Web browsers include predefined lists of search engines, but you can easily add your own favorites. Even search engines that don’t offer search plugins can be added with a few tricks, whether you’re using Firefox, Google Chrome, or Internet Explorer.
Mozilla Firefox has an easy-to-use extension that can add any search box on the web, while Chrome has some built-in tools. Internet Explorer users have it the hardest, and need to rely on a third-party web form.
Here’s how it’s supposed to work on Firefox: You visit a search engine, and use the search box’s menu to add the search engine.
However, this only works if the website exposes a search provider. Some search engines don’t.
The easiest way to add a custom search engine is with the Add to Search Bar add-on. After installing the add-on and restarting Firefox, you can right-click inside a search form on any page and select Add to Search Bar.
Your custom search engine will appear in the drop-down list. The extension allows you to set a custom name and favicon for the search engine, too.
Google Chrome makes this pretty easy. First, visit the search engine you want to add and perform any search in it.
Next, right-click the location bar and select Edit search engines.
Hover over the search engine you want to use and select Make Default. If you’ve been using Chrome for a while, you’ll probably find a long list of search engines here.
The Keyword field, which you can modify, allows you to search using a specific search engine. For example, if I typed “howtogeek.com web browser” into the location bar and pressed Enter, Chrome would search How-To Geek for articles about web browsers. You can shorten these keywords to make searching websites faster – for example, change the keyword to htg and you can type “htg web browser” to search How-To Geek more quickly.
If the website doesn’t appear in the list, you can try adding it yourself. Perform a search on the website for a query like TEST, then copy and paste the address of the search page into the URL field, replacing the TEST query in the URL with %s.
For example, when you search DuckDuckGo for TEST, you get the following address:
Therefore, the address you need to add is:
Internet Explorer used to support a Firefox-style method of adding search providers from websites, but it appears this feature was removed in Internet Explorer 9. Instead, open the address bar menu (click the down arrow next to the magnifying glass) and click the Add button to add search providers.
You’ll be taken to a page of pre-defined search providers, which you can easily add. Unfortunately, the website only contains a few search providers.
Microsoft’s IE add-on gallery website previously contained a feature that allowed you to create your own custom search providers, but it appears this has also been removed. Instead, try this third-party IE Search Provider Builder Tool, which works similarly.
Follow the instructions on the page to create your custom search provider and add it. You’ll need to visit your search engine, search for the word “TEST”, copy the address of the search results page from the address bar, and paste it into the box on the page.
Click the Install button and your new search provider will be installed. The tool will automatically select the appropriate favicon.
This tool creates an OpenSearch XML file. You could write it yourself by hand, but that would be more time-consuming.
Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.
- Published 05/17/12