How to search faster and more efficiently with Firefox (and Chrome/Opera)

Implementing technologies in environments that are always changing often generates doubts and challenges for us consultants. Of course you can ask your colleagues, but they are not always free and sometimes they just don't know the answer.  So most of the time we are relying on the Internet to find tutorials or people who met the same problems before and explain how they have solved them. Therefore being able to search fast and efficiently makes our lives easier. Fortunately, some of the modern browsers (who said IE6?) give us this possibility. I will now give three main tips to improve the way you search the internet - if you don't have much time, jump directly to the 3rd tip, which is the most effective one.

This article focuses on Firefox, but alternative browsers are mentioned as well.

Tip n°1: add search engines to your browser (Firefox, Internet Explorer, Chrome, Opera and Safari).

On Firefox you can see the search engine box on the top-right corner of your window.

If you click on the symbol on the left (here the Google icon), you will see a list of all the search engines you have already installed, plus an option to manage search engines. One of the best options available to look for new search engines (at least for Firefox, IE and Chrome) is the Mycroft project: http://mycroft.mozdev.org/

 

For example, if we search what are the search engines corresponding to SAP, then we find (unter section 6. Computer) the following:

Just click on one of them, and confirm that you want to use it as a new search engine.

You can now do searches based on this search engine.

 

Tip n°2: assign keywords to your search engines (Firefox, Chrome and Opera).

Assigning keywords to your search engines is quite easy. Open the "Manage Search Engine List" window, select the search engine of your choice, click on "Edit Keyword..." and just enter a keyword - and it is better if you make it short, for example "g" for Google and "w" for Wikipedia.

 

Once you've done this, you do not need to manually select the search engine anymore! Go to the address bar (remember the Ctrl+L shortcut), and simply type the keyword for the chosen search engine, followed by the searched term. Example: "g rapid mart" if you want to look for rapid marts on Google, or "w SAP" if you want to look at the SAP Wikipedia page.

 

Tip n°3: use bookmarks with the %s variable (Firefox, Chrome and Opera)

The search engines feature has many advantages, but also some clear limitations.

The most obvious is that not every website has an associated search engine, like for example the very useful Business Objects Board.

The second limitation is due to the nature of search engines - they're rather browser-specific, and the process of backing them up / restoring them is not always straightforward.

Fortunately, there is an even better solution which combines all the advantages of the search engines with the flexibility of the bookmarks. The solution simply consists in using "%s" in the URL of a bookmark.

Let's take a simple example: you are often using the excellent WordReference.com to translate from English to Italian and backwards. If you open the website, type the word "printer", choose "English-Italian" and press Enter, you get on the page "http://www.wordreference.com/enit/printer". Now create a new bookmark, but replace the "printer" in the URL with "%s". You end up having a new URL "http://www.wordreference.com/enit/%s". Assign a keyword to this bookmark - for example en_it. Now if you type "en_it printer" in your address bar (once again remember Ctrl+L), you are taken to the same page.

The huge advantage of bookmarks is that they can be synchronized rather easily, be it with Firefox Sync or Xmarks.

Here is a list of some of the bookmarks I use almost every day, with URL and possible keyword. Don't hesitate on using them!

  • Acronym Finder (acro) http://www.acronymfinder.com/~/search/af.aspx?pid=osearch&string=exact&acronym=%s
  • Business Objects Board (bob) http://www.google.com/search?name=f&hl=en&q=site%3Ahttp%3A%2F%2Fforumtopics.com%2Fbusobj%2F%20%s
  • Cambridge Britsh English Dictionary (dicoen) http://dictionary.cambridge.org/search/british/?q=%s
  • Google Images (img) http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=%s&um=1&ie=UTF-8&tbm=isch&source=og&sa=N&tab=wi
  • Google Maps (maps) http://maps.google.com/maps?q=%s
  • Google US (ge) http://www.google.com/search?name=f&hl=en&q=%s
  • Google France (gf) http://www.google.fr/search?q=%s
  • Wikipedia English (we) http://en.wikipedia.org/?search=%s
  • Wikipedia French (wf) http://fr.wikipedia.org/?search=%s
  • SAP Notes (sapnote) https://service.sap.com/sap/support/notes/%s?nlang=E

If you have any further tips, or if you feel a useful bookmark is missing from my list, share it with us on a comment below!