Firefox’s AwesomeBar often gives the impression that bookmarks are redundant, since it can make such intelligent guesses as to what sites you want. However, bookmarks can still be useful for tracking useful but less frequently visited sites — and if you use the keyword bookmarks feature, they can let you surf without ever having to touch the mouse.
Keyword bookmarks let you associate a given word or phrase with a site, so instead of typing in ‘lifehacker.com.au’ to visit this site, you could just type ‘lh’, and hit enter. You can access the bar in Firefox by typing Control-L or hitting F6, so that makes it possible to navigate to new sites without taking your hands off the keyboard — just type F6, your bookmark, and hit enter. Let’s look at how to set up this useful but often-ignored feature. (The instructions below are based on Firefox 3.0.8 running on Windows, but the details don’t vary much across other platforms and versions.)
Let’s assume you want to set up the ‘lh’ shortcut as described above. Here’s the steps to follow:
- Go to the site by entering the address into Firefox.
- Create a new bookmark — the fastest way is to type Control-D.
- We want to alter the bookmark’s properties, so type Control-B to access the bookmarks sidebar. (You can also find this under the View –> Sidebar menu option).
- Right-click on your newly-added bookmark and select Properties. A dialog box will pop up.
- In the Keyword field, enter the abbreviation you want to use for the site — in this case,
lh. You can enter anything you want, but shorter phrases will obviously be quicker. The phrases aren’t case sensitive — that is, capital letters and lower case will be treated as identical.
- Perform an example of the kind of search you want, using the word ‘example’ as your search term. For instance, if I wanted to search only on Lifehacker Australia and to exclude posts featuring the word ‘Qantas’, I’d type this into Google:
example site:lifehacker.com.au -qantas
- Bookmark the resulting search page and access its properties (as described above).
- Assign a keyword (we'll use lhs in this case).
- Edit the Location field, replacing the word
examplewith the phrase
- Save the bookmark as normal.
Click Save Changes. That’s it! Test your new bookmark by typing
lh into the AwesomeBar, hit Enter and you should hit the site.
The clever stuff
On their own, keyword bookmarks are really useful, but they gain a whole extra level of flexibility if you can add your own search terms to them. For instance, I regularly use a keyword bookmark to search the Lifehacker site via Google. Here’s how to get that set up. We’ve used Google in this example, but this should work for any site which passes search terms through its URL (that is, the search results page includes the site name, the term you’re looking for and various processing characters).
Now, if you type lhs ipod into Firefox, you'll automatically get a Google search (or whatever site you selected), with the relevant search term added in.
Some extra hints
- For maximum efficiency, choose keyword bookmarks which use adjacent letters on the keyboard but which aren't commonly found in URLs. 'zx' is good; 'er', not so much.
- If you get the keyword bookmarks bug, there are plenty of ways to enhance your use of them. Check out how to make your keyword bookmarks smarter or use them for instant translation.
Lifehacker 101 is a weekly feature covering fundamental techniques that Lifehacker constantly refers to, explaining them step-by-step. Hey, we were all newbies once, right?