Best ways to visualize time zones in your browser

For my work, I get to be a part of one big virtual team. Naturally, I need to deal with different time zones and keep those at finger tips. Nowadays this is very common and I’m sure most of you fall into this category. As we started living more and more in browsers, we need good tools to take care of time zones. Today I am going to show you two web sites that do a great job in simplifying this time zone math.

1. Every Time Zone

Never wrap your brain with time zone math again.

Every Time Zone

Every Time Zone is my current favorite due to its slick design and simple interface. The site conveys a lot through colors. When you visit the site, it shows you one vertical line indicating your current time. You can click somewhere else on the timeline to see various zone timings for a given local time. Simple and beautiful. One small glitch is that there is no way to select a future date which some of you may find limiting while looking to schedule a meeting for a future date. A link to this page anchor on top right allows you to get a direct link to the current view and share it with others. Do check it out, I’m sure you will love it.

Every Time Zone
Every Time Zone
2. World Time Buddy

World Time Buddy and is a simple, elegant and perhaps the most comprehensive time converter and world clock. I have been using it actively for a while and it is part of my Chrome apps for a long time now. It is loaded with features, which amazingly do not add to the complexity. You can add, remove, sort and reorder locations. It detects your location by default, but you can mark any other location as home too. You may also rename locations if you are signed in and group locations by tabs, which is offered as a premium feature. You can use it as a full fledge scheduling tool as it allows export options to Outlook, Google Calendar etc. It also allows you to create an event page and share with others. Just like Every Time Zone, you may also share a link to your view with others. Country specific weekends highlighting and daylight savings warning (a week before the change) is really useful. It is really a complete tool for your scheduling needs.

They also offer a couple of useful widgets for clock and events, which you can embed in your web sites. World Time Buddy is also available as iOS and Android mobile app on App Store and Google Play Store.

World Time Buddy
World Time Buddy

Other than these two, there are several extensions available for Chrome and Firefox. FoxClocks is one popular extension for Firefox also available for Chrome now. It is very comprehensive and shows selected zone times in your browser’s status bar. Some low on memory Chromebook users do complain about memory consumed by this extension. In that case you may turn it on only when required using one click extensions manager for Chrome.

How do you take care of your time zones? Please let me know if I missed something which should be part of this small list.

Easy alternative to broken Google search set timer feature

Last year, Google introduced a feature to set the timer using search box just by typing something like “set timer for 5 minutes”. I personally found it very useful and started using it. But after some days it stopped working. Since then its being ON and OFF. It works for me on google.co.in but it does not work for me on google.com. Anyway, while many are waiting for this to work again, you can use this simple alternative to get your clock ticking.

Set timer using Google Search
Set timer using Google Search
Easy alternative to broken Google search set timer feature

e.ggtimer.com is a simple and useful service for the timer. However, what makes it really useful is the fact that it allows you to set the timer through URL parameters. So, if you type a URL like http://e.ggtimer.com/5minutes will set the timer for 5 minutes. But we can do better.

Let us make this easier and more efficient by adding it as a search engine.

webstruck
  • Type chrome://settings/searchEngines in Chrome address bar OR right click in Chrome address bar and select Edit search engines…
  • Scroll up to “Other search engines” and add a new search engine.
  • Enter To Set Timer For as the name of your search engine, timer as keyword (or any unique keyword of your choice) and URL as http://e.ggtimer.com/%s
  • Press ENTER and click Done.
Add e.ggtimer.com as search engine
Add e.ggtimer.com as search engine

Now, go to your Chrome address bar, enter your keyword “timer”, hit the TAB key and enter time value e.g. 5minutes or 20seconds or 1hour5minute30second. If you just enter a number say, 20, it will default to seconds. It also displays the timer count down on the tab title which makes it much more useful. Once the time is up, it beeps and pops up a message.

e.ggtimer.com search engine in action
e.ggtimer.com search engine in action

The service also offers some more fun and interesting timers. For e.g. instead of any time value, if you just use pomodoro, it will open a preset timer of 25 minutes with short breaks and long breaks as described in the Pomodoro Technique. Quite a useful timer if you follow this technique for your tasks. There are also fun presets like morning to get your blood pumping and brushteeth, a 2 minute timer for healthy teeth. If you are into fitness and follow tabata, there is a timer called tabata too.

