The Easiest Way to Shorten URLs

We all come across situations where a URL is just a little bit too long.  OK, that may not be true, but anyone who has used Twitter (follow me on Twitter!) knows that every character counts, so being able to shorten a 73 character URL into a 25 character URL is essential.  The most popular service for shortening URLs is TinyURL.com.  And while TinyURL is simple and easy to use, it could be quicker and easier.  So I gave it some thought, and came up with the easiest way to use FireFox to shorten URLs using TinyURL, without a plugin.

Adding a keyword searchThe way we’re going to do this is by using FireFox’s KeyWord Search Bookmarks.  This feature isn’t necessarily designed for this task, but it works a treat. This feature is designed to allow you to easily search any field that has a search feature.  Essentially, you “bookmark” the search field, give it a keyword, and then  use that keyword to search the site.  It’s very simple, very quick, and works very smoothly.

The first thing we’re going to do is head over to www.tinyurl.com and locate the field that you type the URL into.  Then, right click on the field and choose the “Add a Keyword For This Search…” option.

Adding a Keyword Bookmark SearchUpon choosing this option you will be presented with a dialogue box to add options for the Book Mark.  One of the fields is titled “Keyword”.  This is the term you will use to trigger the Book Mark, so choose wisely.  I’ve chosen “tu” for TinyURL.  Note that it’s the “Keyword” and not the “Name” that is used.  Save the Book Mark to a convenient location and you’re done.

If you want to shorten a URL, all you have to do is add a “tu ” (remember the space) to the start of the URL in your address bar, like below.

Shortening URL Address Bar

A shortened URL through TinyURLHit return and you’ll be whisked off to a page containing your new, shortened, URL.  Conveniently the URL is automagically added to your clipboard, so all you have to do is paste it where ever it’s needed.  The beauty of this solution is that it’s incredibly easy to shorten the URL of the current page, just add your keyword to the start of the URL and hit return.  I can’t think of an easier way of shortening URLs without a plugin or bookmarklet, can you?

If you want to find out two more ways to use the FireFox address bar, see the post 2 FireFox URL Tricks.