One of the nice things about Firefox’s search box is that although Google is the default search engine, you can click the little arrow on the left side (beside the Google icon), to reveal a dropdown menu of a few other search engine possibilities, such as Yahoo, Amazon, eBay, Wikipedia and others. Google Chrome, while a great web browser that also offers the ability to set other search engines as the default, doesn’t offer such quick access to alternatives. Enter Search Center, an extension that offers 2-click access to any search engine you prefer.
Once installed, Search Center places a new icon in your toolbar. A globe with two circles around it, this icon, when clicked, reveals a text field for you to type in your search query. If you want to use the default search engine, simply hit the Enter key and you’ll be taken to the results page. But where Search Center really shines is that it gives you options, from that very same pop-up, to use any search engine.
By default, Search Center comes with eight different search engines installed: Google, Google Dictionary, Amazon, eBay, Wikipedia, IMDb, Thesaurus and Twitter. To use any of them, simply type in your search query and click your mouse on whichever engine you want to use. It’s really simple, and an excellent way to add more functionality to Google Chrome.
But what if your favorite search engine isn’t included among the defaults? What if you like Bing, or Ask.com or any of the number of search engines available? Again, it’s very simple. Go to that search engine and search for “searchcenter” (without the quotes). When the results page loads, simply click the Search Center icon and choose the Add Current Website option at the bottom of the pop-up. Searching for “searchcenter” allows Search Center to see exactly what syntax is used for a search query. If the name of the search engine doesn’t appear exactly like you want it, or the favicon is different from what you expected, you can adjust it to whatever you like in the Search Center preferences.
Search Center also has a few more options. You can choose to load search results in the current tab or open a new one. You can choose a single search engine to be your default, or switch it to whichever was used most recently. If you have a large number of search engines installed, you can choose to remove the name and view them simply by their icons. This saves space, but could be confusing (if using multiple Google search engines, for instance – such as Google Images and Google Dictionary – which share the same icon).
You also have the ability to turn on a feature that displays suggestions as you type, and another option to turn on a search bar, which appears at the top of your browser window, just below the URL bar. Both of these are handy features as well, although typing Ctrl-Q to trigger the search bar is a little strange, since that’s typically how I close programs (although not Google Chrome).
All in all, I’m pretty impressed with Search Center. I usually use Google for my search engine, so Search Center probably isn’t something I’ll use all the time, but having the ability to search sites (such as Amazon or Wikipedia), without first having to go there, is a potential time saver, and one I appreciate.