You can make it work easily for Firefox by the techniques described in my earlier post.

Easily add custom search engines to Chrome, Firefox & Internet Explorer

I wrote a couple of articles that focus on adding the ability to search various Google services from the Chrome address bar. Chrome provides a number of ways to add custom search engines. If the site for which you want to add the search engine exposes an OpenSearch provider, then Chrome auto detects the search engine and automatically adds it. For e.g. this site exposes an OpenSearch provider. So if you visit chrome://settings/searchEngines and scroll down to Other search engines, you will see an entry for the webstruck search engine as shown below.

webstruck search engine for Chrome
webstruck search engine for Chrome

Firefox too auto detects open search provider for current site but does not add it automatically. Instead, when you click on the search box drop down, it shows an option to add it manually. Although Internet Explorer supports open search providers unlike Safari, there is no auto detection and no easy way to add custom search engines.

Add webstruck search engine to Firefox
Add webstruck search engine to Firefox
How to add a new custom search engine provider?

There are web services like Mycroft Project & searchplugins.net that host a huge list of useful custom search engine providers. You can add these to Chrome, Firefox and Internet Explorer easily with one click. Just search for the providers you are looking for at Mycroft Project or searchplugin.net and click to install. The search engine will be ready for use instantly. As explained later in this article, Chrome and Firefox allows you to edit a newly added search engine and provide keyword of your choice so that you can easily search from the address bar itself.

How do I create my own custom search engine provider?

By any remote chance if you do not find the search engine provider you are looking for, you can create one easily. Mycroft Project and searchplugins.net both provide the option to create a new search engine provider. You just need to enter a search URL and the name. The other default values should work just fine most of the time. If you are interested in details, Mycroft Project offers description for each field. Once the plug-in is ready, you can install it right away and test it. Although plug-ins created using above services work in Internet Explorer, there is another easy to use tool called EnhanceIE that works only for Internet Explorer although it also generates OpenSearch provider only.

How do I customize an existing search engine provider?

As mentioned above, Chrome allows you to edit all the details for a search engine very easily. Just right click in the address bar and select Edit search engines…. Here you can edit name, keyword and URL itself for each search engine provider.

In Firefox, you can click on the dropdown in the search box and select Manage Search Engines…. Firefox allows you to edit only the keyword for the search engine. If at all you need to edit the URL, you need to get little geeky. The search engines installed with the Firefox setup are put under Firefox installation directory like C:\Program Files (x86)\Mozilla Firefox\browser\searchplugins. The search engines that are installed separately using the above techniques, reside under your Firefox profile folder. Type about:support in the Firefox address bar and click on Show Folder button next to Profile folder label. The search plugins will be located under seachplugins folder. You can open and edit these files in any text editor, as these are just XML files. You may refer to OpenSearch description document for details of each entry although most entries are self-explanatory.

How do I remove a custom search engine provider?

It is easy to remove search engines from all the three browsers we are discussing here. In Chrome, you can just click the X button when you hover over search engines in Manage search engines dialog. Firefox also provides Remove button in Manage Search Engine dialog itself. In Internet Explorer, click on Tools icon and select Internet Options. Select Programs tab and click on Manage add-ons button. Select Search Providers in the left pane to display a list of all search engine providers. Select the one you want to remove and click on the Remove button at the bottom.

Easily copy plain text from web sites using Chrome or Firefox

All of us face this problem every now and then. Say you want to copy some text from a website such as a flight schedule or a quote and paste it into Evernote, email or a Word document. Most often the result is formatted, HTML text when all you want is to copy plain text. This is really annoying. But if you’re using either Chrome or Firefox, there are a few easy to use extensions you can use to solve this problem.

