Creating Firefox smart keywords for quick access to frequently-used translation glossaries, dictionaries, resources, etc.

The Search bar

imageThe Firefox Search bar is a convenient method for accessing search sites without first having to visit the site’s home page and locating the search field.

So, instead of heading to, 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

imageYou can also add a search engine directly from the page you are visiting if the site’s publisher has made this feature available.

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 website.

Adding specific search engines

imageThe Firefox Search bar comes pre-loaded with Google, Yahoo, Amazon, eBay,, 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”

image 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:

Click on the URL bar, or, better, enter it by using the appropriate shortcut, Ctrl-L
Type the keyword for the search engine, followed by your query, for instance “dm motore”, no matter what page you’re on. Hit Enter. image
Bang! you’re taken to the results page of your query on the search engine corresponding to the keyword, no questions asked, no clicks involved. image

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:

First, build a sample search by going to the IATE page and by setting your specific options. Click on the screenshot to the right to see how I set the options for my specific purpose. You can change the language combinations and sectors to your own preference.

Once all the desired options are in place, right-click on the “Search term” field and choose the option Add a Keyword for this Search… image
In the window that appears, type a descriptive name for this search in the “Name” field, and an easy-to-remember keyword in the Keyword field. Also, choose where you want to keep the relevant bookmark in the “Create in” field. Perhaps it’s a good idea to keep all the keyword searches in a separate folder in the bookmark structure. Press “Add” to confirm your choice. image
Time to test the search. Go to the URL bar (Ctrl-L), type the keyword (in this case “iatemec”), followed by the term. Then press enter. image
Bang! The list of results, relevant to the options (language combination, domain) that you have specified during the one-time creation of the search keyword.
This works particularly well for websites that insist you choose a plethora of options to narrow down your results every time you get to the initial search mask.

Published by Roberto Savelli

English to Italian translator, translation technology enthusiast.

Join the Conversation


  1. Excellent! I had forgotten about the keywords during searches using the Search Bar. Maybe we can now think of using an Autohotkey macro to select a term during the translation process and go directly to the search engine of choice inclusive of other options (such as direction of translation, field, etc.) too!

  2. Hey there just wanted to give you a quick heads up and let you
    know a few of the pictures aren’t loading
    properly. I’m not sure why but I think its a linking issue.
    I’ve tried it in two different internet browsers and both show the same outcome.

    Also visit my webpage :: sex gnorimies andres

  3. You really make it seem so easy with your presentation but
    I find this matter to be really something that I think I would
    never understand. It seems too complex and very broad for me.
    I’m looking forward for your next post, I will try to get the hang of it!

    My website :: 6pm coupon

  4. s? podatne zademonstrowa? pe?nia propozycji ?lubnych, wspólnie
    spo?ród niejawnymi, je?li rozliczaj? i? awansowanie si? na nie dostarczy
    im realn? pociech?. Istniej? wydatnie osch?e tudzie? gdyby racja wspó?czesne mog? omota? – srogie.
    W 4 celownikach na 5 zrozumiale przeciwniki post?powaniem praw do zarobionego dworu.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *