Google Toolbar keyboard tips

Ever since I installed the Google Toolbar extension, I have been meaning to find out how to use it in mouseless mode to do the kind of things I usually use it for -- web search, image search and site search, mostly. Figuring it's so easy to add a hot key or twelve, I had kind of suspected that there would be some to instantly fire off a search as an Image search or Site search, right from the Google search field -- say, via Ctrl+I and Ctrl+S. No need to try those out, though; it is not done that way. Not yet, anyway.

I peeked through the source code today, and here is a run-down of what I learned (and have found out through prior experimentation), interspersed with other reflections, hints and tips:

  • Any AccessKey not already bound in a page (or used to invoke a Firefox menu), will bring keyboard input focus to the Google Toolbar search field. At least on a Windows system that means Alt+something puts you in the google bar. The mac equivalent is probably Command+something. I use Alt+§ (a very rarely used key that sits right below the escape key on Swedish keyboards).

    The default Firefox search field remains at Ctrl+K, and is of course still a useful resource, even if you have the google toolbar, as the googlebar does not have the beautiful search plugin interface offered by the default Firefox field. (How else would you search Sinfest comic strips? ;-)

    You don't need to keep the Firefox search bar on any toolbar, though; if you do not, it will just pop up when you press Ctrl+K, so you may hide it to save some screen real estate, even if you still use it for the odd one-off search plugin. It is not quite as good as the original panel mode though, as you can't switch search plugins quickly with Ctrl+Up/Down in the popup version. :-/ (If anyone has a bugzilla ticket id handy I'd be glad to cast a vote.)

  • The Google search field also has the Ctrl+Up/Down to switch search type though, between the few offered; web search, image search, "I'm feeling lucky" search, Google Groups, news article search, Froogle and GMail respectively, in that order. So Mail and Site search are only a step away each from the default mode. You can only switch search mode like this if you have checked the option "Remember last search type" in the Google Toolbar options tab "Search", otherwise Ctrl+Up/Down won't do anything at all.

  • Alt+Up/Down browses your past search history.

  • Up/Down on their own browses suggested common searches starting with what you have already typed.
When pressing return to fire off the search, you have a few other options too:

  • With the Alt key pressed, the result page gets loaded into a new tab.

  • With the Shift key pressed, the "I'm feeling lucky" search mode is invoked, so you instantly go to the first page found.

  • The modifiers stack, so Shift+Alt+return loads the lucky page into a new tab. They do not stack with your choice of search type, though, in case you had first picked Image, Site or Groups search, for instance, prior to hitting Shift+return - shift is Lucky Web Search, period.

  • The Control modifier is not reacted on in any way in this context.
Possible room for future improvement, there? I am considering doing some hacking of my own to orthogonalize "feeling lucky" and site search, for instance, so they can be bound on a modifier each and actually work as I would expect them to. But that is plenty of material for another later article.
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