Custom Search Engines in Chrome and Firefox

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

Recently I upgraded to a beautiful new iMac, on which I needed to configure my development environment and general workflow preferences. This required a few steps which I haven’t performed in quite some time and, upon doing so, I was reminded of how minor, yet useful many of these simple configurations actually are.

One such configuration involved defining Custom Search Engines in both Chrome and Firefox – a rather nice facility a colleague shared with me a while back. In case you haven’t used them before, Custom Search Engines allow for defining simple and complex search queries which can be easily invoked using a predefined keyword in the Address bar in Firefox or Omnibox in Chrome.

For instance, I use a Custom Search Engine with JIRA for quickly searching tickets, etc. Once set up, searching (by example of JIRA) is as simple as typing in my chosen keyword “t” (for ticket) and entering a ticket number, as can be seen below:
Custom Search Chrome
Custom Search Engine in Chrome

Likewise, in Firefox, typing my Custom Search Engine keyword for JIRA in the Address bar brings up the following prompt:
Custom Search Firefox
Custom Search Engine in Firefox

Defining a Custom Search Engine

Setting up your own Custom Search Engine is simple and straightforward. Doing so in Chrome can be accomplished as follows:

  1. Select the Wrench Icon.
  2. Under Preferences, select “Basics”.
  3. In the Search Section, click on the “Manage Search Engines…” button.
  4. In the “Other Search Engines” Section, add the name of your Search Engine, your search Keyword and the URL of the site you will be using, appending %s to the end in place of the Query.
  5. Once completed, enter the keyword into the Omnibox. You will see the the Name you choose for the Search Engine automatically added. Type a Query, hit Enter, and you are all set.

In Firefox creating a Custom Search Engine is accomplished by specifying a “keyword” when adding a bookmark and, appending the bookmarked URL with %s in place of the Query. This can be done as follows:

  1. From the Menu Bar, select “Bookmarks”.
  2. In the Menu Drop down, select “Show all Bookmarks”.
  3. In the Bookmark Library Dialog, select a folder (e.g. Bookmarks Toolbar).
  4. Click on the Gear Icon in the top left of the Dialog.
  5. From the Drop down, select “New Bookmark…”
  6. Enter the Name of your Bookmark/Custom Search Engine.
  7. In the Location field, enter the URL of the site you will be searching, replacing the query with %s (use existing Search Engines entries as a reference if needed).
  8. In the Keyword field, enter an arbitrary keyword of your choosing.
  9. Click “Add”
  10. Enter the keyword followed by your query in the Address Bar. You will see the Name you choose for the Search Engine automatically added in the History Dropdown. Hit Enter, and you are all set.

And thats basically all there is to it. Simple, quick and useful.

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