The Search bar
So, instead of heading to Answers.com, finding the search field, typing the search term and pressing enter, you can stay in any page you are on, click on the Search bar down arrow to select which engine to use (if it’s not already selected), type your search and press enter. The relevant search results will be displayed immediately. It’s worth remembering that the shortcut key for placing the cursor into the Search bar is Ctrl-E or Ctrl-K.
Adding common search engines
In that case, the down arrow will “glow” to show that a search engine can be added. See top-left corner in the screenshot to the right (this is way too subtle for me and I always overlook this information).
In the example, two search engines are “discovered” while visiting the CNN.com website.
Adding specific search engines
The Firefox Search bar comes pre-loaded with Google, Yahoo, Amazon, eBay, Answers.com, and Creative Commons search, but it’s easy to add more by visiting popular resources such as the Firefox Add-ons page or the Mycroft Project. These pages contain very specific search engines such as the ProZ term and glossary search, IATE, etc.
So, what’s the problem with the search engine list?
After adding a dozen or so search engines for useful and fun websites, I noticed that my list started to grow much too long and that it was very impractical to use it by clicking on it and scrolling to the right engine. If you stick to about 5-10 engines, you’ll probably be fine with the standard configuration, but if you use several resources for terminology research while you are translating, you’ll soon realize how frustrating it is to get the mouse, click on the list, remember and then find the right engine for the job, go back to the keyboard, etc.
There must be a better way to accomplish this. Of course there are several extensions, add-ons and utilities that can help you get quick access to your favorite search engines. If you, like me, prefer a minimalist approach to computing and want to avoid having all those tiny utilities sitting in the system tray, eating processor cycles and creating conflicts, you may want to read on.
Adding search engines the “geeky way”
One first helpful feature provided by Firefox is the Keyword option that appears on the right-hand column of the Manage Search Engine List, accessible by clicking on the down arrow on the Search bar and by choosing Manage Search Engines…
Select any search engine in this window, then click the Edit Keyword… button. Then type the keyword you want to use for this specific engine.
In the screenshot to the right I have specified “de” for my online Italian dictionary of choice.
Once you have confirmed and closed the window, you can use the keywords for quick access to these engines, like this:
Firefox offers yet another, perhaps not as widely known way of consulting specific search engines. These engines will not appear in the Search bar, but are still quickly accessible by using custom keywords chosen by the user.
Supposing we want to add a specific IATE search for engineering terms from English to Italian: