Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Deleting Yahoo! Messenger Malware

And a Few More General Firefox Tips

I installed Yahoo! Messenger yesterday. I uninstalled it today. It made changes to my browsing experience in Firefox that I wasn't happy with at all.

1. It installed the Yahoo! toolbar into my browser, giving me easy access to a bunch of programs I don't use (the Yahoo! search engine, Yahoo! mail, etc.). This isn't the most inconvenient thing in the world, but it does reduce the amount of visible space available in the browsing window. More than that, though, it's just sneaky and intrusive.

2. It added the Yahoo! search engine to the search box (in the upper right corner of Firefox) and gave it top billing, bumping Google down into second place. Google's search engine is far superior to Yahoo's, so this change was annoying.

3. It hijacked the location bar in Firefox such that, when I typed in a word (as opposed to a URL) into the location bar, I was taken to the Yahoo! search results for the entered term. It used to be that if I typed in "Gmail" and hit enter, I'd be taken to Gmail's website. Same with Hotmail, Amazon, eBay, Wikipedia, IMDB, Google, and so on. But after the Yahoo-ification of my browser, if I typed in "Gmail" and hit enter, I was taken to Yahoo's search results page.

I didn't expect or desire any of these changes, and I doubt I'll ever use any Yahoo! software again. Instead of Yahoo! messenger, I'll use Trillian. The basic version is free, and is fine for chatting with people using any other popular IM software. The $25 professional version also supports video chat.

In any event, in case any of you are wondering how to de-Yahoo-ify your Firefox, here's how to do it. (We're talking Windows here.)

1. Run "Add or Remove Programs" from your control panel, and individually uninstall each Yahoo! application. I think there were four of them, but I didn't make any notes while doing this.

2. To get rid of the Yahoo! Toolbar, click on the little pencil icon in the toolbar and choose "Uninstall." If for some reason that doesn't work, click on the "Tools" drop-down menu in Firefox and select "Extensions." Find the Yahoo! Toolbar extension and click "Uninstall."

3. To get rid of the Yahoo! search engine in the search box, go into C:\Program Files\Mozilla Firefox\ (or whatever installation directory you used for Firefox), then go into the searchplugins folder, and delete Yahoo.gif and Yahoo.src.

4. To stop Firefox from returning Yahoo! search results when you type terms into the location bar, type "about:config" in the location bar, then type "keyword" in the Filter field. Double-click on "keyword.URL", and then copy & paste "http://www.google.com/search?btnI=I%27m+Feeling+Lucky&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&q=" into the dialogue box (without the quotes). Presto. This will make Firefox take you directly to Hotmail when you type "Hotmail" (and so on) instead of taking you to Yahoo's search results. (It is actually taking you to the "I'm Feeling Lucky" search result from Google.)

While we're fiddling around with Firefox, here are a few more tips.

Using the Search Box

You can add new search box plugins from Mozilla's products page. Instead of going to Wikipedia's page and doing a search from there, you can simply search Wikipedia using the search box in your browser. Same with Merriam-Webster, IMDB, eBay, and more. I used to use this feature fairly often before I discovered Firefox keywords, which make searches even easier. (See the section on keywords below.)

If you want to change the order in which the different search engines appear in the search box drop-down menu, type "about:config" in the location bar, then type "browser.search.order" in the filter. The rest is self-explanatory -- just change the values to reflect your preferences.

Using Keywords

Keywords are customizable shortcuts you can type into the location bar to take you to a specified webpage. They work through Firefox's bookmark feature. When you bookmark a page, you can choose "Manage bookmarks" from the Bookmarks pull-down menu, right-click on a bookmark, select "Properties," and enter a short string of characters to act as the keyword for that page.

Let's use this blog as an example. Let's say you want to be able to visit the blog just by typing "mt" into the location bar and hitting enter. Just bookmark the blog and then enter "mt" under Properties-->keyword. Now whenever you type "mt" into the location bar and hit enter, it will take you to http://maurile.blogspot.com/.

The cool thing is that, since you can use any URL you want as the referent for a keyword, you can use keywords to do any search you'd otherwise do from the search bar, plus many more.

Here are some of the ones I've got:

Google Groups search (gg):
Google Video search (gv):
Wikipedia search (wiki):
Bible verse lookup (bible):

Many more can be found at Leaky Tap.

The characters in parentheses above are the keywords and the corresponding URL's are their referents. So if I type "gv kournikova" into the location bar and hit enter, I get the Google Video search results for "kournikova". Pretty nifty, eh?

The Most Useful Extensions

I don't need to write much here because Paul Phillips has already done all the work. I'll just note that BugMeNot has saved me many hours' worth of filling out forms (since I have to read articles in countless different online newspapers for my work at Footballguys). And StumbleUpon, even though I've given it only a limited amount of feedback, does a surprisingly good job of pointing me to websites that I find cool and interesting.


Blogger Jayce said...

I could have written the same blog about a month ago, only it wasn't firefox that I ws using (though I am now after reading the PP blog).

My main annoyance was with Yahoo having the cursor "jump" to the Yahoo search engine box after I would start typing something in the Google box or the address bar.

1:58 PM  

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