Firefox Feature: Search Engine Box

Brenden Schaaf / June 2, 2009

Search box screenshot from my laptop showing all of the sites I can search quickly from within the Firefox toolbar
Search box screenshot from my laptop showing all of the sites I can search quickly from within the Firefox toolbar

One of the most useful features of Firefox that first drew me to using that as my browser of choice was the customizable search box built into the toolbar at the top right of the screen.  Prior to my discovery of Firefox, I was an Internet Explorer user but I had to have Google Toolbar installed to have search available at my fingertips.  Later releases of Internet Explorer, by the way, have added a search box similar to the one found in Firefox.

While the Google Toolbar worked great if Google was what I wanted to use (as it was, and is, 80% of the time), what if I wanted to search another site?  Firefox solved this problem by not only including several other default search engines in its search box, but by also making it possible for nearly anyone to develop add-ons to the search box for websites of any sort.

Many of the more popular sites can be added to your search box by selecting “Manage Search Engines” from the bottom of the list of sites you already have installed (see bottom item in the image at right) and finding the desired search engine at the Firefox Add-ons site, but that list is limited.

Enter the Mycroft Project site.  This site’s sole reason for existence is to provide a repository of search engine plug-ins that can be easily installed in Firefox (and other browsers including Internet Explorer in some cases).  In fact, the Mycroft Project site itself can be added to your search box so whenever you have a site that you find you search frequently you can type the name of that site into the search box and see if anyone else has created a search plug-in for that site.

Say, for example, that you frequently enter tracking numbers at the FedEx website and you want to search Mycroft for a FedEx plug-in.  Simply choose Mycroft Project as your default search provider, type in “FedEx” and hit enter.  You will be taken to a results page that shows that there are three available plug-ins for FedEx — choose any or all of these and they are quickly added to your list of search engines and now you can do your searching in one step.

Incidentally, things like FedEx and UPS tracking numbers can be typed directly into Google as well and link to the real-time tracing will be presented within the Google results, but that is not the case for most sites you may use frequently (although Google often seems to know what I’m thinking before I do it seems).

Now if only the folks over at Xmarks could sync up my search engine plug-in list between all the different computers I used.  I’m sure given time it will happen, but for now my only frustration is not remembering to add a given search plug-in to each different Firefox installation.  Complaining about that, though, is kind of like complaining that microwave popcorn is taking too long to cook.

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