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Change Firefox’s Default Search Method June 5, 2006

Posted by Carthik in guides, ubuntu.

Firefox has this neat feature that when you type in some words in the address bar (where you normally enter urls), it takes you to the first result for a Google search for those words. In other words, typing in your address bar is like typing the words at google.com and then clicking the “I’m Feeling Lucky” button.

Only, for a long time, I have been irritated by this, and wished I would just be taken to the google search results page for the words I typed in. For this, by default, you have to prepend your words with “google”. So if you type in “google american express”, then you are taken to the page with the search results for “american express”. I wanted NOT to have to type in the “google” and still be taken to the search results page.

So as I am known to, I went searching for a solution at 2 in the night 🙂

The results are surprising! Not only can I do that, I can do one better. Google introduced something called “Browse by name“, which, as the page I linked-to explains, takes you to the “obvious result” if there is one, or just gives you a search results page if google’s not too sure if there is only one result that best fits the words you typed in. For example, typing “MIT” sure takes you the MIT homepage, but typing something like “cheap computer” takes you to the search results page. Now, how do we change the way firefox’s address bar behaves?

In comes Jesse, back in 2004, with the right solution. Type in “about:config” in the address bar of firefox, then type in “keyword.url” to search for that configuration key. If you want the neato “browse by name” search in firefox, as opposed to the default “I’m feeling lucky” search, just modify that preference, by pasting in:

Then save that by pressing “Ok”. Now you’re free to use the improved address bar. Go nuts, since now you can search by entering the search terms in the address bar and pressing enter. You will never need to visit http://www.google.com again!


1. Olivier - June 5, 2006

Very good suggestion.
For my part, I prefer to have a straight google search when I type something in the address bar, and a google “Browse by name” search when I type “gl” in front of my keyword.

To do this, the address in the about:config keyword.url entry must simply be:

and I made a bookmark called “Google browse by name” with the adress:
(note the %s at the end, which Firefox replaces by your search word). I set the keyword for this bookmark to “gl”. So now when I type “gl ubuntu” I am taken straight to ubuntu.com, and when I just type “ubuntu” I’m taken to a google search result page.

This is all well explained in the article Outfox:

Hope this little addition helps ! Thanks for the tip !

2. krampo - June 5, 2006

Great! I even tried this one on Camino and it worked. You just need to set keyword.enabled to true for this to work.

3. justin flavin - June 5, 2006

if you just want to be taken to a google page of search results use this instead:


4. Mirko - June 5, 2006

If I type a single word in the address bar for instance ‘gigabyte’, I get redirected to my ISP’s ‘you misstyped the address’ page, and then redirected to some shopping site ;). The shameless ISP is Tiscali in Germany.
I still have to tell firefox to go to google, but at least you can shorten it to single char, like ‘g gigabyte’
Just my 2c

5. Maria loves pictures - June 5, 2006

Great customization tip for firefox.
Now the foxy fox can browse the web even faster.

6. my weblog » firefox & search - June 5, 2006

[…] Ubuntu Blog » Change Firefox’s Default Search Method Firefox has this neat feature that when you type in some words in the address bar (where you normally enter urls), it takes you to the first result for a Google search for those words. In other words, typing in your address bar is like typing the words at google.com and then clicking the “I’m Feeling Lucky” button. […]

7. Brent - June 5, 2006

Excellent tip. Although the searchbar, directly next to the addressbar, which comes with Firefox by default, does the same exact thing anyway.

8. chris broe - June 5, 2006

Your remedy did something weird to my computer.
I typed in “Gay Marriage” in the adress bar and google asked me if I was feeling lucky.

9. Ciarán - June 5, 2006

I have mine set up to YubNub, so I can type one of any number of search commands and firefox goes straight to the requisite site. Marvellous!

10. Fred.cpp - June 5, 2006

I just wanted to say congratulations for your first place in the Top WordPress.com blogs today!

11. linuxlogs - June 6, 2006


It didn’t work for me. I tried MIT, Berkeley and Yahoo. It took me straight to the actual website each time.


12. ubuntonista - June 6, 2006

linuxlogs, that is what it should do when the first search results seems reasonably close to what you are searching for (like i’m feeling lucky search). Try searching for generic things like “what color is water” or “man on venus” or “discounted toothpicks” or something, and then you will be taken to the search results page.

