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In this Instructable, I'm going to show you how to use the address bar at the top of your browser to find information much quicker. Basically, we're turning the address bar into a command line for the web.

Why?

A few keystrokes will cut down on repetitive tasks. I use the web on a daily basis for work and for fun, making hundreds of site visits per day.
On most sites, I used to enter the web address (or click a bookmark/shortcut) of a site, then find a search bar and enter what I'm looking for. Now I can go to the address bar (CMD/CTRL-L in Firefox) and type a few characters. This hack has changed my life and you can too!

Difficulty level: EASY

Life changing level: YES

Step 1: Install URL Alias and Set Up Preferences

This Add-on is for Firefox and Chrome, but I will demonstrate in Firefox for this guide.

Look up URL Alias in the Add-on directory (Tools -> Add-Ons, search for URL Alias) and install it. Then, open the Preferences for URL Alias (find it under Tools -> Add-ons -> Extensions).

You want to set up a shorthand code to use. For me, "y" for a YouTube search, or "map" to look up an address on Google Maps, works well. When you type it in the address bar later, you'll add your input term like "Cat videos" or "123 Main Street"

On the Configuration tab, type the shorthand code (a single letter, acronym, or short word like "map" is best) and then press Tab. You will then type the URL that looks for a query. You can see some examples that I use. Feel free to copy them. Some of the links are too long to post, so refer to the image.

You can also just create shortcuts to specific domains, especially ones that automatically update. For example, "wotd" could go to "https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Wiktionary:Word_of_the_day".

Step 2: How to Figure Out Other URLs

  1. Go to any site
  2. Find the search box and enter something like "SEARCHTERM". Make it unique so it stands out.
  3. Hit OK/Enter
  4. Look at the address bar and copy it.
  5. Note: If anything appears after "SEARCHTERM" you can probably delete it safely. Those are just search options, but you can try removing them and then test the URL to make sure it works as desired. You can always move the options around in the URL, as long as they come after the "?" and are separated by "&" symbols. For example:

    ...youtube.com/results?q=holiday+special&sp=EgIYAQ%253D%253D will return "holiday special" videos less than 4 minutes, but you will get the same results with ...youtube.com/results?sp=EgIYAQ%253D%253D&q=holiday+special. Your search term will be added on to the end.

  6. Save the string into your Preferences. Be creative and read the documentation for more advanced ideas.

Once you get used to this method of web navigation you'll wonder what you did with you it. Now go set this up and let me know if you have any questions in the comments!

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