top 5 based on how often they are clicked on.

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In "Quick Find" there's a button that says "Find shortcuts related to news.ycombinator.com". When I click it, it does show HN tools. You're right though, there should be some sort of indication that there are tools available for the page you're viewing. Even better would be "most common tools/shortcuts used on this page" ... that might make you want to check the toolbar at each interesting page you view.

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Yubnub's "new command" page is a good example of an interface for creating new shortcuts. http://yubnub.org/command/new?name=

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One of the things that really stood out to me was the site design and how cluttered everything is. I've noticed something about people; they can't assimilate information when it reaches a certain density and I think that's the case with your site.

At first glance, I was taken aback by the sheer amount of info you've stuffed into the landing page. The bottom panel really should be a learn more drop down. As it takes away the main message of what you're trying to get across; simplicity.

Moreover, the theme feels a bit depressing to me, but that's just a matter of tweaking the color.

I have a feeling that all of this might have something to do with dashler being a bootstrapped startup. Is there anything I can do to help?

[ego edit: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1783930 :) ]

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The advice in your edit is exactly the feedback I'm looking for. It's admittedly difficult for me to come up with an easy to digest pitch for the toolbar. Marketing is just not my thing, at least not when the format is HTML. What you've just written is better than anything I could come up with, and I'm grateful for it.

In short, yes, there is a lot you could do to help. But there's not a lot I can offer beyond a share in whatever is to become of Dashler. If you believe that I have a good product here and are interested to work on it with me, shoot me an e-mail. The address is in my profile.

In the meantime... any chance you could throw out some more freebies? :)

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Wow.

Thank you. I had no clue that you would find that useful. I just wrote the fist thing that came into my head.

Of course, I like helping people out. :)

Oh and check your inbox. :)

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I've been thoroughly absorbed by this project, and have lost the ability to see it from a fresh perspective. Any ideas anybody has about how to explain this thing, or what their immediate impressions were, are extraordinarily helpful.

Oh, I replied :)

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Multiple "About" pages are confusing:

"Dashler is a bookmarklet. When clicked, it opens up a toolbar on top of the webpage you viewing."

"Dashler builds things that make browsing the web faster, easier, and more productive."

"Dashler is a bootstrapped start-up founded by Sam Mati."

"Dashler is not a search engine, encyclopedia, dictionary, social network, URL shortener, video website, news aggregator, website analytics provider, blogging service, stock analysis tool, e-mail provider, etc."

"Dashler is content to let others innovate in these areas."

"Dashler is a bookmark. There's no download."

Also, the hovering toolbar gets in the way of sites using top nav. I'd recommend trying it more like the Digg bar or Reddit bar, glued to the top of the window, and styled to match the detected browser's default chrome.

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Just a minor point, you really should add a voice over to the video. Even if you don't like your own voice, it's way better than nothing. I spent the first 30 seconds trying to figure out what was wrong with my sound.

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You're absolutely right, it's something I need to fix, and I'm definitely losing a lot of potential engagement and clarity by not having a voice over.

I used YouTube annotations, since I have no experience at editing videos. With YouTube annotations, the sound would pause as well... so I opted to just have no sound at all. It sucks, I know.

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I'm new to making promotional videos too. If you have a Mac, give iMovie a shot, it's fantastic. For Windows, I've had good success with CamStudio for doing screencasts with voice. Even better CamStudio is open source and free.

The major difference is iMovie is a nice movie editing platform, where CamStudio is just about recording, so if you only have CamStudio, you have to get it all correct in one take.

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I used Camtasia to do the screen recording, and I think it worked great. The zoom and pan features are really cool. If you watch the video without the annotations, it's a pretty neat demo. I was fearful it would be too confusing without explaining what was going on though, so I added those annotations.

I'll definitely be making a better version of the video. One very difficult part of doing the take was scripting it. There are quite a few awesome features of the toolbar that I wanted to show off, but jumping right into them could be confusing.

