TL;DR: I made HashMaps, a Chrome Extension to search Google Maps from your address bar.
I was mentoring at the Yelp Yackathon a couple of weeks back. It was a fantastically well organized event, shout out to Risa and the rest of the Yelp team! It was held at Notman House. If you do tech things in Montreal, and you don’t know about this Victorian-looking “Home of the Web in Montreal”, well, then, you should. It’s a fantastic place, and they keep having developer events like the monthly Montreal Ruby meetup, or miscellaneous hackathons. I wish we could throw McHacks here, but I doubt the building would be able to house 700 kids. Oh well.
The Yelp yackathon itself was great, like I said, and if you’re interested in reading more about it you should. I was a Program Manager, and that involved helping out Risa with the hackathon. It was a lot of fun to be on the other side of the organizing table for once, and it was a nice warm-up to the 36 hour behemoth that was McHacks. But the point of this too-lengthy introduction is that I was bored on Sunday morning, when the teams I was mentoring were ‘working-from-home’, leaving me with trying to look friendly and approachable and ask-questionable. I decided that I didn’t actually want to work on my Digital Design homework, so I decided that in the spirit of the occasion, I should try to hack on something. I’ve been meaning to learn how to make Chrome Extensions for a while now. Why, you ask?
Because Chrome is awesome, and Chrome Extensions are super useful and because of this post. I regularly use a bunch, they make my life more clutter-free and depressing (in the best way possible). Plus, I’ve been meaning to play around with the Omnibox API ever since I heard about it. The Omnibox is basically the address bar in Chrome, and it’s way more intelligent than the Firefox address bar. Try searching for something like “42: error not found”; Firefox isn’t too smart about it. The central premise of the Omnibox is that everything should be searchable from your address bar.
In keeping with that idea, I made HashMaps. It lets you search Google Maps from your address bar. When I’m looking for directions to a place, it is extremely aggravating to first go to maps.google.com, wait for that heavy website to load, then put in the location, then wait for that to load, then put in the From location, and then wait for that to load as well.
Instead, using HashMaps, what you can do is just type ‘#’ (without quotes obviously) in your address bar, press Tab or Space, and then type in “McGill to Schwartz’s” or something. I let the Google Maps API do the natural language processing, so all the extension does is send input to Google Maps and then render it. No permissions needed, blazing fast response times.
Check it out, let me know what you think!