I’m Paul Herron and I’m a web developer. I build online applications
with tools like CakePHP and jQuery.

Keyword bookmarks for quick searches

by Paul Herron on 19 January 2014

Are you familiar with the concept of a "keyword bookmark" in your browser? It's just like a regular bookmark but you also assign a short keyword to it, which you can type into the address bar to access the bookmark. For example, you might bookmark YouTube and give it a keyword of y. Enter y in your address bar and YouTube loads. No hunting through your bookmarks folders or clicking with the mouse.

That's only a little bit useful on its own. Where it gets interesting is that you can also provide a search term with your keyword, and that'll get inserted into the URL. You just write a %s into the bookmark's URL to denote where the term should go. So, we can modify our YouTube bookmark to look like this:

Setting up a keyword bookmark

It's then possible to type something like y seinfeld into the address bar and be taken immediately to the results page:

Using a keyword bookmark in the address bar

Keyword bookmark support has been around in Firefox and Chrome for donkey's years, and I've been using these special little bookmarks so frequently and for so long that I'd feel quite impeded without them. Surprisingly few people seem to have heard of them though, and I must admit it's tricky to make them sound super-appealing when describing them to people. Explaining how they should curate a little list of special bookmarks, manually editing all the URLs to contain the %s marker in just the right place, just so they can save a couple of seconds on loading a search page – it just doesn't sound that good. All I can say is, I do it, and it's a great way of getting direct access to the sites I use most commonly. I probably make use of my keyword bookmarks more than 50 times a day and it's just a lovely fast way of calling up the info you need.

Seeing as the tedious bit is modifying the URLs so the search terms get inserted correctly, I figured I'd share some of my favourites.

Using these in Firefox should just be a matter of dragging them to your bookmarks, then right-clicking the bookmark, going to Properties and entering a keyword of your choice. To use them in Chrome you can go to Preferences > Settings and then hit the "Manage Search Engines…" button.

A few years back I also created a site called Keyword Bookmarks, where you can find more of these!

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