I guess print magazines aren’t obsolete after all: while my tea was brewing this morning, i was scanning PC Magazine’s article “Firefox 3: 8 Things You Didn’t Know You Could Do”. I started with low expectations, but the author was right: i found a couple of cool and genuinely useful things i didn’t know i could do.

Smart Keywords

“Smart keywords” let you do quick, site-specific search in the address bar. For example, these days i’m doing a lot of Django development, so i often start by searching the Django documentation page.

Here’s how to set up a smart keyword for this search:

  • On the documentation page, right-click in the search box (upper-right of the page)
  • Select “Add a keyword for this search”
  • In the dialog box that pops up, give it a name like “Django documentation”, choose “django” as the keyword, then Add to finish.

Now when i type “django CharField” in the Firefox address bar, i accomplish in one step what would otherwise require several (go to the page, locate the search box, type in the string, hit enter).

I’ve found a few pages whose search boxes don’t seem to support whatever magic makes this work (including one embarrassingly close to home, whose developers i’ve alerted): so your mileage may vary. But when it works, it’s very slick. Once you define these searches, they also wind up as Firefox bookmarks, which can be handy.

Smart Bookmarks

You can create your own bookmarks that dynamically track sites you’ve visited. Under Booksmarks > Organize Bookmarks, right-click on the Bookmarks Menu and select Add Bookmark. The magic here comes from what goes in the Location field: see this Mozilla documentation on Places queries for full details. Here’s one useful example that captures the 10 sites with the most visits:

place:queryType=0&sort=8&maxResults=10

Annoyingly, once you’ve created one, i can’t find a way to edit it: so if you didn’t get it right, you have to delete it and start over.


Some of the other tips were useful too, so check out the article if you’re a Firefox user.

Postscript: if you like smart keywords, you can also use them with Firefox’s search engines (the upper right corner). Use the pull-down there, go to Manage Search Engines, and then do Edit Keyword for the ones you’re interested in.

For example, i defined ‘esv’ as the keyword for the ESV search engine plugin i have. So now i just go to the address bar (that’s Alt-D if you’re saving your wrist by learning keyboard shortcuts), and type something like

esv phil 3.12

to bring me to that page. I wish this worked for other Bible sites i use, hint hint!