Accelerator Spotlight


Accelerators are a robust and customizable way of bringing you closer to the services you use most. We’ve said a lot about the technology behind Accelerators and how to build on it, but I thought it might be nice to step back for a minute and look at some of the things people have already built. So for the rest of this post, I’ll be throwing a few interesting Accelerators into the spotlight.

These are five Accelerators that I thought were notable in some way, either because they did something completely different than I ever thought of the feature doing, or because they do something particularly well.

Shareaholic

One of the distinctions we made when designing the Accelerator feature was service integration versus service aggregation. Loosely speaking, one could view the feature itself as being service aggregation, since it binds a bunch of services in one place, and each individual Accelerator as service integration, since it occupies a place in that aggregation feature.

Shareaholic (add) comes closer to service aggregation in its own right than almost any other Accelerator I’ve seen. Their team has a blog post describing it, but it essentially takes the user selection, link, or document and sends it to the Shareaholic service, which interfaces in turn with roughly 30 other services of varying kinds.

Shareaholic accelerator.  The preview window shows different services which can be used to share.

There are tradeoffs to this approach, of course, but I think Shareaholic is a good example of the kinds of aggregation possibilities that are possible with Accelerators.

Entertonement

Entertonement (add) is a very unique Accelerator. Essentially, it takes the user selection and returns audio clips based on that selection. The real distinguishing feature, however, is what it does with the preview window:

Entertonement Accelerator.  The preview window shows

Entertonement embeds a media player in the preview window and then plays the first audio clip returned by the user’s selection.

I think this Accelerator helps illustrate a class of preview window scenarios that I don’t think have been fully explored yet—namely, embedding outside content.

I could see a number of other applications for embedding a media player in the preview window, like music or video search services, some of which already have Accelerators. Given that the preview window can run ActiveX controls, the possibilities are virtually limitless, subject to the security restrictions we have in place for such controls.

Preview and Launch URL

Preview and Launch URL (add) fills one of the most-requested needs for Accelerators. It takes a user-selected URL and launches it. This alone is very useful, but what really sets this Accelerator apart is its use of the preview window.

It uses a service called WebSnapr to generate previews of web pages, which it then returns in the preview window. The end result is that you can see a page before you navigate to it:

We had created a “Launch URL” Accelerator for internal purposes, but the use of a thumbnail generator hadn’t occurred to us. As a result, I think this particular Accelerator really stands out.

Share with Facebook

Facebook (add) is another big service building on the Accelerator feature, and their “Share with Facebook” Accelerator deserves mention. You can activate the accelerator from the Page menu, which enables you to send whatever page you’re viewing to Facebook as an item to share with your friends. You can also right-click a link and share that, too.

This Accelerator is notable because it’s a good example of well-used document variables. Most of the Accelerators out there use selection context exclusively, perhaps not realizing that Accelerators can operate on links or the page as a whole, as well.

While selection context is definitely the “light-up” case for Accelerators, I think document context could be used to a greater degree than it currently is, and I think Facebook does a good job of doing so.

It’s also a good example of “bulk send” Accelerators, where the user selection is taken from a web page and shifted to the composition page of a service. Blogging and email would exhibit similar behavior, for example.

Shop and Save with Live Search Products

This Accelerator (add) manages to combine two of my favorite things in the world—saving time and saving money. As the Live Search blog explains, whereas a user normally would have had to copy a product term and then paste it into at least one shopping service somewhere, he or she can now just highlight that term and receive easy links to reviews and price comparisons.

In addition to its execution functionality, it makes very good use of the preview window, too, presenting the essential information to users inline.

Conclusion

I hope this post helped shine a little more light on a few Accelerators you may not have seen before. I also hope it may have helped you see some of the potential for Accelerators that may not be evident in the ones you use every day. The Accelerators above were notable for pushing the envelope in some way or another, and it’s my hope that users and developers like you will always continue pushing.

Thanks for reading!

Jon Seitel
Program Manager, Accelerators

Comments (30)

  1. Xepol says:

    Sorry, I don’t use any of the fancy accelerators – and I definitely can’t see using thses.

    The internal launch url accelerator – I assume you mean when it isn’t a hyperlink?  Because when it is, you don’t really need the accelerator.  Might be handy once a month, but I don’t know that I want to give up my privacy to a marketing research firm just to get a thumbnail preview I can’t really read.

    The only accelerators I do use are the search accelerators that copy over from my search box.  Now those ARE handy.

  2. Fduch says:

    I’m confused… are those "untitled.bmp" files that IE8 produces Accelerators of WebSlices?

    IE8 is the best and BMP image format is the future!

  3. sonicdoommario says:

    Hey Microsoft, what happened to the "Define with Encarta" accelerator? I tried to get that for my friend, but it’s not on your site and wasn’t included with the RTW of IE8.

    Thanks.

  4. Sterling says:

    Accelerators is one of my favorite features in IE8. When I tried Google Chrome, every time I highlighted text on a webpage, I kept expecting a little blue icon next to the highlighted text! LOL

  5. fr says:

    Did your internal version of launch url work without having to use a redirect url?  I tried to make one which would simply attempt to open the selected text as a link but IE would not install it.  I would rather not have to send the urls off to a 3rd party website.

