How to Change the Default Location Bar Search Engine in Firefox

I dislike Google. Ok, I know “Google is your friend!” is a common phrase on USENET, in web forums and on IRC. But in my case I Just Do Not Like Google? and do not think it is my friend. My reasons are personal and political and I will leave it at that.

So, imagine my chagrin at seeing a Google search every time I typed incorrect content in the URL location bar in Firefox. I kept meaning to look into this but kept putting it off (mostly forgetting about it) until I finally heard from my wife that she really did not like Google searches coming up on her Firefox (for the same reasons I hold). So, it was time to figure out how to change that. We both prefer AltaVista for our web searches so I decided to make that our URL location bar default. As always the Devil is in the Details.

The Details

After much web searching (using AltaVista of course) I ran across this blog post How to Change Your FireFox Location Bar Search Engine at This deals with changing the default back to Google after having the location bar search hijacked by Yahoo. What I noticed was the blank &q= at the end of the example search string. That is the query indicator at Google. “Ah ha! Just place the query key at the end!” thought I and looked for the query indicator at AltaVista. It is the same thing, imagine that. So I opened a new tab in Firefox, typed in about:config, searched for keyword.URL, and inserted in place of the Google string. A quick test showed that this works.

I then decided to see if other search engines would work. I have several user accounts on my Linux box so I su‘d to another account in a xterm session, opened Firefox and started testing. Here are the resulting strings that worked:*&Query=

Based on my short test it appears any search engine will work as long as the search engine’s query field is the last thing on the string in keyword.URL. Feel free to do your own testing and post comments about the results here.


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Gene A.

Gene is a "Unix Guy", network technologist, system trouble-shooter and IT generalist with over 20 years experience in the SOHO and SMB markets. He is familiar with and conversant in eComStation (a.k.a. OS/2), DOS (PC, MS and Free), Unix, Linux and those GUI based systems from Microsoft. Gene is also a follower of Jesus (forgiven, not perfect), and this does inform his world view.