6 Firefox Extensions That Will Change The Way You Search

The Firefox browser is increasingly popular, and no wonder; It’s secure, easy to use and easy to customize. There are thousands of Firefox extensions out there. Pandia has selected the top 5 search related extensions - add-ons that will change the way you search the web.

We know that a significant percentage of Pandia’s readers use Firefox. However, if you are new to Firefox, here is a short intro: It has a simple, user friendly interface and blocks viruses, spyware, and pop-up ads. It is really fast, it's easy to install and it woks on Windows, Mac or Linux. Firefox also lets you import your favorites from other browsers.

Once you have Firefox up and running on your computer, it’s easy to add extensions. Go to the Tools menu and click on Extensions. This opens a window showing your current extensions. Click Get More Extensions in the bottom right corner and Firefox takes you to a page featuring top downloads and extensions by category. When you find something you like, each extension has an Install button. The installation takes seconds and when you restart Firefox, your new extension is active.

Here are our 5 favorite web search extensions.


HyperWords is the Swiss army knife of web search. It is tiny (51KB), elegant and truly versatile. When you highlight text in your browser and click Enter, it brings up a menu that gives you a lot of handy options to search the web for the highlighted text.

You can do regular web search on Google, Clusty, Alexa, Dogpile, MySpace or Yahoo and there’s a convenient option to search the site you are on.

There is a sub menu for reference search with plenty of options: Wikipedia, Google Books, Wictionary, Answers.co, IMDB, World Factbook, Dictionary.com, Urban Dictionary, and more.

The shopping search option includes Amazon, Bizrate, Craiglist, eBay, Expedia and Froogle. There are also options to translate, copy, print, email or blog the selected text. In fact, the options are too many to be listed here. You’ll enjoy exploring them all.

There is only one disadvantage, though: HyperWords installs an extra search box next to the Firefox search box. This box will bring up the same menu you get when selecting text and clicking Enter. This menu will also appear from a HyperWord icon in the bottom right corner of the browser. The search box can be disabled easily in the HyperWord preferences, which are available from the same menu.

Make sure you deselect the option “Show the menu when you select text”. Otherwise the HyperWords menu will appear every time you highlight text in your browser.

If you like HyperWords, you will also like Slim Search. It is a similar tool, but totally unobtrusive. You won’t notice it is installed until you select some text and bring up the context menu. If you choose the option SlimSearch, you have an arsenal of search tools at your disposal.


Googlepedia doesn’t hold a multitude of options, like HyperWords or SlimSearch. In the words of Paul Simon it’s a “one trick pony”. But the one trick it does is remarkably useful: Googlepedia shows you a relevant Wikipedia article along with your search results every time you do a Google search. Clicking links in the article will trigger new Google searches, making it a very useful research tool.

By default, the Wikipedia article fills half of the search results page. If you want more space for the article, you click Expand. If, on the other hand, you think Googlepedia takes up too much space, you can click Hide. In this mode, the Wikipedia article will hide beneath a Googlepedia link on the right hand side of your browser window.

Google toolbar

The Google toolbar is an important part of my web surfing and web searching. And I really hate toolbars. I find them obtrusive, invasive, ans they take up an unwarranted amount of screen space. Still, I have come to love the Google toolbar.

There is not room here for all the features of the toolbar, so I will restrict myself to mentioning my favorites. First, there is the search box. As you type a query into the Toolbar’s search box, you are presented with a list of several useful suggestions based on popular searches, spelling corrections and your own Toolbar search history and bookmarks.

If you are a web master or do search engine optimization, you will find the PageRank display useful. This indicator will tell you how Google’s algorithms assess the importance of the page you’re viewing.

(Or, to be a bit pedantic, it gives you a rough estimate of what the page’s importance was considered to be by Google the last time the public page rank database was updated — that happens once every three months or so).

The Google toolbar also has a safe browsing tool, a button that makes it easy to subscribe to RSS feeds, a new send with Gmail option, a translation tool, spell check and more.


Stumbleupon is perhaps not strictly a useful search extension, but it is a lot of fun. Stumbleupon a collaborative tool for browsing, reviewing and sharing great sites with like-minded people. It is a way to find interesting web pages you wouldn’t think to search for.

After installing the extension, you need to sign up. When you are all set, you click the Stumble button and StumbleUpon shows you pages matched to your personal preferences. These pages have been explicitly recommended by your friends or one of all the other Stumbleupon users with similar interests. With some 1 300 000 downloads, the Stumbleupon community has an impressive collective experience.

Another part of the Stumbleupon experience is rating sites you like to share them with like-minded people. Because of this rating system, Stumbleupon helps you discover great content you probably wouldn’t find using a search engine.

The Firefox search box

My last recommendation is not an extension at all, but it still lets you extend your browser and expand its range in a lot of ways. The Firefox search box can be customized to include a wide range of search engines. A very wide range.

When you install Firefox, the search box has pre-installed plug-ins for Google, Yahoo, dictionary.com, and Amazon.com. An icon in the search box indicates which search engine is active. A small arrow next to this icon brings out a menu showing the others available. At the bottom of the list you can choose to “Add engines”. This opens all kinds of possibilities.

You get to choose from a smorgasbord of search engines, 23 all told, including A9, Ask.com, BBC News, Business.com, del.icio.us, Flickr Tags, Food Network Recipes, IMDB, Lonely Planet Online, Merriam-Webster, Technorati, Wikipedia, Yahooligans and Yahoo! Answers. If you want even more engines to choose from, the Mycroft Project provides a multitude.


SurfCanyon is a Firefox plug-in that claims mind reading capabilities. Even though there’s no actual magic involved, this nifty little app does a great job of digging though the search results for the hits you need, even though Google buried them on page 12.

SurfCanyon accelerates the search process by re-ranking the search results based on your behaviour. This way, the browser extension applies a layer of real-time implicit personalization. The software is transforming static lists of links into dynamic search results pages that work with the you as you explore the search results.

Once the plug-in is installed, you go to one of the three search engines supported (Google, Yahoo! and MSN) and enter your search term as usual. In the search results, you’ll notice the difference: A little bulls eye icon appears next to each search result. If one strikes you as particularly useful, click the bulls eye and SurfCanyon suggests more hits like it, retrieved from deep within the search results.

Note: This is an archived article. First published on 12 October 2006. Written by Per and Susanne Koch.