How to switch between search engines in Firefox easily

Firefox is one of the few browsers that is offering access to a dedicated search bar in its interface. While it can easily be removed, it provides flexible access to search as it enables you to switch between search engines quickly and may be configured to use a different search engine than the address bar by default.

Mozilla changed the search interface recently in Firefox which the organization was criticized for by part of the user base of the browser.

The new interface, designed for fast switching between search engines, seemed to make things more complicated instead of easier.

For instance, most assume that the settings need to be used to change the order of search engines displayed on the front. That’s not the case however as there is an easier way to change the order of search engines temporarily or permanently in Firefox.

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firefox search

Mozilla added several keyboard modifiers to the new search interface in Firefox that you can use to quickly switch engines.

For instance, if you want to change the default search engine you simply click in the search field, hold the Ctrl-key and use the up and down arrow keys on the keyboard to switch between engines.

The one you select becomes the default engine from that moment on, all without having to pay a visit to the preferences.

It gets better. Hold down Alt instead of Ctrl while performing the operation to switch to another engine temporarily. It will be used for the search but the default search engine in Firefox won’t be changed by the operation.

It is even possible to run searches without using the mouse at all. Use Ctrl-k to focus the search bar, type the search term, use the modifiers to switch to another search engine if you need to do that, and hit enter in the end to run the search.

The search preferences are still useful as they provide you with additional features that you can control only from there. Load about:preferences#search to open them in the browser.

firefox search preferences

There it is for instance possible to remove search engines from the list of search providers. To do so click on the checkmark next to a search engine.

You may use the preferences to disable search suggestions and to add keywords to search engines which you can then use from the browser’s address bar, e.g. sp firefox to search Startpage for Firefox if you have assigned the sp keyword to the search engine.

Search engines can be reordered in the preferences via drag and drop operations (via Sören Hentzschel)


Article Name

How to switch between search engines in Firefox easily


Martin Brinkmann


Find out how to switch between search engines permanently or temporarily in the Firefox web browser.

About Martin Brinkmann

Martin Brinkmann is a journalist from Germany who founded Ghacks Technology News Back in 2005. He is passionate about all things tech and knows the Internet and computers like the back of his hand. You can follow Martin on Facebook, Twitter or Google+

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