Stupid URL Tricks

Below is a small collection of simple tips and tricks you can use just by manually editing the URL in your browser's address bar. How to access the address bar depends on whatever combination of browser and operating system you happen to be using, but pressing <Alt+D> is a good bet, or try <F6> a few times until focus toggles round to the address bar. If all else fails, I suppose you could click the mouse on the URL currently displayed in the address bar, but where's the fun in that? Anyways, here they are. I hope you find them useful.

Please note that the bare URLs below will open a new browser window when you click on them. This is merely to demonstrate what happens when the URLs are activated and to make it easier to add them to your bookmarks (or “favourites”, if you insist).

Dropbox

The URL below points to a file in my Dropbox that contains a portrait of Yours Truly. If you click on it, your browser will automatically display it.

https://dl.dropbox.com/u/7894087/portrait.png

But what if I wanted you to save a copy of the file on your computer? To override your browser's default behaviour, all I have to do is add ?dl=1 to the end of the URL like so:

https://dl.dropbox.com/u/7894087/portrait.png?dl=1

Now, when you click on the (slightly modified) link above, your browser will prompt you to save the file.

GitHub

Here's one for all you programmers. If you don't have a GitHub account and you want to download an entire repository, but the author has thoughtlessly failed to include a link to a zip file, all you have to do is append /zipball/master/ to the URL. For instance:

https://github.com/adampash/texter

should be changed to:

https://github.com/adampash/texter/zipball/master/

and your browser will prompt you to save the zip file containing the latest repository of Adam Pash's Texter. Although this is a bad example because there is a link to a zip file on this project page.

Gmail

Need to know if a particular Gmail username is available, but don't want to trek over to the website every time you want to look it up? Now you don't have to, thanks to this obscure Search Engine Roundtable story from May, 2004. Save this URL:

https://www.google.com/accounts/CheckAvailability?Email=username

as a bookmark, replacing username with the username you want to check the availability of.

This makes it much easier to periodically check if your desired Gmail username has become available, or—better yet—to set up a recurring task on a service like IFTTT to do the checking for you.

Google

Wherever you happen to find yourself, there's a Google near you. If you were in Paris for the weekend and you typed http://www.google.com into the address bar, you'd be redirected to http://www.google.fr. But what if you needed to go to google.com? Pas de problem! There's a link to google.com at the bottom of every regional Google's home page.

Ah, but what if you were an Irish economic migrant in Australia homesick for the Auld Sod? How could you point your browser at google.ie without it being sent straight back to google.com.au? Simple! (Knowing how is the hard part.) Just add ncr (no country return) to the end of Google Ireland's URL. The whole thing should read:

http://www.google.ie/ncr

Your browser will stick with Google Ireland from now on. For information on customising Google Search URLs, read Google Websearch Parameters.

YouTube

YouTube URLs can be easily shortened by hand. Start with the URL of a typical YouTube page such as:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=50oHbQAG1fc

which plays a time lapse video of Europe's longest foot bridge being dismantled in October, 2011.

Select the string of letters and numbers after the equals sign (50oHbQAG1fc) and copy it to the clipboard. Next, type http://youtu.be/ into your email client or text editor or whatever application you happen to be using, and paste the string onto the end, leaving you with:

http://youtu.be/50oHbQAG1fc

And you're done! You might also be interested in 10 YouTube URL Tricks You Should Know About.

If you know of any URL tricks not mentioned here, please leave a comment. The best submissions will be included in future updates of this post.

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