The Firefox 3 “awesome bar” generally does a good job of finding the web page you want when you start typing into it. With its ability to look into your history, go to a URL, or trigger a search of the web, it offers multiple avenues to get to where you want to go. But it can still be improved. If you find yourself navigating around the web on a frequent basis (and what web worker doesn’t?) here are a selection of ways to supercharge your searching.
Inquisitor started life as a Safari add-on, but Yahoo! has ported it to Firefox now. This add-on brings a dropdown area to Firefox’s own search box, including word completion, tracking of your search history, and easy access to Flickr and Wikipedia searches. It will show you sites you’ve already visited with a flag that tells you how often you’ve been there. By default, Inquisitor uses Yahoo’s search engine, but you can use its preferences to switch this to Google if you like (and to turn off its default behavior of sending information on your searches back to Yahoo).
CyberSearch adds additional searching capabilities straight to the awesome bar itself. After installing it, you’ll see Google results along with your history in the awesome bar dropdown whenever you start typing. It also supports search prefixes in the awesome bar: start your typing with “gblog”, for example, and it will restrict the search to Google’s Blog Search.
Ubiquity is Firefox’s own experimental general command interface. Pressing a shortcut brings up the Ubiquity command window, which includes support for general searching as well as multiple special searches such as Wikipedia. Ubiquity is smart about dealing with partial searches and pre-fetching information as you type, making it easy to narrow down a search to the information that you’re looking for.
There are plenty of other ways to enhance Firefox searching, but these three are the ones that have stood the test of time for me. What makes them work? I think in each case the preview is a big part of the story. Being able to see the first part of a page before visiting, assuming you have sufficient bandwidth to support pre-fetching, helps make your web use faster and smarter. Saving a few seconds on every search adds up, both in actual time saved and in not having to get out of a flow state when you’re hunting information.