Interclue: get instant link previews in Firefox

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Interclue is a free Firefox extension that displays information whenever you hover on a link in Firefox, including a visual preview of what the linked page contains, extra information and action buttons, and warnings about dead links, malware, and/or phishing sites.

First off let me admit that initially I wasn’t sold on the idea of a tool that displays previews of linked pages or web content, since (a) putting together such a preview involves downloading data from the page being previewed and using up that bandwidth anyway, and (b) the web in my view suffers from informational overload as it is, and I saw no reason to cram the page that I am surfing with content from other pages as well.

Which is why I was somewhat surprised that, in practice, Interclue actually made for an interesting surfing experience. I found this to be especially true in sites that reference a lot of links in the text whereby I could take a quick peek into these links without interrupting my reading of the article. In reading my favorite political blogs, for example, I am able to hover over the links to see the sources and pages that they are referencing quickly in a setting where the source really matters (e.g. I can find out quickly if the links are referencing the New York Times or the Washington Post or The Wall Street Journal, etc.) Or sometimes blogs (like this one) have “latest comments” sections on the main page, an Interclue can be very useful in quickly revealing the posting where the comment was made without having to click into it; it’s much more intuitive than trying to trying to read the URL in the browser’s status bar to figure this information out.

Interclue comments previewsAnother interesting use are links that are common in blogs or review sites such as “20 Comments” or “Read all 50 reviews”, in that Interclue can give you an instant glimpse of these from within the page you are surfing without going into the new page. I got particularly excited about this one because it seemed so useful; unfortunately, however, Interclue seems to only load a small segment of this content with no way to tell it to go ahead and grab more (I emailed the developers about this and got a response within 2 hours, and it may be an issue with my system). Here are more notes on this software:

  • How it works: hover over a link for a few milliseconds and little icons appear next to it that will display the interclue
  • Previews sites and media: aside from getting a preview of the site that the link refers to you can also view videos, PDFs, etc.
  • The clueviewer: i,.e. the little popup window that appears can be set to be always open/always on top if you like. It is also infinitely customizable, with the ability to add or remove the information being displayed (stats, thumbnails, etc) as well as the embedded buttons (functions) that are available. There is myriad of available functions to choose from.
  • My favorite functions: open in a new tab, open in a new background tab, copy link to clipboard, bookmark link (my tastes are simple). I also like the Delicious tag and bookmark info that it displays for any link being previewed (insofar as this is good info to know for my own site and posts).
  • Other functions: automatic jumping between links using arrow buttons, bookmarking and social bookmarking functions such as Stumbleupon, Digg, etc. where you can Stumble or Digg the link being previewed. (While in theory this seems cool I wonder if in practice someone is likely to Digg or Stumble a page without actually visiting it first). More functions: email or print the content of the clueviewer (the latter did not work for me), and
  • Does not work on all links: some Javascript links are not preview-able, and some links to sites do no work occasionally or show a blank preview, although in general these are few and far between.
  • Customizability: every aspect of this program is customizable, from the choice of buttons/functions to embed into the clueviewer to the number of words to download in the preview, what size thumbnails to load, etc.
  • Resources needed: seems to be CPU intensive from what I read about it. In general I would recommend using this if (a) you have a fairly good machine in terms of resources, and (b) if you have broadband, as I cannot imagine how this will work on dial-up or slow internet connections.

The verdict: two days after installing this I notice that my surfing habits have changed somewhat in that (for better or worse) I am much more likely to hover over links and look at Interclue previews for all sorts of links that I probably would have passed over in the past. I am not sure if this is due to the novelty of having this tool or if this pattern will persist – we’ll see!

The question in the end is whether something like Interclue helps save time by quickly delivering relevant information that otherwise would have required more of the user’s time, or whether, alternately, it simply contributes to increasing the information overload that afflicts all of us. My feeling so far is that it is probably the former; but don’t take my word for it, try it out for yourself and let me know what you think in the comments section.

Version Tested: 1.5.6.1 [checkin 5609]

Compatibility: Multiplatform; requires Firefox v1.5+.

Go to the Interclue page to download and install the latest version (approx 605K).