The search box in Firefox is a handy tool for finding information, but if (like most of us), you're using it to access Google, you may not get quite the results you expect. Here's how to fix your Firefox for a more Australian emphasis.
If you've never bothered using the search box, you're definitely missing out. Click in the box (it's on the right-hand side of the address bar) and type a search term. Click on the magnifying glass, and you'll automatically get results for that search from Google. You can speed the process up by using the keyboard: type Control-K or Control-E to access the search box, type your term and then press enter.
You can use a variety of search engines by clicking on the drop-down list to the right of the box (and add more if you wish via Firefox's add-ons function), but the default option is Google, and that's what most people tend to use.
However, when you perform a search using the search box, the query goes via Google's main site, which is aimed at US users. Google's local site, google.com.au, gives different results, based on the search habits of Australians. If you type google.com into a PC connected to an Australian ISP, you're automatically redirected to the Australian site.
Does that matter? It partly depends on the subject you're researching. For instance, if you type 'Melbourne' as a search term, both the US and Australian sites mostly return results about Victoria's capital city:
However, the American site does include flight schedules for Melbourne, Florida on the first page:
Similarly, if you search for 'cricket' via the Australian site, the entire first page is dedicated to leather-on-willow, including up-to-date match scores:
From the search box, the second result is for US mobile broadband provider Cricket Wireless, and there's no scores in sight:
Note that this is not the same as choosing the 'pages from Australia' option from Google's left-hand column (which used to appear as a front-page option before Google's recent redesign). A general search will include pages from around the web, but the priority will be different depending on your location. That is one of the limitations of the search box though -- a search conducted from there won't include the 'pages from Australia' option.
Despite this limitation, this split can be quite useful -- you can use the search box for generalised searches and then type google.com.au (or google.com) into the address bar when you want a more localised search. However, if you'd prefer a purely local search experience, you can modify Firefox so that the search box delivers Australia-centric results.
The fix is pretty simple: just visit the Mycroft Project site, and click on the link labelled 'Google AU -- the Web'. (The link labelled 'Google AU - pages from Australia' will add a search box option purely for Australian pages, should you find that useful.) Click on 'Add' in the dialog box that appears; you can also select 'Start using it right away' if you want this to be your main search.
You can now choose between the general Google search and the Google Australia search by clicking on the drop-down menu, depending on circumstances.
This is only an issue in Firefox, by the way: Internet Explorer 8, Chrome and Safari all send queries via Google's Australian server when you use their search box. (The same Mycroft site might be useful if you want to change that behaviour, however.)
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