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Selection of search engine by text in search box


Most search engines now have a search box in the toolbar, which is great, and like most people mine defaults to Google. I can change the engine with a drop down menu to other places, like Amazon, Wikipedia, IMDB, eBay, Yahoo and the like. But that switch is a change in the default, rather than a temporary change -- and I don't want that, I want it to snap back to Google.

However, I've decided I want something even more. I'll make a plea to somebody who knows how to do firefox add-ons to make a plug-in so I can chose my search engine with some text in the query I type. In other words, if I go to the box (which defaults to Google) I could type "w: foobar" to search Wikipedia, and "e: foobar" to search eBay and so on. Google in fact uses a syntax with keyword and colon to trigger special searches, though it tends not to use one letter. If this bothers people, something else like a slash could be used. While it would not be needed, "g: foobar" would search on Google, so "g: w: foobar" would let you search for "w: foobar" on Google. The actual syntax of the prefix string is something the user could set, or it could be offered by the XML that search engine entries are specified with.

Why is this the right answer? It's no accident that Google uses this. They know. Whatever your thoughts on the merits of command line interfaces and GUIs, things often get worse when you try to mix them. Once you have me typing on the keyboard, I should be able to set everything from the keyboard. I should not be forced to move back and forth from keyboard to pointing device if I care to learn the keyboard interface. You can have the GUI for people who don't remember, but don't make it be the only route.

What's odd is that you can do this from the Location bar and not the search bar. In Firefox, go to any search engine, and right click on the search box. Select "Add a Keyword for this Search" and this lets you create a magic bookmark which you can stuff anywhere, whose real purpose is not to be a bookmark, but a keyword you can use to turn your URL box into a search box that is keyword driven.

You don't really even need the search box, which makes me wonder why they did it this way.


Um, this already exists in Firefox, almost exactly as you described it. Check out the Quick Searches directory in your Bookmarks. If you don't have that anymore you can recreate a quick search bookmark with these properties (go to bookmark manager and select New Bookmark):

Name: Search Google
Keyword: google

Then you can type "google stuff" in the location bar to search Google for "stuff". You could change the keyword to just g to make it more like you wanted.

Which I did note (and now use). The question was, why the search box doesn't do this (or why it's even there)

Oh, I see. Good question. I always hide it. There should just be a search bar and if you happen to enter a url it should go directly to that url. Newbies don't get the difference anyway.


Brad - you need yubnub.

yubnub is a command line for the web, with a social twist. (

Grab the FF search engine plugin by searching for "yubnub" on:

Note: the plugin does call back to the server to resolve the shortcode (and while the server is pretty reliable, it does go dark from time to time)

I would find it hard to operate without it - Quicksilver for the web!

In Opera, typing "g foobar" in the location bar does a Google search. Other letters do other searches (but I haven't bothered to learn them).

I have a Quicksilver like quick start program I cobbled together a few years ago, and I recently added a feature like this. It's basically a trivial macro expander, but it really does fill a serious need. It's only been a day or two, but I already have macros for weather, bookfinder, amazon, imdb, orbitz, google, apple support, ebay, wikipedia and the washington state liquor board, and I use them. The orbitz macro takes a city pair and two dates, so it uses a slightly different substitution ($1, $2, instead of $*).

What really helps is that many sites use POST forms, but doing the appropriate GET tends to work as well.

What limits this approach is that many sites require state, specifically cookies and session ids, to do searches. I have another program that handles this with a little scripting language and macros for keychain access, but I am not planning on going for that much power and complexity until I really need it.

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