I know that 90 percent of Mozilla Firefox (download it for Windows or Mac) users who read this post will think I'm nuts. I can hear you now: "I love my Firefox search engines! How will I search Amazon?!"

Well, I love my search engines, too, but that silly Search box in the Firefox toolbar simply takes up too much room for my liking, especially because you can use all of the functionality of your favorite search engines directly from the Firefox location bar (also called the "address bar" by people like me). I'll show you how.

If you prefer an address bar that goes all the way to the right side of the interface, listen up. It's simple to use Firefox "Quick Searches" in the location bar to eliminate the need for the Search box entirely. By default, Firefox installs with four Quick Search links already in your bookmarks: Google, Wikipedia, Dictionary.com, and Urban Dictionary.

Try it out. Type "wp pee-wee herman" into your regular address bar, hit Enter, and you'll be taken to a special search page on Wikipedia for "Pee-wee Herman" that will automatically direct you to the Wikipedia page for Paul Reubens, with no Search box necessary.

The real trick to killing your Search box is transforming all of your installed engines into Firefox Quick Searches. There are several ways to accomplish the feat, but I'll detail the two most common. After that, removing the actual Search box is a snap.

First method

Firefox add-keyword-search menu
Right-clicking in any Search box allows you to \'Add a keyword for this search...\' (Credit: Mozilla Firefox)

The first technique for changing all of your search engines into Quick Searches is the most reliable, but it takes a bit more effort than the second. Start out by visiting the Web site of the first search engine on your list. Let's use the ubiquitous Internet Movie Database Engine (IMDB) as an example.

On the IMDB home page, find the Search box, and use the drop-down menu next to it to set the type of search you want (titles, names, characters, or "all"). Then right-click in the empty search field and select "Add a keyword for this search" from the context menu. An "Add bookmark" dialog will appear. Name your Quick Search (e.g. "IMDB search") and select your keyword.

I prefer the shortest keywords possible that are easy enough to remember, so I use "im" for IMDB. Decide where you want to save your new search bookmark, and hit "OK."

From this point on, in order to search IMDB, you'll only need to type in "IM " into your location bar. Give it a try.

Process all of your search engines in this same fashion, creating Quick Searches for each. When you're done, you can kiss that Search box good-bye.

Second method

Firefox Bookmark Properties
The Bookmark Properties menu lets you add Quick Searches manually. (Credit: Mozilla Firefox)

The second technique for converting search engines into Quick Searches accomplishes the same goal as the first, but it utilizes that pesky Search box while you've still got it around.

First, select Bookmarks -> Organize Bookmarks to open your bookmarks directory. Then go back to your open Firefox browser window. It's easiest to sit those two windows side by side.

Start with the first search engine in your Search box. For me, it's CNET Download.com. Type in "s" as your search term, and you'll be taken to this Download.com search result for "s." The URL in the address bar looks like this:


You see that "qt=s" in the URL? That's your search string. In order to change it to a quick search, all you need to do is change the search term to "%s". If you're searching for "s" already, all you have to do is add a percentage sign before it. The Quick Search URL will look like this:


Copy that URL and go back to your Bookmarks window. Select any of the bookmarks in the Quick Searches folder, and hit "New Bookmark." In the ensuing dialog window, add the name of the search ("Download.com search"); the "Location," which is the URL above (http://www.download.com/3120-20_4-0.html?tag=srch&qt=%s); the keyword you want to use (I chose "dl"); and any optional description. Then hit "OK." You've now got a new Quick Search for Download.com

Simply repeat the process for each engine in your Search box until you create a Quick Search for all of them


Removing the Firefox Search box

Firefox Customize Toolbar dialog
Once you don\'t need the Search box, it\'s simple to remove it. (Credit: Mozilla Firefox)

Now here's the easiest part of the whole process. The Search box can be removed like any other element in your Firefox toolbar. Right-click on any open space in your toolbar, and select "Customize" from the context menu. A Customize Toolbar dialog will then appear.

Simply click on any part of Firefox's Search box (your mouse will transform into a hand icon when hovering over the Search box) and drag it into the Customize Toolbar window. Now you see it; now you don't!

If you've got anything like the default Firefox interface, your location bar will now expand all the way across the toolbar to the right edge of the browser. And if you ever get lost and confused without your Search box, you can always bring it back by opening the Customize Toolbar dialog and dragging the Search box anywhere you'd like on the toolbar.

Sample Quick Search bookmarks

If you're still not quite sure what I'm talking about, you can download this CNET Download.com Searches bookmarks file to view some examples. Once you've saved it locally, open Firefox, then go to Bookmarks -> Organize Bookmarks. From the Organize Bookmarks menu, select File -> Import, select "Import Bookmarks from File," and then browse to the "download_search_bookmarks.html" file you saved locally.

Now you'll have a new bookmarks folder named "CNET Download.com Searches" at the bottom of your bookmarks that includes these 20 Quick Searches listed here:

Amazon.com - Type "ama " to search the shopping site Amazon.com.

Boing Boing - Type "bb " to search the pop-culture blog Boing Boing.

CNET - Type "cnet " to search all of CNET.com.

CNET Download.com - Type "dl " to search CNET Download.com for software.

eBay - Type "eb " to search the auction site eBay.

Flickr - Type "fl " to search the photo-sharing site Flickr.

Google - Type "g " to search Google Web search.

Google Images - Type "gi " to search Google Images.

Google Maps - Type "gm " to search Google Maps.

Google News - Type "gn " to search Google News.

Google Product search - Type "gp " to search Google Product search.

Internet Movie Database - Type "im " to search all of the movie and TV site IMDB.

Last.fm - Type "lastfm " to search the music-discovery site Last.fm.

CNET News.com - Type "news " to search News.com.

SiteAdvisor - Type "sa " to search the Web-site security service SiteAdvisor.

Thesaurus.com - Type "th " to search for synonyms and antonyms on Thesaurus.com.

Urban Dictionary - Type "ud " to search for slang terms or street meanings on Urban Dictionary.

Webware.com - Type "ww " to search for Web-related software on Webware.com.

Wikipedia (English) - Type "wp " to search the community encyclopedia Wikipedia (English version).

YouTube - Type "yt " to search the video-sharing site YouTube.


So, am I nuts? Am I the only one who finds the Firefox browser Search box redundant, unnecessary, and a waste of interface space? What do you use to keep all of your important search engines in order? Tell me about it in the comments.

Peter has been working at Download.com since 2003, when trialware was shareware and toolbars were those large metal rods for smashing car windows. Currently, he wrangles the reviews, videos, newsletter, blog, and special collections for Download.com, as well as managing the program data throughout the software directory.