Tweaking Firefox Browser Search

Firefox is my primary browser now.  I was becoming weary of the integration that Google seemed to be bringing to its Chrome browser.  Integration is great but I felt as though more and more of the things I was doing were for Google’s benefit rather than my own.  My switch to Firefox involved shifting my passwords offline, among other things.

One thing that I found irritating was the default search setup in Firefox.  I liked the omnibox in Google Chrome.  You can achieve the same thing in Firefox by typing a question mark first in the location bar but the additional search box seemed superfluous.  Also, I like a bit more control over my search, with Google in particular, since I do not like to have my results skewed by previous searches.  I’ve written about depersonalizing search before but this was a new challenge.

The first thing I did was to grab the Omnibar add-on for Firefox.  It enables hiding the separate search box and leaves you with just the location bar for both search and addresses.  Otherwise, it leaves your preferred search engines alone.

Firefox Omnibar search engine listing.  Click on the search engine to see this menu and choose Manage Search Engines... to edit the list.
Firefox Omnibar search engine listing. Click on the search engine to see this menu and choose Manage Search Engines… to edit the list.

One of the first things I do when I get a new browser is to delete all but the Google search engine.  I don’t really use any others although I will occasionally save a particular site’s search.  You can manage your Firefox searches in the Omnibar by selecting the current engine (it’s name will appear) and clicking Manage Search Engines from the pop up menu that appears.

There are a couple of ways to add a search in Firefox.  First, go to the Firefox search extensions and add oneMycroft is another good source.  Second, when you are at a site, and it has a search box, click on the current engine and, instead of clicking Manage Search Engines, select Add …, which should be the search on the page you’re looking at.

But Google is still a problem.  When you are logged in to your Google account and do a search, it presumes you want your personalized results.  I don’t.  But there is no way to save Google search to the list with the extra switches I like (including pws=0, which turns off personalization).  I ended up using to create exactly what I wanted.  You can create a custom search for any site you want and include your own parameters.

Customize open search plugin so that Google returns de-personalized results
Customize open search plugin so that Google returns de-personalized results

You can see what I put in for my plugin.  Once I created it, the screen refreshed and I could click on a link that said install.  That added the search to my Firefox omnibar and I could then remove the original plain vanilla Google search.  Another one I use is to force the results to be verbatim, Google’s replacement for the old mandatory keyword “+”:

This can be faster than running the search, and then applying the Verbatim filter under the Search Tools options.

They are minor things but getting them in order makes my search activity faster.  Customizing the search plugin means that I can cut down on doing on-the-fly customizations.  I can always undo them from the Google search interface if I decide I want to.

David Whelan

I improve information access and lead information teams. My books on finding information and managing it and practicing law using cloud computing reflect my interest in information management, technology, law practice, and legal research. I've been a library director in Canada and the US, as well as directing the American Bar Association's Legal Technology Resource Center. I speak and write frequently on information, technology, law library, and law practice issues.