Desktop Widgets: search


[Update – 2009.10.05: This post (3. Widgets) is one of three. See also: 1. Service, 2. Clients.]

The newly launched OpenSearch web service (which I’ll discuss in a separate post) is an interface that provides distributed access to search on the platform. Specifically, the interface allows for structured queries from remote clients as well as for structured responses, and implements two compatible industry standards for search: OpenSearch and SRU (Search and Retrieval via URL)

As a practical demonstration of this distributed access we have developed a search desktop widget which is a small standalone app that runs on a user’s desktop and interacts with the OpenSearch server by sending a simple URL request and receiving in response a regular RSS feed. This URL request closely mirrors the request strings in the OpenSearch URL templates that are now being linked to from a growing number of our web pages.

The actual parameter set used in the query makes up a complete SRU request and the response from the OpenSearch server is a full SRU response which is hosted on an SRU extension format – here, RSS. Technically speaking, the widget is an SRU client and OpenSearch is an SRU server.

The real value add, though, in the present widget/server exchange over and above the simple URL template interface commonly used by OpenSearch clients lies in the query language that it uses. This is CQL – the Contextual Query Language – which is a standards-based means for expressing queries and enables both keyword and fielded searches. The widget opens with a simple search input box (see A in the figure below) which allows for regular OpenSearch-style keyword searches. But click the forms icon to the right (circled in the figure) and a drop-down form appears (see B in the figure below) with the full search interface. You can now query based on any of the usual citation elements: title, author, date, volume, issue or page. Or if the DOI is known that can be used directly. Note that by default searches are run across the entire journal collection, although individual journal titles can be selected (and remembered) as a user preference by clicking the ‘i‘ icon at bottom right of the form at B.


You can also preview the actual CQL query that is sent to the server by peeking under the form using the peelback icon at bottom left in the form at B.

This widget is available in two separate flavours:

  • Apple Dashboard (for Mac)
  • Yahoo! Widget (for PC and Mac)

To introduce the widget better we have uploaded a short (4 min) screencast to YouTube which demonstrates some of the basic features.

Many thanks to Andrew Mee at Nature Publishing Group who developed both of these packages and produced the screencast.

Further information about these widgets and download details are available on our widgets page at:

We hope you enjoy using these widgets. Send any comments or feedback to


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