How to Add Search Shortcuts to Google Chrome.

Last week Danny Sullivan twittered he was looking for a creative commons image to use. Christine Churchill poked a little fun at me wondering how I was able to get that so quickly. The trick is using search shortcuts, and I’m going to show you how to do it.

For my first example I’m going to set up a creative commons search for commercially licensed images on flickr (aka images you allowed to use on websites you make a profit on as long as you attribute them properly). Go the advanced search page on flickr, put in your query term and check the boxes creative commons, and commercial reuse.
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Execute the search, and you’re result should look something like this:

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Make sure it says for commercial use so you stay legal. By default flickr returns based on “relevant”, however I find the “interesting” setting gives better results so click that. Now look at the URl it should look something like this:

http://www.flickr.com/search/?q=magic+kingdom&l=comm&ss=0&ct=0&mt=all&adv=1&s=int

We could disect all of the parameters, but really all we need to identify is the “q=magic+kingdom” part. Highlight the URL and copy it to your clipboard using CTRL+C. Next click on the little wrench icon in your chrome toolbar, and choose options. Look for the area labeled “default search” and click manage.

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next click the “add” button another dialog box will open

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You need to enter a unique name (in this case flickr) into the box. If you enter the name of a search engine that already exists the green checkbox will turn into an orange exclamation point. Next enter the keyword, this is what you have to type in the address bar/omnibox to execute the search. It needs to be unique and the shorter you make it the easier it will be to type. Next you need to paste the search URL into the URL box. Once you do that you need to go back and remove the “q=magic+kingdom” and replace it with “q=%s”. By placing the %s we are telling the browser to replace %s with whatever term we type in. Click OK, and close out all the dialog boxes. Lets give it a test. Use CTRL+T to open a new tab, by default your cursor is now in the address/omni box. Type in the keyword shortcut (in this case “flickr” followed by the search term). Use a different term than the one you started with to make sure it working, but it should look something like this:

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Hit the enter/return key and it should execute the search on flickr for the term “ford mustang” showing only creative commons images approved for commercial reuse, sorted by interestingness.

You can do this with any site the key is getting the right URL for the search, and replacing it with %s. Some sites will require special handling for multi-word terms, such as wikipedia. Here’s the URL for an image search in wikipedia for “ford mustang”

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Ford_Mustang

The problem is you don’t have the ability to tell chrome to replace the space with an underscore. However with a bit of URL experimentation and hacking this URL will work:

http://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=Special:Search&search=ford mustang&go=Go

So repeat the steps above for flickr (naming it something different of course) replace the “ford mustang” with %s and you’re good to go. You aren’t limited to image searches you can do the same thing on any search engine as long as you can reverse engineer the URL querystring. There you have do quick and esy searches across almost any site.

photo credit: Flickr/M/vacuum sealer reviews

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