Custom search engines are one of the coolest features of any modern browser. With just a few keystrokes, you can search Wikipedia right from your address bar, do a custom Google search for Lifehacker articles, or even get driving directions to a specific location. Here are five searches you should enable right now.
These custom searches are very easy to set up. In Chrome, just right-click on the address bar and choose "Edit Search Engines". You can edit existing ones or add your own, giving them a name, URL and a keyword that you'll type to initiate the search (like the example of
lh above. Firefox users just need to create a bookmark with the necessary name, URL, and keyword, and it'll work like a custom search engine when you type that keyword into your browser. See the video above for an example of how this works.
Of course, there are some obvious uses for this, but we asked you what your favourite clever searches were and you responded with some great ones! Here are five that just about everyone can (and should) use to make their life easier.
Search For Pages Within The Past Year On Google
I have found with Google, especially when I search for tech-related things (Linux), I get a lot of out-of-date results. If I am searching to see if someone else is having trouble with CUPS, I don't care what was happening in Ubuntu 11.04. So, I added this as my default search in Chrome:
It searches for results in the past year, giving me recent, relevant results.
You can do this with any time frame you want, like one month, two month, or two years, as we've noted before.
Search Wikipedia For TV Episodes Or Music Albums
Searching Wikipedia with a custom search engine is easy, but Wikipedia has a lot of cool stuff built-in that you can take advantage of, too. For example, Wikipedia has a list of episodes for just about every TV show out there. So, you can create a custom search just for TV shows with:
Give it a keyword (like
ep), then just type
ep doctor who in your address bar to get a list of Doctor Who episodes right away.
Reader txhoudini took it a step further and created a similar search for music albums:
OK, the TV show trick just blew my mind. This is probably 20 per cent of my Wikipedia searches. I tried this:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special:Search?search=%s+discographyAnd sure enough, this works for a list of a bands albums. Oh man, I am going to have fun with this.
You could adapt any other "series" of pages on Wikipedia with this same concept, which could be all sorts of useful.
Get Driving Directions To An Address
Reader ustice shared a bunch, but one of the ones we liked best was the ability to get driving directions from your house to any location. Just use this as the URL:
my+home+address with your actual home (or work, or whatever) address. Give it a keyword like
maps, then type
maps 123 main street in your address bar to get immediate directions to 123 Main Street.
We've actually shared this one before, along with a number of other address bar "tricks" (that aren't exactly search, but are still insanely useful). Check out our guide to doing anything with your address bar for more fun, similar uses of custom search engines.
Search Whatever Site You're Currently Viewing
So you've set up searches for your favourite sites, but what if you discover a blog and you want to search its archives for something specific? Instead of setting up a custom site search for that blog right then and there, you can use a custom search engine that just searches your current domain:
Give it a keyword like
cd, then run it like you would any other search. Go to a site, then type
cd windows 8 into the address bar, and you'll get results from that site pertaining to Windows 8.
Search Any Site You Can Think Of -- Besides The Obvious Ones
Most of the above searches use clever URL tricks that you might not have thought of yourself. However, it's also worth mentioning that you can still use this for just plain searching on any site you want: IMDB, YouTube, Wikipedia, Lifehacker, or anything else you can think of. Here are some of the more clever ones:
Look up words in a Dictionary or Thesaurus: Dictionary.com and Thesaurus.com are extremely useful. To look up a word in a dictionary, just use:
And to look it up in a thesaurus, use:
Translate words: A few of you mentioned using Google Translate, which is great if you're learning a new language. To do so, create a search with the URL:
This translates a word in another language to English, though you can tweak the
auto|en part to fit whatever you want.
Use "I'm Feeling Lucky" on Google: If you know your search term will reveal a certain page, Google's "I'm Feeling Lucky" is useful to have as a keyword. Just use this URL:
Find out if a site is down: ustice recommended a custom search for Down For Everyone Or Just Me that checks if a URL is down. You can use the URL
If you use that, you can use it right after you visit the site. Say you visit Lifehacker and its down. You can just go to the address bar, type your keyword, and press Enter. Your browser will search for the current domain on Down For Everyone or Just Me so you can see whether the site's having problems.
Okay, so that probably ended up being a bit more than five, but these five general ideas can spawn all kinds of awesome uses for this feature. There are a lot of other great ideas out there, too -- these are just a few of the best you guys shared with us. Check out the discussions on our original poll for more, and play around with your favourite sites and see what you can come up with. Armed with a few of these, you can reduce a lot of the typing you do day in and day out.