Quick access to local offline reference docs



Through a simple key-binding (shift+ctrl+d) I can quickly launch or focus reference documentation (using devdocs).

Quick open reference docs after pressing a key-binding


So, how are we going to do this?

  1. We're going to install some software to facilitate the mechanics: wmctrl, nativefier and devdocs
  2. We're going to write a bash script that launches or focuses the devdocs
  3. We're going to bind the bash script to a key-binding

(nb: This guide was tested on Ubuntu 18.04)

Installing software

🛃 Installing wmctrl (1 of 3)

What's wmctrl and why do we need it?

$ man wmctrl
   wmctrl - interact with a EWMH/NetWM > compatible X Window Manager.
   wmctrl  is  a  command that can be used to interact with an X Window manager that is compatible with the EWMH/NetWM specification.  wmctrl can query the window manager for information, and it can request that certain window management actions be taken.

We'll use wmctrl to check if our API reference application is running, and focus on it. If it's not running, we'll start it. wmctrl is easily installed on Ubuntu through the package manager:

# Installs wmctrl
sudo apt install wmctrl

💡 Installing nativefier (2 of 3)

Nativefier is a tool to make a native wrapper for any web page. We'll use it to get a local version of DevDocs installed, in case we're ever without Wi-fi.

It's quite easy to install, just run the following npm command to install it as a global dependency:

# Install nativefier globally
npm install nativefier -g

📖 Installing devdocs (3 of 3)

This is the actual documentation tool we'll be using. You can insert your own if you like.

We'll use nativefier to install a local version of DevDocs:

# Create software folder
mkdir ~/Software && cd ~/Software

# Generate local electron version of devdocs
nativefier --name "DevDocs" "https://devdocs.io/"

We also want to have a .desktop file installed, so we can launch the application and save it in our favorites sidebar:

echo "[Desktop Entry]" \
   "Type=Application" \
   "Terminal=false" \
   "Exec=/home/<your-username>/Software/dev-docs-linux-x64/dev-docs" \
   "Name=DevDocs" > \
   "# Icon=/path-to-optional-icon.png" \
   > ~/.local/share/applications/devdocs.desktop

(If you're having an issue with adding the application to your favorites in a later stage, add the following to this file: StartupWMClass=dev-docs-nativefier-49fe5b. Where dev-docs-nativefier-49fe5b is the name you see when you hover over the running app icon in your application bar).

Action time

🚀 Implementing the launch script

# Create a folder to store our script
mkdir ~/bin

# Create launch/focus script
echo "#!/bin/bash" \
   (wmctrl -l | grep -q DevDocs) && wmctrl -a DevDocs || gtk-launch devdocs" \
   > `~/bin/devdocs.sh`

# Make the script executable for the user
chmod u+x ~/bin/devdocs.sh

What exactly does this script do? Let's break it down:

  • (wmctrl -l | grep -q DevDocs): List all applications and find DevDocs
  • wmctrl -a DevDocs: If found, focus on application DevDocs
  • gtk-launch devdocs if not found, launch application devdocs

⌨️ Adding key-binding

Adding the key-binding is easy in Ubuntu, go to Settings -> Keyboard and hit the + icon to add a new key-binding:

Quickly configure key-binding

🎇 That's it!

Test your key-binding by hitting shift+ctrl+d (or your chosen binding). The devdocs application should launch, and if it's already running it should focus when using the key-binding.

If you want to run all of the above commands in one go, use the following gist:

bash <(curl -s https://gist.githubusercontent.com/flipflopsandrice/07d84567f4197ef253055066669078b3/raw/6976125db4d5b7b22ba69e5ed3206be223f1ea68/install-devdocs.sh)

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