13. Jeremiah - June 7, 2006

Your site’s been linked on Yahoo News, how does it feel? As if I weren’t a reader already, but still, great site! lol

14. Andrew - June 7, 2006

No offense or anything, but how about using the built-in search feature of Firefox that’s like, two inches away from the URL bar?

15. ubuntonista - June 7, 2006

Jeremiah, It feels great. All I try to do is document my own learning experience for my benefit and the benefit of others.

Cool, no offense taken, ever! 🙂
I am in the habit of using Ctrl+L to get to the address (or location bar) to type in URLs, search terms etc. It is tempting to just type in the larger test entry field of the address bar, even though the search box is to its right. On my laptop, I removed the search box/bar and only use the address entry field, but that is just me. For a normal user, changing the way search works in the address bar might be useful, or so I thought.

16. Growing Up Linux » Blog Archive » Useful Search Mod for Firefox - June 10, 2006
17. chuck - June 10, 2006

Speaking of useful search mods for Firefox…

I’m guessing this isn’t a crazy hard thing to figure out, but wouldn’t it be cool if the search bar could have a search added that searches the ubuntu forums and wiki? (Although, I’ve gotten the impression that google doesn’t have a complete catalog of those sites…)

18. No Dependencies /No Logo » Blog Archive » What’s Your Homepage These Days? - June 12, 2006

[…] Recently, I also discovered this neat trick over at Ubuntu Blog for customizing Firefox and turning your address bar into a regular Google search  (I’ve forgotten where I found the link to this, as well. If it was you, tell me.) So this left me with a whole new challenge: I never have to visit Google again, so what homepage should I pick? […]

19. manuel - June 12, 2006

thx for this article and congrats for your site becoming more and more popular – its worth it 🙂

20. sfn - June 13, 2006

Thanks! I’ve been wondering how to take videos of my desktop.

21. sfn - June 13, 2006

Err.. sorry.. wrong post 🙂

22. Deciheximal - August 4, 2006

similar problem – users appreciate it when attention to the nitty gritty is given, rather than suggestions to do what you want another way.

Here’s the Mozilla convenience that was changed in Firefox, imo, for the worse. In Mozilla, the URL text bar is also the text bar for a web search, and there is an actual search button to activate the search. Pressing enter after typing in the URL bar attempts to load the specified page.

In Firefox, there is a separate, space-wasting search text box alongside the URL text box. A “go” button emulates pressing enter while in the URL box to load a page, and the user presses enter in the search box to search.

Want the _exact same_ functionality of Mozilla with the singular browser application of Firefox? I’ve found no way to do this. Here’s what I mean by exact same functionality:

In Firefox, enter the exact text “www.website.com” (no extra characters) in the URL bar, and press “go” (Since there is no longer a search button). The resulting page should be the specified search engine result page, the same as if you had entered “www.website.com” in the search engine itself. (This is convenient for finding the last cached version of a dead website – a frequent must these days). Also, entering a text in the URL bar and pressing enter must return a 404 or rejection message, not perform a search (ala I.E.).

Yes, yes, I realize, there are simple workarounds are trivial in the minds of others, but for me this is convenience replaced with irritance – and in fact at the moment it is more convenient to keep the outdated client (Mozilla) if there is no real solution. Has anyone else tried to tackle this?

23. Deciheximal - August 4, 2006

Correction of the above: The first few sentences that are missing, mentally append the two. 🙂

I came to this page looking for a solution to an annoyance I had with Firefox. Thank you for posting this, which turns out to be a solution to a similar problem…

24. development - blog » Blog Archive » Do Google search for non urls in Firefox - December 16, 2006

[…] Source […]

25. Kell Bengal - January 16, 2007

I am with Deciheximal on this – I desperately search for a “search button” extension of some description. I miss it from Mozilla and I constantly delay switching because of it. It’s just too useful

26. Adam - January 24, 2007

Hey, changing the about:config url did nothing for me. When I enter anything in the address bar, firefox tries to process it as a url – i.e. any word I enter, it will try www.(thatword).com. I don’t really care what search I get instead of this, but any idea how I disable the turn-word-into-url function?

27. Chris’ Blog » Blog Archive » Firefox Address Bar Search - February 9, 2007

[…] to the Ubuntu Blog for […]

28. too much google - March 13, 2007

How do I disable this annoying automatic search feature?

