Get the Most Out of Firefox: Adding New Search Engines to the Search Bar
Now that Firefox 1.0 has been released, I thought that now might be a good time for a series of posts on how to get the most out of Firefox — tips and tricks that can help you use that browser to its fullest potential. There’s so many neat things you can do with Firefox that I’d be remiss if I didn’t share a few of the best with you.
The first of these will be on the subject of turning Firefox into a Web searching powerhouse, customized for your needs.
One of the things most people like most about Firefox is the built-in search bar. It’s located in the top right corner of the Firefox window:
(I’ve highlighted the search bar in the image above within an orange box.)
By default, it’s set to search Google — which means that you don’t need an add-on Google Toolbar like you do with IE to get handy integrated search; it comes right with the browser. Pretty nice.
But! If all you ever do with the search bar is search Google, you’re only scratching the surface of what it can do. Let me show you what I mean.
Open Firefox and mouse up to the search bar, as if you were going to click in there to type a search term. Instead, though, click on the little Google logo to the left of the search field, and you’ll get an interesting drop down menu:
Check this out! Yahoo, Amazon, eBay, Dictionary.com… what do these mean?
This is the cool part about Firefox’s search bar: unlike the Google Toolbar, it’s not tied to a specific search engine. It can be adapted to search just about any site on the Internet — right from your search bar.
Let’s say I want to see if Amazon has any books or movies named “firefox”. I just select “Amazon.com” from that drop-down menu, and then use the search bar just as I normally would (type my search term in and press “Enter”). Instead of getting a list of results from Google, though, I get this:
First result: the DVD of Clint Eastwood’s 1982 action movie, “Firefox”. Just what I was looking for!
It works just the same for eBay, Yahoo, or any of the other sites in the menu — just click the site logo to get the drop-down menu, switch to the site you want to search, then type your search term(s) in and press “Enter”. Presto, you are there!
OK, that’s level one. Are you ready for level two?
What happens if you want to search a site other than the ones listed in the drop-down menu? No problem! See the entry at the bottom of the menu labeled “Add Engines”? You’re not limited to just searching the sites in the menu — it’s easy to add new sites to Firefox’s search bar. Usually all it takes is one click! Here’s how to do it.
That drop-down menu is really a list of what Firefox calls “search plugins”. Those are little bits of computer code that tell Firefox how to search a specific site. Firefox comes with the ones we saw earlier, but adding new plugins is a snap when you get to know the place to look — Mycroft.
Mycroft is the central repository for all search plugins for Firefox. Regular people just like you write plugins for sites they like, and share them with the world by submitting them to Mycroft. Once Mycroft publishes them, any Firefox user can install them and start using them right away, absolutely free. As of right now, there are more than 1,200 search plugins available on Mycroft for your use! That’s 1,200 sites that you can search from your Firefox search bar.
How do you get a plugin from Mycroft installed into Firefox? It’s literally a one-click process. Use the Mycroft site to find the plugin for the site you like — you can either browse their directory or search for the site’s name. Once you’ve found it, just click the name of the site on the page and Firefox will ask you if it’s OK to install the search plugin for that site:
Just click “OK” and Firefox will do the rest. The next time you start Firefox, that site will be in the drop-down menu on your search bar.
That’s all there is to it! Once you’ve spent a little time with Mycroft, you will find plugins for most of the major sites you like, turning Firefox into a browser that can speedily search those sites without you even having to go to them. This powerful search capability is one of the key features that makes Firefox 1.0 the best browser in the world today.
UPDATE: I have fixed up the screen shots, by popular demand 🙂 Sorry they were so lo-res before.