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It's amazing how seemingly little things can be so difficult. I'm currently working on a landing page for a product idea I have. The product itself is actually really simple and trivial to get if you see it in the flesh, but explaining in the confines of a landing page has proven extremely difficult.

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Like they say: "The little things... there's nothing bigger."

It's really difficult deciding on things when every single word matters. I spend a lot of time and energy either being stuck in analysis paralysis, or trying to avoid it.

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As I mentioned in another thread, the actual toolbar seems kind of obtrusive.

But you may want to consider reworking the splash page (or the others too, but definitely the splash page).

http://yobiz.com has a nice splash page. Headline, subhead, video on the left, benefits on the right, all above the fold.

http://icontact.com has a smart layout. The first thing you see is social proof in the form of testimonials + actual, non professional pictures and real benefits for real people on each slide.

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Thanks for the feedback. What could be done, in your opinion, to make it less obtrusive?

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Maybe it's not too obtrusive. I can't sit around at work and watch full videos (especially one with lots of random stops). So I tried to make some guesses about the toolbar.

One thing I would certainly do is get some audio in the video and remove the pauses.

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How about a gallery of screenshots with captions at the bottom?

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Did you try the toolbar out?

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A few things:

1) no download, no registration - but I still have to enter a username and password. So I don't understand why you say 'no registration' when I still have to register a username

2) there is no compelling reason for me to install this - it took a while to find this which I guess is the main reason I would install it: 'Synchronized: Access Dashler from any computer and browser.'

3) When I clicked on 'Home' I expected to go to http://www.dashler.com/toolbar/ - I did not realise that the toolbar was not the main thing about Dashler. Then it also took me a while to work out how to get back to the toolbar page again.

4) I agree with a previous poster that I would have loved to see screenshots as I can't view videos at work

Lastly - looks like fun and an interesting idea, but it's not completely clear to me why I should want it. Perhaps you need to make that more clear on the front page.

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You don't have to enter a username and password, it's optional. If you don't provide an account, it will create a temporary Guest account, and use a cookie. It's entirely an optional process to type in a username and password. If you want to use your Toolbar across multiple browsers, or if you don't want your toolbar to reset if your cookie is destroyed, then you need to make an account.

You can try the toolbar without installing it by clicking "try it out".

I've found it very difficult to describe what the toolbar does without showing it. Perhaps you are right, I may need screenshots or a slideshow instead of a video.

You're absolutely right, the navigation is odd. The Toolbar might just become all of Dashler. I wanted to offer a start page that allowed you to search multiple sites, as well as instantly search anything you've bookmarked with Dashler. I might scrap it and make the whole focus the toolbar.

The compelling reason to use it is that it ties together the page you are viewing with a variety of shortcuts and tools. I frequently use it to reference a URL I'm viewing against, for example, Reddit. There's a shortcut called "is this on reddit?" which shows me reddit submissions for the URL I'm viewing. There's a shortcut to find which pages link to the page I'm viewing. A shortcut to find conversations across all social media sites for the URL I'm viewing (via BackType). I can search within the site with Google, or get traffic ratings from Quantcast, or see how it's been tagged on Delicious.

On top of that, it's an easy way to bookmark things, and manage your bookmarklets.

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I had to spend a good deal of energy trying to figure out a) what it is your product actually does, and b) why I'd want to use it over my default built in google search box. Maybe you should try having a landing page with the example already launched and a video with sound nearby to make it quicker for users to 'get it'.

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This is a huge issue that I've been trying to overcome. I've found it extremely difficult to explain what the toolbar does, and usually resort to just showing a demonstration of it. Once people see me use it in person, then they love it. If they don't see me use it in person, then they are generally very confused.

Does anybody have any ideas on how to explain what this toolbar does in a concise, easy to digest manner?

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How about this?

Dashler is an attempt to re-imagine the toolbar minus all of the frustrations.

[Screen shot of dashler]

Be more productive: Using dashler is like putting a swiss knife in your pocket. You just whip it out when you need it. Get your job done quickly and easily inside of it. Smile and whip it back in. All without leaving the page and other messy stuff.

[Screen shot of search inside dashler]

and so on...

(I used this analogy because I'm using it with my bookmarks bar)

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Splash page: http://www.dashler.com/toolbar/

How to use it: http://www.dashler.com/toolbar/howto.php

Browse shortcuts, drag and drop them into toolbar: http://www.dashler.com/toolbar/browse/

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You may want to check your use of apostrophes.

For example, "to let" means "to allow": "The product lets you do stuff."

The word "let's" means "let us": "Let's install this today!"

To build trust, grammar and spelling should be impeccable.

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Thanks for pointing out the spelling mistake. It was a spelling mistake.

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I feel like I am doing something wrong here. Of the 150+ people that have so far opened the toolbar, only five people have modified it in any way. Just five people have reordered the icons, added something, or deleted something. Why is this? Is it really that bad? Is nobody curious enough to play with it?

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It wasn't obvious to me how to delete icons. A permanent "trash" icon rather than a context sensitive "trash" icon might help. Also, you could add a note to the Dashler menu letting users know they can drag icons to reorder them.

Annotated screenshots might be more useful than a video. I think most HN users want to jump right in and use a tool rather than watch a video. Screenshots can be absorbed more quickly.

By the way, I like the pulsating "Get Dashler" button.

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'Dashler Toolbar is a bookmarklet that opens up a toolbar of shortcuts to various webpages, and allows for super easy bookmarking. '

I have a very limited attention span. You need a better opener than that - 'shortcuts to various webpages' is vague and doesn't give me anything beyond my existing browser bookmarks.

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You're absolutely right. The most difficult thing I'm dealing with is explaining this thing. I'd be grateful if you could give it a test drive, or watch the video, and let me know of a better way to explain it.

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This is way cool and a good MVP. Congrats on getting this far. Some notes which may or may not already be on your todo:

You need to spend some time/money on design/designer. The top left icon should always be clickable. Ouch, favicons scaled up that large are terribly pixelated, especially Wikipedia's. (Also, no reusing icons, but you knew that)

On the toolbar itself, the Google category looks poor (align those boxes!).

The toolbar itself should have an 'add bookmark' button for the current page.

On the page itself home vs. toolbar is too confusing a distinction at this stage (it seems the toolbar is really the point right now).

The intro page could actually have the toolbar loaded, and point at it, and describe things you can do with it, starting with the 1-step install procedure (Drag [this] to your bookmarks bar, and point to where the bookmarks bar is by default).

The 'windows' that come up, green vs red square top right is a bit confusing, also should have a button to actually go to the page inside the iframe. (extra credit if you detect browser OS, and copy that on the fly). Actually, the window/iframe feature shouldn't be a separate function (eg. why is clicking 'search my bookmarks' different, menu/window-wise, compared to the google menu.) Closing the toolbar itself should close the iframe in any case.

Also confusing is clicking on the icon on the toolbar vs. floating and having the menu come up anyway.

I would be less conservative about using screen real-estate if the toolbar has already been activated. (Eg. instead of clicking reference, then urban dictionary and then entering the word, clicking reference should allow me show me a box for urban dictionary). The user has expressed intent to see the toolbar, take advantage of it.

The analytics section should be redone (have the name somewhere, tooltips shouldn't all be the same...)

Maybe have a split button for tools? eg: [ Readability | (cfg icon)] Clicking readability on the left would activate it, so it's 2-clicks to run it instead of 3. Clicking on the right would bring you to arc90's config page for it.

Maybe the bookmarklet could toggle the toolbar?

The page timer is cool and all, but too noisy on an already busy page?

"Customization: Intuative drag and drop interface." (Spelling)

You need a punchier tagline, something like Dashler: Your web, when you want it, wherever you want it.

Also, push that the customization of the toolbar, and the shared-ness: "Add your own toolbar to any page. Includes tools and bookmarks you choose, and is shared between your computers. What's more, it's free!"

The 'Useful Shortcuts' section (http://www.dashler.com/toolbar/) mentions stock quotes and weather, but neither of those are actually on the linked page (also those section headers should be links if possible).

Are you planning on running your own bookmarking backend?

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Wow! A lot of great stuff here.

Yeah, I need a better design. That's for sure. The scaled icons are going to have to stay, for now, because I don't have the time or resources to go through and custom design about 60 different favicons. It's "good enough" to have them automatically generated. I can't re-use favicons? Are you sure?

How could I fix the Google category? I could add a line break before each textbox, which would align all the textboxes, but then it would cause more vertical space to be taken up. Any suggestions?

You can bookmark the current page! It's in the main menu, the first item. Just click it, or drag and drop it anywhere into your Toolbar.

I will absolutely make dashler.com be all about the toolbar.

I'm working on a new frontpage right now. I think I may ditch the video, and start off with something you're describing, that gets users more involved and impressed straight-away. One problem I'm encountering is that there is so much stuff this toolbar does, I don't know where to start.

The green vs. red square on the windows could use icons. And the browser detect idea is absoutely awesome! Though, that might actually cause some confusion...

Clicking an icon on the toolbar "locks" the menu, so that you can highlight text or drag and drop something into the menu.

In terms of real estate, that's a good suggestion. However, I think if it takes up too much space it could end up getting in the way. Per your UD problem, everything in the toolbar can be moved. Go to reference -> urban dictionary -> and drag the shortcut by it's icon. You can place it outside of the subfolder if you want.

The bookmarklet did originally toggle the toolbar... however there's one use case which made me want to change it to reloading the toolbar: You can log in via the main menu, but then you need to reload the toolbar in order to see your personal toolbar. There is a menu item in the main menu that says "reload toolbar" but I figured most people would just press the Dashler button again. It turns out nobody is using this thing anyway, so I suppose anything I do won't matter much anyway.

I'll get rid of the page timer.

Thanks for the spelling heads-up.

To sum things up... I'm finding it incredibly difficult to come up with a way to explain what the toolbar can do to people in a sensible way. It's starting to bother me quite a bit. How do I explain an abstract concept like "a toolbar that goes on top of anyway webpage you are viewing, which connects highlighted content with other webpages. Oh, and the thing that connects highlighted content with other webpages is called a shortcut. You can add more shortcuts, and drag and drop them to customize your toolbar. Also, you can access your customized toolbar from any computer! And by the way, you can bookmark pages and it automatically fills in tags from delicious so that later on you can instantly search your bookmarks. Oh yeah, and there are "tools" which can modify the page you're viewing, like greasemonkey"

Thank you so much for your feedback! I appreciate it. Also, thanks for the "great work". I'm about ready to give up on this idea. It's just too complicated. Le sigh.

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> I can't re-use favicons? Are you sure?

Sorry, I didn't mean you couldn't reuse favicons - I meant to point out that the icon for 'social media' is the same as for 'search my bookmarks'.

> How could I fix the Google category? I could add a line break before each textbox, which would align all the textboxes, but then it would cause more vertical space to be taken up. Any suggestions?

Yeah - take up the vertical space, or take up more horizontal space. Either way, it's not an unacceptable amount. Alternately, have 1 box (that auto-grows vertically to handle addresses) and have 4 different submit buttons.

> You can bookmark the current page! It's in the main menu, the first item. Just click it, or drag and drop it anywhere into your Toolbar.

That, specifically, is unclear. I know what page I'm already on; don't show me the title. Have it be an 'add' button instead; at least have the word 'add', if not 'add bookmark' in that menu. My less specific complaint is that so much really cool functionality is 3 clicks away(1 for the bookmarklet, 1 for the menu, and 1 for the actual action), when it could be 2-clicks. Especially if there's only one child item; eg in the UD category, the only choice is UD define.

> One problem I'm encountering is that there is so much stuff this toolbar does, I don't know where to start.

Who is Dashler for? More specifically, do you have any clue what bookmarklet penetration is? (I have no idea how I'd even go about gauging that. Maybe arc90 stats or something?) One possible approach would be 'the bookmarklet to end all bookmarklets' if users are at all familiar with the concept.