For example, if I want to visit Yahoo or Google home page, I could previously type “google” or “yahoo” into the address bar and hit enter, and then it would autocomplete the prefix and suffix to http://www.yahoo.com. Now, all the time if for example I type just “google” into the address bar, it will take me to a google search of “google”. It’s very annoying and this feature seemed to start by itself one day, I don’t know what I did to add this feature. Anyway, I would like to set Firefox back to simple auto-complete of words in the address and disable this automatic google search.

Any advice to do this? Thank you in advance.

29. too much google - May 4, 2007


30. Search Google quickly from Firefox Address Bar - August 19, 2007

[…] has more details about this parameter here for interested […]

31. David - August 22, 2007

Thanks for posting this. I am setting up a new installation and I’d forgotten how to set this up in FF.

32. Andrew - September 25, 2007

Thank you – that’s useful… I just reseted it back to it’s original value though. Because some stupid plugin messed it up and I was being taken to Yahoo! search results instead of Google’s “I’m feeling lucky”.

33. kami - October 6, 2007

thank you pookie 🙂

34. John - October 6, 2007

Thank you so much for this it also fixes that anoying yahoo default search engine that i have tried to get rid of since my daughter installed yahoo messenger.

35. krysjez - November 11, 2007


36. Jared - November 17, 2007

THANK YOU! My friend downloaded Yahoo toolbar (that bastard) and it automatically reconfigured my settings. it has been bothering me for weeks…Thank you so much, this was very very helpful!

37. Ramses - December 1, 2007

simply the exact thing i had two nights looking for because, i installed a bar that was making Yahoo be the Firefox default search engine.


38. uric acid - January 22, 2008

Thank you. I had a same problem with yahoo toolbar..

39. ericthered - February 1, 2008

thank you so much i loved this but recently it changed to yahoo search instead of google search

40. Lord Dfg - March 4, 2008

Well, i am happy they my Firefox i set but thanks for the tip.

41. Aver - March 10, 2008

Thank you very much and …CONGRATULATIONS for your solution because I’m a very experienced pc user ,but I’ve been trying to make google my default search engine (by typing in the address bar) for ,at least,two hours with no result.I read a lot in many sites but nothing..till now!Thanks again

42. WherestheBox - May 18, 2008

Thank you, thank you! I had downloaded a toolbar that also switched my default search for the address bar, and after much searching, this has solved my problem.

43. Keith - July 4, 2008

Excellent! I had downloaded a theme from Firefox that switched my browser to Yahoo. I got rid of the theme pretty quick, but the default search didn’t go with it. Took quite a bit of searching, but this has brought things back to the status quo!

Thank you!!

44. Steve Shaw - September 1, 2008

Perfect! I’ve been annoyed for weeks by Firefox going to Yahoo search instead of Google following a download I didn’t really want (and can’t remember what it was) – that fixed it. Thanks so much!

45. dekelt - October 9, 2008

Thank you very much for this, I’ve been looking for this since Yahoo infiltrated in my browser.(probably caused by something that I or someone else installed) Changing the default search engine did not help. Finally I can enjoy firefox’s awesome bar again.

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47. Hemanth - December 14, 2008

How to get google suggestion in the address bar ?

48. kap - January 4, 2009

fuckin brilliant. Thanks for posting this tip, really useful

49. Chetan - January 6, 2009

Amazing! This is really usefull for me…

50. Raptoredge - January 19, 2009

Nice! Thanx! I use windows but worked the same.

51. eugene - February 27, 2009

still useful!!!!!! uppzzz

52. Cybershepherd - April 25, 2009

May I just say…Thank you! It is so strange that this incredibly useful info is so tricky to find. This helped me remove the remaining unwanted tentacles of the absurd “Mywebsearch” search engine that sneakily installs itself when there is more than one user of your home PC!

May you be blessed with good bandwidth,

the CyberShepherd

53. hamsterhill - May 15, 2009

Thanks so much man… after installing som program it changbed my default search thing to ask.com which isn’t nearly as good as google… thanks amillion man.

54. SLP - June 6, 2009

Thank you thank you thank you!

55. Ken Ferns - September 8, 2009

I have a question – I live in Dubai.. and whenever I use the Firefox google search, it searches and displays results from Google Arabia… so everything is in Arabic!! (google.ae) Any idea how I could change the settings to display search results from Canada (google.ca)? Thanks!

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Please set a Google homepage

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