If you want to be a master web worker, you’ve got to know how to find what you want online. Make your browser search better by learning its native capabilities, customizing it for your needs, and installing extensions tailored to how you work.
1. Learn basic Location Bar and Search Bar capabilities, with the keyboard shortcuts.
Type some search terms into the Location Bar and Firefox 2 will do a Google Browse by Name search for you. This is like a cross between an “I’m feeling lucky” search and a regular Google search. If there’s a specific match for your search (like if you type in “Web Worker Daily”) you’ll be taken right to that page. Otherwise, you’ll get a page of Google search results.
Or, select a search engine in the Search Bar, add your search terms, hit Enter, and you’ll get results from your selected Search Engine.
Ctrl/Cmd + L Go to Location Bar (F6 also works)
Ctrl/Cmd + K Go to Search Bar
Ctrl/Cmd + Down Next engine in search bar
Ctrl/Cmd + Up Previous engine in search bar
2. Use predefined keyword searches.
Keyword searches allow you to launch a search with a specific search engine right in the Location Bar using a keyword of your choosing. Some keywords already come ready to use:
- google – Google Search
- dict – Dictionary look up
- quote – Google Search with stocks: operator
- wp – Wikipedia
3. Add your own keyword searches.
You can add your own too. Browse to a site that does a search you want, right mouse-click on the search field that the site offers, and choose “Add a keyword for this search.” Give a name That creates a local bookmark to the search with the keyword of your choice. Here are a couple searches I’ve added:
- gb – Google blog search
- book – Amazon book search
- syn – Thesaurus.com search for synonyms
4. Optimize your Search Bar size.
If you use it a lot, you can make it bigger. If you don’t use it at all, you can remove it entirely. Either change requires modifying the userChrome.css file, where you can tweak the layout and look of your Firefox installation.
To make it bigger, add this to the userChrome.css file:
width: 400px !important;
max-width: 400px !important;
To hide it entirely, add this:
Why might you want to hide it entirely? Because you can do every search you want from the Location Bar. Use keyword searches that work from the location bar. Then all you do is go to the Location Bar (Cmd/Ctrl + L or F6), use the keyword search of your choice, and dispense with the rigmarole of choosing a search engine in the Search Bar. I find it easier to do most things from the location bar.
However, if you want to use Google search operators like “site:” or “define:” you might prefer the Search Engine Bar for that. The Location Bar can get confused by them if you put them first in your search terms.
5. Add new search engines to the Search Bar.
If you do like the Search Bar, you can add new search engines to it. You can add anything from eBay to Wikipedia to YouTube. Browse to Mycroft to see what’s available.
What if the site you want isn’t listed? Install the Add to Search Bar Firefox add-on then right mouse click on the search box for the site you want to add to your Search Bar. For example, you can add a Web Worker Daily search to your search engine bar.
You can also add custom searches over multiple websites, by defining them using Google Co-op search, then right mouse clicking in the search engine box on your new search engine’s home page.
6. Remove cruft and add good stuff to Google search results.
The CustomizeGoogle add-on makes your Google searches better by removing cruft like ads and spammy websites while adding in valuable stuff like links to your bookmark manager, to other search engines, and to the Wayback Machine Internet archive. Plus, it can add search term completion suggestions into the search box on the Google page, something that’s already available in the Firefox Search Bar.
This add-on also fixes up your other Google stuff like removing spam count from Gmail.
7. Access your Search Bar engines from the Location Bar.
If you don’t like creating search keywords via bookmarks, you can install the SearchWords add-on and attach keywords to search engines you’ve installed in the Search Bar.
8. Use your mouse to scroll through search engines faster.
Install the Scroll Search Engines add-on, and then you can scroll your mouse to change to a different search engine. You can also use the mouse to scroll through search engines when you right mouse click on a selection and use the context menu to search using that selection for the search terms.
9. Install a Google Reader custom search.
If you read news with Google Reader, you might want to be able to search just the sites you’re subscribed to. You can use Google Co-op custom search to set up a custom search engine over your subscriptions then integrate search and results display into GReader using this Greasemonkey script. Or, you could just add your new custom search engine into your Search Bar (see tip 5).
Unfortunately, you’ll have to update your custom search engine every time you add and remove RSS subscriptions if you want it to stay in sync.
10. Add thumbnail previews to major search engine results.
The BetterSearch add-on gives you web page previews of your search results for Google, MSN Search, Yahoo Search, del.icio.us, and more. Though thumbnail previews can be really annoying on regular old web pages, they’re highly useful on search page results, preventing you from wasting any more time on spammy or irrelevant pages.
Share your own tips for powering up Firefox search in the comments.