  6. Shane says:

    I know this isn’t the right place for this, but I couldn’t be bothered lodging a full bug report. It seems IE8 final breaks media sharing in some way. I’ve experienced this problem on the two machines I installed it on:

    http://groups.google.com/group/microsoft.public.multimedia.windows.mediaplayer/browse_thread/thread/933cfb2d0e314134?hl=en#

  7. Eine schöne Schnellinfo, um sich vor dem Klick einen ersten Eindruck über eine Website zu machen oder um auf eine Url-Adresse, die nicht verlinkt ist, zu navigieren. Gefunden unter: IEBlog: Accelerator Spotlight

  8. todd says:

    A few things:

    1.) for your add links, you need to remember that 90% of the browsers out in the wild ARE NOT IE8! therefore, wrap you addAccelerator link in a function that can advise non-IE8 users why this won’t work before they get the JavaScript error and can’t understand why the site is broken. (this goes for the IE team, as well as anyone implementing an IE8 Accelerator)

    2.) What tools are in place to manage this list of accelerators? Judging by the number of goofy toolbars I see on most IE user’s machines, they are going to have tons of garbage in this right click list which will only render the functionality useless.

    3.) Can you please FIX THIS BLOG so that the "home" page DOES NOT load the full article for every article on the front page.  It consumes massive ammounts of bandwidth when you post all those pictures in all those articles.  1 paragraph of text ONLY please, with a link to [more…]

    4.) Where does one see the privacy policy for a given accelerator? Over time a site can aggregate a lot of data about users, the sites they visit and what they search for before arriving at their site.  I’m not so sure I want all this data tracked.

    5.) Finally as a usability issue, the onhighlight activation of the blue accelerator icon tends to mess up lots of pages that use a drag-n-drop metaphor to organize data (e.g. add to cart scenarios)  Is there a way for developers to force this feature off on a given page, or at least within a given area? e.g. if I return false from the onbeforedragstart event or similar can I evade the accelerator icon from popping up?

    thanks

  9. Eden says:

    todd // "Manage Add-ons" takes care of accelerators, as well as other add-ons. Disabling/uninstalling is a breeze.

  10. Rob Parsons says:

    Hi,

    Shareaholic does not have a link to Live or MSDN Bookmarks?

  11. marc says:

    @Rob Parsons – Why would you want a link to Live or MSDN Bookmarks? You don’t seriously actually use either of those inferior services do you?

    +1 glad that Sharaholic hasn’t cluttered their service with legacy Live/MSDN Bookmarks options.

    I don’t want my Internet cluttered with layers of useless second grade MS Services.

  12. hAl says:

    Hmmm, it seems the superpreview has been released (trial) by Microsoft

    Download link:

    http://download.microsoft.com/download/5/6/8/568F0D28-0434-4794-B7FC-FB293BCC98FB/SuperPreview_Trial_en.exe

  13. Peter says:

    Why don’t you just come out and admit it, accelerators are Microsoft’s response to the popularity of Firefox and its extensions.  

    One of the best things about Firefox is its extensibility, which is exactly what you are doing with accelerators.  People can add the extra features and functions they want, which is something people have always asked for with IE.

    At least we are finally seeing some progress in this area.

  14. Peter Nimmo says:

    I don’t think the accelerators are working properly for me, when I try to add the one for wikipedia it says its already there, but there is no accelerator for wikipedia listed.

    Ever since installing one of the betas for IE8, I have never had the little search bar to the right of the address bar.  How can I get it back as installing the final version hasn’t helped

  15. EricLaw [MSFT] says:

    @Peter: Internet Explorer includes a very rich extensibility model and has for over a decade.  I wrote my first IE "accelerator-like" add-on in 1998; it was a "Definition"-lookup tool which appeared on the context menu.  You’re correct to note that Accelerators offer a significantly improved installation and management experience over other extensibility mechanisms.

    @Peter Nimmo: Did you look inside Tools/Manage Addons for the Wikipedia Accelerator?  My guess would be that it’s installed, but in the overflow menu.

    If you IE search box is missing, chances are that it was turned off.  See the "Undo" script at http://www.enhanceie.com/ie/tweaks.asp

    @fr: Accelerators must point to a HTTP/HTTPS URI.  If you want an equivalent function which uses only local JavaScript, see the "Linkify and Open" context-menu from http://www.enhanceie.com/ietoys/

  16. Peter Nimmo says:

    Personally I can’t stand this new addons manager, the close button takes up loads of real-estate, and sometimes you just want to hide the bar not disable its functionality.  I have PrivBar installed, so that I can see if I’m still a member of the local Administrative group, and its just too time consuming to have to answer that blasted dialog!

  17. Peter Nimmo says:

    One thing I know for sure is I never turned the search box off, I remember noticing it was missing the moment IE8 started.

    And what’s with the ridiculous Reboot without asking that happened again when I installed the final version.

  18. Peter says:

    @EricLaw – "Internet Explorer includes a very rich extensibility model and has for over a decade."  Then why has it been used so little over that time?  The only people who would even consider using an IE plug-in, aside from Flash or Acrobat, were hard-core geeks, and most of those people would just use Firefox.

