Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Changing default browser search engines

I like Safari, but find it lacks certain privacy plugins/extensions I like to run. I also like using Zotero for online research, which has the best integration with Firefox.

I have recently moved away from using as many Google services as possible. To put it simply, I don’t agree with their privacy practices. I won’t get into that now. Firefox, however, has an agreement with Google to use their search engine by default. There’s an easy way to rectify that, if you’re so inclined.

Two places to deal with. One is the “Search bar” and the other is the “Address Bar”.

Adding a search engine to the Search Bar

To add a new search engine to the Search bar is easiest. Just click on the search engine icon and select “Manage search engines” in the drop down menu.


Above images shows where to click “Manage Search Engines…”


Shows where to click to add a new search engine from Mozilla site.

The engine I like to use for searching is — it has a strange (very strange) name, I know, but it’s a great search system. It gets results from Google, Bing, and others. It displays them very nicely, and it does not monitor, track, or store what you’re searching for.

Changing search engine use by the Address Bar

In Firefox it is also possible to search by typing your search terms into the Address Bar. Again, this defaults to To change this type about:config into the address bar. Then type keyword.url into the ‘Filter’ box. The preference entry for ‘keyword.URL’ should now be the only one showing.

About config keyword

You’ll need to determine the right search address to use. Normally the format is something like

There may be a bunch of other extraneous info, but the bit I’ve put here is what you’re looking for. As an example, goto and type in a search term. If I search for “testing” this is what the address will become:

If I do the same search on Bing it will come out like this:

This image shows you what I am referring to:

Testing  Bing

On Google:,or.r_gc.r_pw.r_qf.,cf.osb&fp=c6616ae9d3ccc978&biw=1600&bih=869

As you can see, Google throws in a LOT of other data, some of which is for tracking purposes. The bit we would use is

hl-en refers to the language being in English. &output tells it what kind of result to present. &q=testing is the search term.

For each of these examples this is what you’d put into the keyword.url field:

  • Google:
  • Bing:
  • Duckduckgo:

That should do it. Let me know if you have any issues, after trying to figure this out. It’s pretty straight forward once you get the hang of it.

Remember to say Thanks in the comments if you found this useful. Always nice to know.

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