Aug 30, 2008

Fast Internet Searches with Smart Bookmarks

Smart bookmarks are similar to other browser bookmarks. The idea of smart bookmarks is that you enter a keyword and some search text in the location bar and on pressing enter you get the result from the search engines that you defined for the keyword. That sounds easy and fast and it really is. This post shows how to define a smart bookmark and gives several examples of smart bookmarks that can help to speed up internet searches and dictionary lookups.

An example: You are on the phone with a friend from Mongolia who tells you about his country. You don't want to seem stupid and need to know the name of the president of Mongolia and fast. You hit ctrl-L to get to the location bar and type w Mongolia. The wikipedia article on Mongolia opens and on the left-hand panel you see the president's name among the key data on Mongolia. This works because before you defined a smart bookmark with shortcut w to correspond to wikipedia.

How to Create a Smart Bookmark?

Smart bookmarks work in Firefox, Epiphany, Galeon, Opera, Google Chrome (via search engines), and others. Defining them can be done in the following steps:
1. go to the search engine or site you want to define as a smart bookmark (say wikipedia article on Mongolia)
2. bookmark the site (in firefox that's control-D)
3. edit the bookmark and insert the shortcut as seen in the screenshot below. Go to organize bookmarks (in firefox control-shift-O), find the new bookmark, edit the location where you put in %s instead of a keyword and put a keyword, for example w.
smart bookmarks in firefox

You can use the address of any search engine you want to use. Just search for something and then bookmark the page. In the bookmark, substitute your search term for %s. The keyword should be something you can easily remember.

Ideas for Smart Bookmarks

Here you can see some engines I use:

  1. google:
  2. google scholar:
  3. Leo English-German dictionary:
  4. Leo Spanish-German dictionary:
  5. wikipedia:

I chose w for wikipedia, g for google, s for scholar, es for Spanish-German, and en for English-German.

Even though you probably have a search tab in your web browser, the google search is useful, because its fast and because the modification at the end, which provides near real-time results. In fact in this case, search results are restricted to sites indexed less than 24 hours ago. I refer you to the article where I found this hint to get more information on how to get more recent google search results.

Translation Engines as Smart Bookmarks

For an overview over translation/dictionary services see a comparison in this wikipedia article. Google translate and worldlingo support most language pairs of the compared services.

Some languages are harder to find. For Catalan, I had trouble to find a free dictionary that could be used with smart bookmarks. However google's translation service (google.translate) also does Catalan. You can use these urls:

Substitute %from and %to with the country codes corresponding to your language pair. To use the yahoo translation service (babelfish) use this url:

You find more explanation and more examples at the mozilla site.

By the way, there exist also a variety of plugins for firefox for translation of text, for example the Babelfish and gTranslate plugins.

In Google Chrome you would right click on the address bar, edit search engines, define a search engine, and choose a keyword that you want to use.

Do you already know who's the president of Mongolia?

Enjoy. Please leave a comment below for questions and suggestions.


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