Today Mozilla Labs is happy to announce the release a major upgrade to Ubiquity. This release, Ubiquity 0.5, focuses on making the instructions you give to Ubiquity feel more natural and human, as well as bringing Ubiquity’s power to many more languages.
This release brings:
- The first internationalized Ubiquity, where even non-coders can help bring Ubiquity to their language
- A more natural, human, and robust way to give Ubiquity instructions.
- A new, game-inspired interactive tutorial.
- Experimental smart suggestions: type “pasta” and Ubiquity recommends Yelp. (This feature needs to be enabled on the Ubiquity settings settings page).
Ubiquity 0.5 requires Firefox 3.0 or higher. Firefox 3.5 is recommended. Also, note that you’ll have to download it to upgrade: we aren’t yet pushing the update automatically.
The First International Ubiquity
Ubiquity is an experiment in natural-language interfaces, but “natural language” doesn’t mean just English.
The original Ubiquity parser — the part of Ubiquity that takes what you typed and matches it to what you want to do — was based on English-centric assumptions. Some languages don’t use spaces between words. Some have the verb come at the end of the sentence. Some put different endings on nouns to identify what part of the sentence they are. (If all this grammar talk makes your head spin with fuzzy memories of high-school Latin, you’re not alone.)
Ubiquity 0.5 features a new input parser re-written from scratch to support many languages. You don’t don’t have to be programmers to contribute to localization. A new parser localization tutorial will walk you through teaching Ubiquity the grammar of your language.
Ubiquity 0.5 also supports the localization of commands bundled with Ubiquity. With this launch, Ubiquity 0.5 will have commands localized in Catalan, Danish, Japanese, and Portuguese. More languages are planned for the near future. We also have a new tutorial that shows how you can get involved in translating Ubiquity commands to your language.
Ubiquity in Japanese
Ubiquity in Danish
More Natural Input
Due to a limitation in the old parser, command names couldn’t have spaces in them. That’s why Ubiquity had a lot of commands with unnatural hyphens: “add-to-calendar”, “close-all-tabs”, etc. These hyphens were ugly, hard to type, and not very natural-language. Thanks to the fact that the new parser supports spaces, we can now have much more natural command names. Instead of saying “add-to-calendar 3pm lunch with Mitcho”, you can now use a more natural syntax like “add 3pm lunch with Mitcho to calendar”.
We’ve also standardized command names in a way that we hope will make Ubiquity overall easier to learn.
New Interactive Tutorial
We’ve improved the first-run experience of Ubiquity based on some user testing. Inspired by the tutorial levels in video games, we’ve created an interactive tutorial that takes you by the hand and walks you through each step of using Ubiquity. It’s aware of where you are, so it can always tell you exactly what to do next.
Screenshot of interactive tutorial
Experimental smart suggestions
When you give an input that Ubiquity doesn’t know, Ubiquity can now query a variety of services to understand what your input means, and it can then update the suggestion list of commands in real time to show you new possibilities that it finds. For example, you can now type “pizza” into Ubiquity; before, it wouldn’t have known what to do with this input. By making network calls to Web services, it recognizes “pizza” as a type of restaurant, and suggests the Yelp command to find pizza places near you:
The experimental smart suggestion feature.
Because this is a highly experimental feature, in order to use it, you’ll have to enable it from the Ubiquity settings screen.
Updating Your Commands
The new version of the parser has a new API for command developers. Unfortunately, this means custom Ubiquity commands will need to be updated in order to work with the new version. Fortunately, the required updates are very minor; they mostly have to do with how commands declare their arguments. We have written a tutorial on how to convert your existing commands to work with the new parser. There is also an updated Command Development tutorial if you are writing new commands from scratch for the new version.
How To Get Involved & Thanks
- Check out Planet Ubiquity for the latest and greatest Ubiquity happenings.
- Read and contribute to Ubiquity’s documentation on the Mozilla wiki.
- Join the ubiquity-firefox mailing list to discuss Ubiquity with others.
- Join the #ubiquity channel on irc.mozilla.org to talk to Ubiquity community members in real-time over IRC.
- Browse the command library to find Ubiquity commands all over the Internet.
- Report or help fix bugs at our bug tracker.
- Discuss translation and localization issues on the Ubiquity-i18n (internationalization) mailing list.
Special thanks to our amazing community members, who really stepped up to make this release possible. They put their blood, sweat and tears (and weekends) into making Ubiquity 0.5 what it is:
Thanks in particular to:
- mitcho (Michael Yoshitaka Erlewine) the linguist of the Ubiquity team, for doing the majority of the design and implementation work on this new parser and localization infrastructure.
- Seth Bindernagel of the Mozilla localization department for his valuable advice.
- Christian Sonne, for working very hard to single-handedly create the Danish translation.
- Masahiko Imanaka (marsf), for contributing the majority of the Japanese translations.
- Heather Kofke-Egger for writing documentation, tracking bugs, and giving technical support to users.
- Brandon Pung for his work on the asynchronous noun detection features.
- Satoshi Murakami (satyr) for numerous bug fixes.
- Blair McBride (Unfocused) for many contributions.
- Fernando Takai (fern) for working on the command search engine.
- Zac Lym (indolering) for his usability research.
The full release notes for 0.5 list many fixed bugs and minor features not mentioned above.
— Jono Xia (née DiCarlo), Brandon Pung, Aza Raskin, on behalf of the Ubiquity team