The built-in search bar in your browser makes it easy to find what you want without needing to type in addresses, but you don't have to stick with the standard option that's built in. Change your default provider to make your browser faster and more useful.
Picture by denverjeffrey
For experienced users (like many Lifehacker readers), setting the default search provider might seem like a trivially simply task. However, the fact that many people clearly don't even know how to use the address bar properly suggests that a quick primer might still be useful, especially in the Lifehacker 101 context. I've covered the four browsers -- Firefox, IE, Chrome and Safari -- which collectively account for virtually all Lifehacker's visitors. (Of these, Firefox accounts for about half, and it's certainly the option I'd recommend.)
In most of these browsers, the search bar sits in the top right hand corner. Click there (or use the appropriate keyboard shortcut), type in a term and hit Enter, and you'll immediately get results. In every case except IE, the default will be Google. While you might well be happy with that, if you regularly use another search engine for reasons of privacy or efficiency, making it the default can be more useful.
The techniques discussed below tell you how to change which site is used to get those default search bar results --- the methods (for Windows) are similar in each browser, but not identical. Firefox, IE and Chrome will all let you specify virtually any site; Safari gives you a not-very-wide choice of Google or Yahoo!.
Unless you've installed other add-ons, the default search engine used in Firefox's searches will be Google. However, if you click on the small Google icon next to the search bar, you can select from others. Once you've chosen another provider, it will remain the default option until you make a different choice. If there's no other options there, or you want to add a new site, select 'Manage Search Engines' and pick a new choice.
To change IE's default setting, click on the drop-down next to the magnifying class in the top right corner and select 'Manage Search Providers' from the bottom. Right-click on your preferred provider in the list and select 'Set As Default'. If the provider you want isn't there, click on 'Find more search providers'. Unlike Firefox, IE doesn't remember if you switch providers by picking them from the main drop-down list -- the next time you relaunch, it will revert to the default.
As noted above, in its native state Safari offers you just two search choices (Google or Yahoo!) and no way of adding others. You can choose which one is the default by clicking on the cog at the right-hand side, selecting 'Preferences' and choosing under 'Default search engine'.
Chrome doesn't use a separate search bar -- to find something, you type the term into the main address bar and hit enter. Unsurprisingly, this defaults to Google, but you can change it to another site. Click on the wrench (on the right-hand side) and select Options. Under Basics, find the Default search section and click Manage. Select the provider you'd prefer, and click on Make Default, then Close.
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?