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.
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.
In Firefox, you can go the same process by creating a Smart Keyword—just right-click on any search box on a website, select “Add a Keyword for this Search,” and type in something you’ll know you’ll remember. Then, when you type that keyword and a search term into your browser’s address bar, you’ll search on that site directly.
You can also add search tools via extensions, which then populate as tiny icons in the “This time, search with” field that appears at the bottom of the window whenever you start typing something into Firefox’s address bar.
If you need a little help thinking about new search engines you can incorporate into your browser, we’re here to help. 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
Ever do a search on Google, but come up with a bunch of old pages that aren’t relevant anymore? If you want to limit your search to a specific time—like, say, the past year’s worth of contents—try this link (use “%s” as your wildcard for whatever it is you’re trying to find):
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, too. For example, Wikipedia has a list of episodes for nearly every TV show in existence. So, you can create a custom search just for TV shows with something like this (%s being the wildcard character you enter):
Give this search a keyword, like “ep,” then type a phrase like
ep The Simpsons in your address bar to get a list of all the show’s episodes right away.
You can also do the same for music albums, if you use this URL for your custom search:
You could adapt any other “series” of pages on Wikipedia with this same concept, which could be all sorts of useful depending on what you typically look up on the service.
Get driving directions to an address via Google Maps
This one’s easy. Just use this URL for your custom search (using “%s” as your wildcard entry):
my+home+address with your actual home (or work, or whatever) address. Give the search a keyword like
maps home, then type
maps 123 main street in your address bar to get immediate directions to 123 Main Street from wherever you live.
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 (like Lifehacker)
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 this 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. It’s the ultimate wildcard approach.
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. It’s also worth mentioning that you can still use custom search engines to search any site you want: IMDB, YouTube, Wikipedia, Lifehacker, or anything else you can think of. For example:
Look up words in a Dictionary or Thesaurus
Dictionary.com and Thesaurus.com are extremely useful tools (if you’re too lazy to type define:yourword into Google.com, that is). To look up a word in a dictionary, just use:
And to look it up in a thesaurus, use:
Translate words on Google
Google Translate is a great tool if you’re learning a new language, and you can set up a custom search engine to make it easier to search. 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 languages you want.
Automatically “Feel Lucky” on Google
If you know your search term will reveal a certain page, or you just want to risk it, Google’s “I’m Feeling Lucky” is useful to have as a keyword. Just use this URL:
Find out if a website is down for the count
One of our favorite websites, Down For Everyone Or Just Me, has but one purpose: telling you if a website is down for the world, or if there’s just something wrong with your setup. To test that for a specific site, try this custom search engine:
Did we miss anything?
If you have any custom search engines you absolutely love, let us know in the comments! We’ll gladly feature your submissions in a future update.