> Clicking an icon on the toolbar "locks" the menu, so that you can highlight text or drag and drop something into the menu.

Yes, it does and it's kinda cool - but I'd consider the click-activated locking a droppable feature, just have the menu not close so automatically instead. Same goes for the 'windows'. I get that it's an iframe and does have some reason for being differentiated from a menu, but for user's ease of use, I would not have the iframe be different than any other menu.

> In terms of real estate, that's a good suggestion. However, I think if it takes up too much space it could end up getting in the way.

You could go overboard, and implement a 'dashboard' level takeover of the page. That would be a slightly different product with a slightly different focus.

> Per your UD problem, everything in the toolbar can be moved. Go to reference -> urban dictionary -> and drag the shortcut by it's icon. You can place it outside of the subfolder if you want.

Thats cool - but again, the minimum number of clicks is still 3, when it could be 2.

> The bookmarklet did originally toggle the toolbar... however there's one use case which made me want to change it to reloading the toolbar: You can log in via the main menu, but then you need to reload the toolbar in order to see your personal toolbar. There is a menu item in the main menu that says "reload toolbar" but I figured most people would just press the Dashler button again. It turns out nobody is using this thing anyway, so I suppose anything I do won't matter much anyway.

It seems you could code around that - the login form submission sets a flag. If the bookmarklet is re-activated and that flag's been checked, reload the toolbar instead, and clear the flag.

> To sum things up... I'm finding it incredibly difficult to come up with a way to explain what the toolbar can do to people in a sensible way. It's starting to bother me quite a bit. How do I explain an abstract concept like "a toolbar that goes on top of anyway webpage you are viewing, which connects highlighted content with other webpages. Oh, and the thing that connects highlighted content with other webpages is called a shortcut. You can add more shortcuts, and drag and drop them to customize your toolbar. Also, you can access your customized toolbar from any computer! And by the way, you can bookmark pages and it automatically fills in tags from delicious so that later on you can instantly search your bookmarks. Oh yeah, and there are "tools" which can modify the page you're viewing, like greasemonkey"

Explain to me what a computer can do for me. Explain to me what Excel can do for an accountant.

Taking another look at it, I'd break the functionality into two groups. Group one is 'cool tools for the current page'. Readability, any of the analysis, some other bookmarklet tools (like one to change all references to <a href="uri.jpg"> into <img src>) - basically anything without an text input field. Make this the user's 'dashboard'. (Whether or not you chose to take over all of the user's browsers window is orthogonal to dividing functionality.)

Start by imagining pushing only the dashboard features. Push arc90's Readability to the masses: no ads, no distractions. Push the ability to run analytics. Hell, you could make a list of url shorteners and make an entire category out of that.

Or, to go another direction, just push the fact that you can share bookmarks between two computers with a such a simple and easy bookmarklet. No special browser needed (past not using IE), no need to even restart your computer, or even your web browser.

Make a user page, which is just a list of all of my bookmarks, newest first, and productize that. Offer up arc90 et al from a 'default' set of bookmarks in the (eg) tools category. If you want to go down the social route, see other people that bookmarked that page, let them comment on it, etc.

The other large piece of type of functionality is to act on selected text. There's definitely use-case here; Safari, Firefox and Chrome all have 'Search in Google' as the only option, you've extended that quite far. I don't know how best to implement it - as part of the existing bookmarklet if there is text already selected or as a separate bookmarklet; but on activation, grey out the rest of the browser window, show the selected text in big, and offer up a slew of buttons to operate on it. If I've selected "Abraham Lincoln" I want to be able to, in two clicks, to be able to look it up on wikipedia or urban dictionary, or any number of any other sites. (IMDB - what actors have played him in movies? Dictionary? Thesaurus?)

That alone would be kinda awesome, actually.

All of my other comment's aside, I'd say stop coding for a while and work on polishing the rest of the site

But I think most importantly - Don't forget to add the Asteroids bookmarklet to Dashler!

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