Copy Plain Text for Chrome

If you are using Chrome, you just need to install Copy Plain Text extension for Chrome. Now select any text you want to copy, right click and choose “Copy … Unformatted” menu as shown below. One drawback, reciprocated by many reviewers of this extension, is that it also loses the New Line character when it copies the text. Nevertheless, it is a useful extension to have if you are using Chrome.

Copy Plain Text
Copy Plain Text
Copy Pure Text for Firefox

If you are using Firefox, you have a number of options like Copy Plain Text, Copy Plain Text – Jetpack, Copy As Plain Text and Copy Pure Text. All of these, more or less, offer similar functionality as expected i.e. copy plain text. Copy Pure Text stands out for me as it also preserves the New Line characters.

Copy Pure Text
Copy Pure Text

Easily create link for current page in various formats

If you are a blogger or even otherwise if you frequently need to create (and copy) links in various formats like plain text, HTML, markdown, mediaWiki and use either Chrome or Firefox, then this tip is for you.

Create Link for Chrome

If you’re using Chrome, you need to install Create Link extension for chrome and you’re done! Just right click on the web page or hyperlink for which you need to create a link and select Create Link menu. Click the format of your choice and your link is ready to be pasted.

Create Link for Chrome
Create Link for Chrome

Alternatively, you may use the Create Link button in the Chrome toolbar. The toolbar button offers same options to create the link but also give you access to more configurations. The existing options are completely configurable and you may add more options if you want. For e.g. I changed default HTML option by adding title and target attributes as shown below

Default HTML Code

<a href="%url%">%htmlEscapedText%</a>

Modified HTML Code

<a title="%title%" href="%url%" target="_blank">%htmlEscapedText%</a>

You can also use a variable called %input% if you want to specify a custom value during link creation. A input box will pop up to get your input at the time of link creation.

Make Link for Firefox

Above extension for Chrome is actually inspired from Firefox extension called Make Link. Basic functionality is mostly similar to Create Link for Chrome. It also offers a rather useful but experimental feature to create links with the shortened URL. You can use a variable called %tinyurl% to do the same. But in my tests it did not work for me on Firefox 25.0.1.

Colt is another option worth looking at which offers advance functionality like conditional statements which could be very useful in controlling the link output.

Search Google Drive files easily from Chrome and Firefox

If you are a lot into Google Drive and use either Chrome or Firefox, then this tip is for you.

Search Google Drive files from Chrome

If you’re using Chrome, we have a couple of options here. Install Google Drive Quick Search extension for chrome. Once the installation is complete and extension is ready to use, just type drive in the address bar and hit TAB key. Now you can enter what you want to search for.

If you don’t like extensions, alternatively you can follow these simple steps:

  • Right click on the Chrome address bar.
  • Choose Edit Search Engine… from the menu options. This will open the settings page for Search Engines in Chrome.
  • Alternatively you may directly enter chrome://settings/searchEngines in the address bar and skip above steps.
  • Scroll down to “Other search engines” and add a new search engine.
  • Enter “Google Drive” as the name for your search engine or whatever you would like to call it, “drive” as the keyword you’ll type for activating search (again your choice) and URL as https://drive.google.com/?hl=en&tab=bo#search/%s
  • Now you’re ready to use new search module. Enter your keyword “drive”, hit TAB key and enter your search term.
Google Drive Files Search for Chrome
Google Drive Files Search for Chrome
Search Google Drive files from Firefox

For Firefox too there is an extension called “Google Drive Files Search”. Install Google Drive Files Search using Firefox and click Add to Firefox. This will add a new search engine module to Firefox. Howevere, for quick access from the address bar, you need to do the following:

  • Go to Manage Search Engines… from the search box drop down menu.
  • Select newly added module “Google Drive” and click Edit Keyword….
  • Enter a keyword of your choice say “drive”.
  • Click OK to close both the dialogs.
  • Go to Firefox address bar and enter “drive”, SPACE followed by the search term.