Maximize your search behavior in Firefox

I though I’d share with you how you can really enhance your web searching by customizing the built-in search in Firefox, and perform more defined searching. If you aren’t aware of it, you have the possibility to add a lot more search engines to the Firefox search bar; a list of very interesting search engine add-ons can be found in the Search Engines web page.

Naturally, using the mouse to select the search field and a search engine is just tedious as well as strenuous, so let me provide the shortcuts you need to make your life easier:

  • Ctrl/Cmd + K to set focus to the search field.
  • Ctrl/Cmd + arrow up/arrow down to change between installed search engines (focus has to be set to the search field first).
  • Alt/Option + arrow up/arrow down to display the list of installed search engines and then arrow up/arrow down followed by Enter to choose one of them (focus has to be set to the search field first).

You might find the search field to be too narrow, but that can easily be adjusted to your preferred width (however, I personally really think this should be an options setting). Another option is the Searchbar Autosizer extension, which automatically expands the search field as you type, if needed.

Happy searching!


  • Although I already knew the shortcuts – thanks a lot for the link to the Autosizer extension. I immediately installed it, and it's really very practical.

  • What I'd really love to see is an extension (I doubt it'll come standard) of the search behaviour Flock introduced. (See: flock_search.png)

    It's rather tedious for a power user to need to use three different locations for searching through either your bookmarks, history or the web.

  • Yannick says:

    Thanks Robert I never knew about those keyboard shortcuts.

  • You can also use:

    Ctrl+L to focus the addressbar (and do google "I'm feeling lucky searches") by just typing in a keyword.

    Alt+Home to go to your startpage (if set to google the field gets marked and you can serach right away)

    I prefer to use the real google instead of the serachbar, don't know why πŸ™‚

  • Martin S. says:

    Ctrl+E actually works in firefox too, for focusing the search field. Thanks for the toggling commands though!

  • Igor Jelen says:

    Actually, you can perform any kind of search using the addressbar. For instance type google + space + your keyword. You can even add any search engine to addressbar, adding links and modifying their properties in your Quick Searches folder in Bookmarks.

    I'm searching my links by typing d + space + keyword.

  • Robert Nyman says:

    SilentWarrior, Yannick,

    You're welcome!


    Personally, I hardly use favorites anymore, but absolutely, a search through history would be nice.


    Yes, they are good ones, but I prefer <code>alt + d</code> for setting focus to the address bar.

    Martin S,

    Thanks, I didn't know that!


    Absolutely. However, personally I prefer using the dedicated search field for it.

  • Gustaf says:

    I prefer Igor's method too πŸ™‚

    I simply open up a new tab — <code>Ctrl+T</code> — and issue "g <term here>" to seach google (or similar for other fields). I find it easier toouse this when you search many different search engines.. and less "clicky" than to set focus to the serch field with <code>Alt+E</code> and opeing the results in a new tab with <code>Alt+Enter</code> πŸ˜›

    It's also easier to add search engines and stuff this way! πŸ™‚

  • Robert Nyman says:


    Ha ha, that’s what happens if one types too fast! πŸ™‚
    Naturally it’s alt + enter and nothing else.

  • Robert Nyman says:


    Thanks for mentioning the tip <code>alt + e</code> for opening up your search in new tab, I forgot that one in the post.

  • Gustaf says:

    No probs. But it's actually <code>Alt+Enter</code> that opens the results in a new tab πŸ™‚

  • Authoring a search plugin is pretty straightforward too. Nick wanted one for Digital Web Magazine, so after researching it for a bit on Mycroft I put one together. The only constraint is your search engine must accept GET requests. For anyone that is interested in how I did it, the DWM search page, the source code to the plugin, and the JavaScript installer are at:

    You will also need a 16×16 pixel icon in GIF or PNG format. The only tricky part is that in the markup that is produced by your search engine (not the plugin!), you will need some sort of markers that delineate the begin and end of the results, and each result item. Typically this is done with HTML comments. In our case this was easy since we use Smarty templates, so all I had to do was edit the template and then add the matching markers to the plugin source.

    It works great. Now you can locate any Digital Web article from the archives using keywords and your Mozilla/Firefox/Netscape search bar. Hint: try “dynamic“. πŸ˜‰

  • Robert Nyman says:


    That is very very cool! I'm all aroused now! πŸ˜€

    Thanks for sharing!

    Oh, and when do I get to write for Digital Web Magazine? πŸ˜‰

  • Anyone can write an article for Digital Web, you certainly have the qualifications. Contact me and I will get you in touch with Nick the publisher.

  • Funny, Joey over at the Tucows developer blog just published part 1 of Writing Custom Search Plugins for Firefox and Safari.

    I was not aware that Safari supported Mycroft (Sherlock) search plugins. Can some kind OS X user please confirm my Digital Web plugin works?

    Thank you!

  • Robert Nyman says:


    Thanks, I'll be in touch! πŸ™‚

    Personally I don't have a Mac, and don't have access to one for the moment. I'll check around…

  • Robert Nyman says:


    I checked around, and it doesn't seem to work in Safari. This might be because of the web browser detection you use.

  • Thanks Robert (Rob?), I will look into it.

  • Robert Nyman says:


    Rob is fine, if it makes you happy! πŸ™‚

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