Smart Searching with Keywords From the Firefox Address Bar

Whenever I install a Firefox on a new computer I always make sure to change the default search engine from Google to Startpage; Startpage is a search engine which requests data from Google’s search engine on your behalf, meaning your IP address is never disclosed to the big G; consequently the big G cannot attribute any searches you have made on Startpage to you. For this reason, using Startpage as my default search engine is a part of my standard install of Firefox.

Whenever I want to search something on Startpage, then, all that is necessary is to type my search query in the Firefox URL bar and press enter; the query is then submitted to Startpage and I get my results back in seconds.

Startpage Search

Sometimes, though, I don’t always want to search for something on Startpage. Some days I may be searching for something on Twitter, Ebay, or Wikipedia. Instead of typing my query into the URL bar and searching via Starpage I can instead use a nifty feature baked into Mozilla called keyword search.

Keyword search allows you to specify a search engine in the URL bar to use, thereby allowing you to search Twitter or practically any site from the comfort of the URL bar.

  1. Go to Edit > Preferences > Search > One-click Search Engines
  2. Double click any of the engines under the “Keyword” column
  3. Type “@[keyword]” where keyword is a short, unique mnemonic
One-click Search Engines

Great, now you’ve got a keyword set up! But how can you add more search engines than what are already there? There are a few ways to acheive this: you can (1) browse the Mozilla add-ons and look for your prefered search engine; however many sites are not listed here.

In this case, (2) you will need to navigate to the page you are interested in creating a search for and right-click on the search bar. Then select “Add a keyword for this search”, which will open a dialog box where you can specify the keyword. Be sure to prefix the keyword with an “@” or similar symbol!

Adding a custom search

Now you can enter “@[keyword] [query]” into the URL bar to search that search box as if you typed “[query]” directly! It’s an extremely helpful tool and has kept me more focused on the task at hand rather than sifting through my default search engine’s (sometimes irrelevent) results. It’s far easier to go straight to the source and cut out the middle-man (i.e. the search engine).

The only downside to (2) is that the keyword is not added to your “one-click search engines” like those you download as an add-on; instead, Firefox saves this engine in your bookmarks. My best advice is this: create a folder in your bookmarks for all your keyword-enabled search engines; this lets you manage your engines a little easier.