Q Search widget for Nokia N97/5800


[Update 10/23/09: Version 3 of the widget is here.]

[Update 9/3/09: A new version of the widget is here.]

One of the cool things about the two most recent Nokia phones I've owned (the 5800XPM and N97) is the integrated mobile widget stuff. Using the Web Runtime engine (WRT), you can create an "app" using nothing but HTML, Javascript and images. It's essentially a single page HTML application which can access both the Internet and a bunch of on-phone data like the contacts, calendar, etc.

I've been messing around with this stuff for a few weeks now, but tonight I had a real itch I wanted to scratch so I banged out a small search widget which is actually pretty functional. I call it "Q Search" (Q for Quick), and it's simply a search-page launcher - but one that's optimized for the least number of clicks from the home page of the phone.

You can download it here: qsearch.wgz.

It can be installed as a "Home Screen Widget" if you have an N97, or launched from the quick-bar or icon like any other app. It immediately prompts you (using an ugly Javascript prompt dialog, sadly) for your search query, then you enter some text hit OK and BAM, you're connecting to the web for your results. And of course, I added in some "shortcuts" which let you search Google (g), Wikipedia (w), YouTube (v), Google Images (i), Twitter (t) and Definr dictionary (d) by entering the letter with a space before the search text. And when you're done, you close the web page, the widget automatically closes itself as well.

The impetus for the widget is amount of time it usually takes to call up a search page and get results, even if you use a search app or a bookmark - then to close everything down again and get back to the home page is a pain as well. I wanted something that used as few user-actions as possible to get in and out of a site.

It's not the most beautiful solution, I have to admit. The Javascript prompt doesn't allow for predictive text(!!!!!!) or much in the way of providing contextual help, but if you're a power user and want to get in and out of your mobile's browser as quickly as possible, it might be a good solution. And no, it's not native-app quality by any stretch, but considering the couple hours it took me with a total of maybe 30 lines of "code", it's pretty functional. Try it out and tell me what you think.

I should mention that mobile widgets are fun and easy if you're a developer, actually. It's insanely simple to whip something together with no special tools - like normal web dev. The .wgz file above is just a zip file of the index.html, style sheet, images, etc., so nothing proprietary, and you can even include Flash Lite in the package as well. You can find the details on how to develop them in Forum Nokia's Library. Also I recently discovered that Vodafone is using Opera's widget runner (which is mostly compatible with Nokia's) and that all of this is being guided by a W3C Widget spec. (It's like I've been asleep for two years, and all this stuff just popped out of nowhere!)

Now whether mobile widgets will ever take off like native apps? I tend to think not because of the generally lower-quality user experience combined with the hassle of having to "install" and manage the apps, but if you want to hack at your phone, it's a quick and simple way to do it.



P.S. Wow, that was the first real blog post I've written in months!

< Previous         Next >