    Why didn’t MS promote the ability to add functionality to IE more?

  19. EricLaw [MSFT] says:

    @Peter Nimmo: If you never turned the search box off, there are two possibilities: 1> a network administrator did so, or 2> there was a setup failure on your computer.  If it was the latter, running the .REG file will not help you.

    IE Setup does not "reboot without asking."  The last page of the setup wizard clearly indicates that a reboot will follow, and gives the option to do so immediately, or postpone rebooting.  It strongly encourages that you reboot immediately, because various programs will not work correctly while IE is not yet fully installed.

    @Peter: "Then why has it been used so little over that time?"  

    Thousands upon thousands of addons have been written for IE over the years.  Some of those addons are only popular in certain markets (Korea, China) while others are very popular in others (Google Toolbar, PDF Viewer, etc).  

    >Why didn’t MS promote the ability to add functionality to IE more?

    Beyond the Microsoft Press books which have been written on the topic, we have written dozens of pages of documentation on MSDN, authored a number of articles for MSDN magazine, and linked to a ton of content from other authors.  (http://www.enhanceie.com/ie/dev.asp lists my favorites).

    One thing that Firefox has going for it is a central community site which advertises most of its addons.  The http://www.ieaddons.com site is a relatively new site offering IE Addons, but not all are listed there.  My favorite addons (including a few I wrote) are listed here: http://www.enhanceie.com/ie/essentials.asp

  20. DrewG says:

    I would love to see a different type of the Suggested Sites feature. Id like for it to show Similar Favorites.. it would be great if I started researching a topic and my favorites lit up with similar sites Ive saved prior.  

    This would really accelerate me when researching topics that I have a large amount of favorites on.

  21. hAl says:

    @EricLaw

    [quote]The http://www.ieaddons.com site is a relatively new site offering IE Addons, but not all are listed there[/quote]

    Actually most addons seem to have been removed from the site since two years ago

  22. PatriotB says:

    @sonicdoommario — this ought to explain why the Encarta accelerator disappeared:

    http://arstechnica.com/microsoft/news/2009/03/microsoft-to-kill-encarta-later-this-year.ars

  23. Peter Nimmo says:

    Er, its my PC the network administrator is me.  Well thankfully the .REG file has fixed it, but theres no way I would have turned it off I like the feature far too much.

    As you say, the setup procedure does indeed once finished allow you to choose when it reboots as described on the last page of the setup.

    It is after this initial reboot, that the spontaneous reboot happens.  After the "Setting up Internet Explorer" messages that have appeared since the year dot when installing a new version of IE.

    This is the third time it has happened after I installed each IE8 candidate.  I looked in the NT event logs and there where no red error messages around the time of the reboot.

  24. EricLaw [MSFT] says:

    @Peter Nimmo: The "NoSearchBox" setting is carried over from IE7, if you had applied it there.  We’re not aware of any way by which this setting can get changed on its own.

    If you’re installing on XP with IE7 or pre-release IE8, there are two reboots: The first after IE7 or IE8beta is uninstalled, and the second after the final IE8 bits are installed.  (On Vista, there is only one reboot).

    The second reboot does occur without waiting for you to push a button or do anything similar, but because Windows does not actually log in and provide access to the shell (which would allow you to launch other tasks which would be disrupted by a reboot) such a prompt would result in unnecessary delays.  This is particularly true in the event that you kick off the install and walk away after the initial reboot.

  25. anonymuos says:

    I’m waiting for a "Web slices spotlight". Btw, Microsoft (MSN) India’s weather web slice is dead 99% of the time even though MSN Weather is up.

  26. You’ve probably already seen how Internet Explorer 8 Accelerators allow you to search very quickly the

  27. You’ve probably already seen how Internet Explorer 8 Accelerators allow you to perform searches very

  28. Jill E says:

    I’m a total no-nothing when it comes to these add-ons but I know one thing: I’ve tried countless times to install Adobe Flashplayer 10 & EVERY time it puts up the msg "The instruction at Ox09cb0068 referenced memory at Ox09cb0068. Click OK to terminate the program or Cancel to debug. The memory could not be written." On investigation it states that a malfunctioning or malicious add-on has caused IE to close. I’ve disabled all the add-ons but it still won’t install AF. Can I delete ALL add-ons and accelerators or will my system crash or blow-up?!

  29. The "Preview and Launch URL" accelerator now supports the expansion of shortened URLs directly from the preview window! This is convenient for users who want to know what is the real URL for a shortened URL before actually clicking on the link.

    Currently supported URL shortening services include:

    TinyURL, bit.ly, ping.fm, s3nt.com, cli.gs, twurl.nl, poprl.nl, budurl.com, xrl.us, is.gd, short.ie, kl.am, idek.net, sn.im, snipr.com, snipurl.com, snurl.com and tr.im.

    Check it out!

  30. Jan says:

    Please, why does the address bar remain in edit mode after the accelerator has been launched. The Launch Link and Google Maps plugin are just two examples. This is very annoying as I can’t use zooming on google maps right away!!!

Skip to main content