In “Firefox 4 Improves, But Not Radically” (2 April 2011), I wrote about Google’s Browse By Name service, introduced in 2004 in the Google Toolbar, and how to add it back to Firefox 4. Put simply, Browse By Name enables you to jump directly to the desired Web page without going through the intermediate step of the Google search results. It may seem like a small win, but when Browse By Name works properly (which it does for me in almost all situations), it saves an unnecessary page load for the Google search results, a click on the top result, and the mental context switch necessary to parse the results. When you know what you’re looking for, there’s simply no reason to go through
the extra steps.
Understand Browse By Name — As an example that’s near and dear to my heart, imagine that you want to visit the Take Control Web site, a popular spot on all Internet sightseeing tours. If you were to type “take control” into the Google search bar in Firefox or Safari, or into Chrome’s Omnibox (a combined location and search bar) and press Return, the browser would show you the page for this URL:
Easy enough, certainly, but compare that with what would happen if you typed “take control” into a Browse By Name-enabled location bar, which is equivalent to clicking this URL:
As you can see, the first one opens a Google search results page, with our Take Control Web site as the first hit, whereas the second one does the exact same search, but takes you directly to the site, saving you a page load and a click.
Browse By Name is effective only when you know where you want to go, so sometimes you need to give it just a bit more to work with so the top hit in Google for your search is sufficiently certain.
For instance, searching in a Browse By Name-enabled browser on “sparrow” takes you to the page for the Sparrow email app, implying that most people searching on that term are more interested in the app than the bird. But a search on “ostrich” takes you to the bird’s Wikipedia page, and a search on “penguin” just displays the normal Google search results page, because there are four likely entries: Penguin Group (the publishers), Club Penguin (the online game), the bird (via Wikipedia), and the penguin-emblazoned clothing from Munsingwear. If you wanted to hit those sites directly via Browse By Name, you’d just want to make your search more accurate, as in:
- “penguin book”
- “club penguin”
- “penguin wiki”
- “penguin clothing”
In other words, using Browse By Name effectively is just like searching Google effectively.
Add Browse By Name to Chrome — To make Google Chrome use Browse By Name by default, follow these steps.
- Choose Chrome > Preferences to open the Chrome preferences page.
- Click Manage Search Engines to display a list of all the search engines Chrome knows about.
In the Other Search Engines area, enter the details for Google Browse By Name; the name and keyword don’t particularly matter, but the URL must be:
Press Return to make Chrome accept your new search engine, and then hover your cursor over it and click the Make Default button, after which it moves up into the main list.
(As an aside, note the keyword fields for Google, Wikipedia, Amazon, and TidBITS, which are the sites I search on a regular basis. I’ve given them single-letter keywords so I can search them from the Chrome location bar easily, as in “t Mailplane” or “w SquirrelFish”. It’s a nice shortcut, and I’ve configured Firefox and LaunchBar similarly so I can use the same keyboard shortcuts in all places.)
Once you’ve run through these steps, you can just type searches into Chrome’s location bar with no more ado. If you decide you don’t like it, just make a different search engine the default again.
Add Browse By Name to Safari — Addicted as my fingers are to Browse By Name, Safari’s address bar simply doesn’t cut the mustard. Whenever I find myself using it for normal browsing, I’m constantly entering search terms that Safari either interprets as domains (typing “sparrow” takes me to
http://www.sparrow.com/) or just fails on (typing “penguin book” takes me to an error page because
http://penguin%20book/ isn’t a domain).
Of course, Safari has a search field too, but it’s limited to Google, Yahoo, and Bing. I tried a couple of different approaches to bending Safari to my will, and here are the two I like best right now.
To use this bookmarklet, click the bookmark in the Bookmarks bar and enter your search terms in the dialog. The bookmarklet even gets a keyboard shortcut of Command-number based on its location in the Bookmarks bar (see Bookmarks > Bookmarks Bar for the list).
Second, install the free PopSearch extension from Canisbos Computing (download it, and then double-click it to install in Safari 5). Once installed, press Command-K to bring up the PopSearch dialog and click its Settings button. First edit the entries in the Engines tab to add Google Browse By Name, as I’ve done in the screenshot (it’s the same URL as in the Chrome steps above), and to tweak any other search engines (look, my keywords are now consistent across three browsers and LaunchBar!).
Then, to make Safari work as much like Firefox and Chrome as possible, switch to the General tab and change the default hotkey for PopSearch to Command-L (which overrides Safari’s internal use of Command-L for File > Open Location). Finally, also in the General tab, select Google Browse By Name as the default search engine and set PopSearch to use the default search engine all the time. What I like about this approach is that my muscle memory of pressing Command-L in Firefox and Chrome will now carry over to Safari as well.
For those who haven’t experienced Browse By Name due to being Safari users, I encourage you to give it a try, and for anyone accustomed to it in earlier versions of Firefox, I hope this article gives you the tools you need to try Chrome or Safari without changing your browsing habits.