Quick searches in Firefox (ENG)

This article has been originally published in Italian (here). Feedbacks on content and translation are appreciated. Contributions are welcome. The original article must be considered the reference in case of updates.

There it is again! My beloved fox (or panda, or March Hare, or whatever it is :-)) must be used up to the smallest hair of its flaming fur on the cry of “Productivity! Efficiency! Velocity! Moar beer!“. Last part might seem out of place, but it’s not so much.

After the boatload of “about”, known or less known, seen some time ago, it’s time to go into the nitty-gritty of the search engines on Firefox.


Firefox: search bar

My “case study” will be my typical usage while I struggle to write a post like this: I usually need Google and DuckDuckGo (generic search), Wikipedia (references and further reading) and YouTube for embedded videos. Assuming I am looking for a video, the best choice would be to address the query to Youtube itself (Efficiency! Speed!) rather than making a less targeted research, that might somewhere return an useful result.

No need to head to Youtube home page: everything can be done by the search bar or even by the address bar. Firefox, properly “trained”, will take care to take us to the results page.

Search engines and “key words”

Method 1: search bar, add-ons page and a “trick


Firefox: adding a new search engine

The search bar can be used either to select or add search engines. I still miss the YouTube video search, and this is a real threat to my productivity! An easy way to add the feature is to visit the page and open the dropdown menu: an item at the bottom will let you add the search option to the list.

Unfortunately not all websites “expose” the search engine addition: if that’s the case you’d better go to Firefox add-ons page and search if the specific search engine is available.

If the search bar goes bananas (for example YouTube wouldn’t let me add the its search under Linux, spitting out some kind of error message), here comes the trick! All the search engines added after installation are actually .xml files placed in searchplugins folder under Firefox user profile folder (source: Mozillazine).

Win XP: C:\Documents and Settings\<user>\Application Data\Mozilla\Firefox\Profiles\<profile>\searchplugins

Win Vista/7: C:\Users\<user>\AppData\Roaming\Mozilla\Firefox\Profiles\<profile>\searchplugins

10/01/2012  14.05             1.982 duckduckgo-ssl.xml
13/09/2013  14.14             2.055 ricerca-video-di-youtube.xml

Linux: /home/<user>/.mozilla/firefox/<profile>/searchplugins/

If the “easy” way fails, just copy the relevant .xml file from somewhere else (even a different computer/OS) and place it in the right folder, then restart Firefox to see the new item added to the list.


Firefox: Manage search engine list

A quick access to available search engines (that is: do not click on the search bar and select the engine each time), go to “Manage search engine list…” at the end of the dropdown.

In the dialog window that pops open we might also sort the items from the most to the least used, delete the unwanted ones (“Oh, look, there’s Bing” – “No more…”) and access the add-ons section I mentioned before.

Select a search engine and click on “Edit keyword…” (Modifica parola chiave in Italian). We are about to assign a keyword, even a single character, to each item. It has to precede the search terms to specify to instruct the browser on which page the search has to be made. As you can see in the picture I have chosen easy to remember keywords (“gg” for Google, “wk” for Wikipedia and so on): even with a much longer list it wouldn’t be hard to recall the proper keyword.


Firefox: Elenco motori di ricerca

The strong point of this function is that it is not used from the search bar but straight from the address bar. Setting keyword “yt” for  YouTube, for example, I just need to type “yt ludicrous speed” to jump in the search results on Youtube home page.


Firefox: Keyword setting

Hopefully you can see that the default search engine is completely ignored: a faster action without click – select – search any more.


Firefox: search results

Once you assign a keyword to all of your search engines, basically you can even get rid of the search bar!

Method 2: “Special” bookmarks

Another way to immediately launch a specific search uses nothing else than the bookmarks. (source: Firefox support – How to search from the address bar and Mozillazine – Keyword searches). Even more than the previous tip, this trick makes the search bar as useful as sunglasses in a dark night.

Quickly: open the page where you want to make the search (let me go on with the Youtube case) and right-click on its the search box. Select the “Add a keyword…” item in the menu. Basically, it’s the same principle of the previous tip, although here the keyword matches a bookmark instead of one of the listed search engines.


Firefox: Special bookmarks – add

Then you are getting the usual dialog window for bookmarks, where you’ll type in the chosen keyword. The usage is the same, too: keywords must be prepended to the search terms in the address bar and there you go! There’s actually a “Quick searches” folder within the bookmarks list, containing default entries for Google and Wikipedia.


Firefox: Adding “special” bookmark

Fun fact: I noticed the feature while (of course!) I was sifting through several search results 😉 to complete this post. Actually it’s an even easier method, compared to the first one, guaranteed not to be affected by casual weirdness (like the Linux vs. Youtube stuff cited before). Moreover, search bar might be removed, leaving room for more used buttons.

And, what about beer? I just typed “ddg miglior birra” (“best beer”) and Foxy promptly went hunting:

ric_ff_6HERE IT IS!

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