Switching to DuckDuckGo and Firefox

Returning to Firefox

Some things reamin the same

I began my descent to Chrome two years ago. At first, I only used Chrome while waiting for Firefox to load. Later I found Chrome made pages like Gmail and Grooveshark usable, and eventually stopped loading Firefox altogether.

Coming back to Firefox, things seem to have improved. Load times are comparable. The benchmark I ran still seems to indicate Chrome is roughly 30% faster, but pages feel equally responsive, and cnet reported Firefox to be faster.

Things I missed from Chrome (and fixed)

Tiny Tabs

Chrome allowed tabs to shrink to the size of favicons before scrolling. In Firefox, I was only able to fit around 10 tabs on the screen. Easy fix. Just install Custom Tab Width, and you can edit the minimum tab width from the add-ons pane.

If you have a more horizontal space than vertical Tree Style Tab might be an even better option.


Firefox separates the address and search bars. Coming from Chrome, that sounds insane. Use Omnibar to combine the two.

One problem left: Omnibar doesn't prefill a "?" in the address bar on [ctrl]-k. If you're an OSX user, Chrome didn't do this either, but I really liked the confidence that [ctrl]-k + term would always search. To bring back the question mark, install Keyconfig. Then hit [ctrl]-[shift]-F12 to bring up the Keyconfig pane, and bind [ctrl]-k to the following code:

gURLBar.value = "? ";
Make sure to unbind the default [ctrl]-k mapping.

Things I'm looking forward to

Lookahead search, "/"

I really love my keyboard shortcuts. In Firefox, typing /downl[return] will open a link titled "download" on the current page.


Chrome Inspector is nice and all, but Firebug is clearly superior. I no longer recall why I hold this opinion. I'm looking forward to finding out.

Duck Duck Go

This is a bit more extreme, but the results are really quite good, and the interface is fantastic.

I assume you've tried DuckDuckGo out, but if not, do so. The results are a superset of Bing, which isn't quite Google, but it's usually okay. DuckDuckGo has picked up a lot of attention recently due to their privacy policy (they don't log queries), in contrast to most everyone else.

Again with the keyboard shortcuts

My favorite thing about DuckDuckGo so far is the vim style j/k navigation, and [ctrl]-[return] to open a link in a new tab in the background. Or maybe the Wolfram Alpha integration. Or the instant Geoip lookup. But the keyboard shortcuts mean I can search, queue up promising results, and tab through them, without reaching for the mouse, and using a very limited set of shortcuts.

Double checking with Google

The interface makes DuckDuckGo an excellent choice for a default search engine, but if I don't see the results I'm looking for, I want to double-check with Google to make sure I didn't miss anything. Adding !g to the end (or beginning) of a search term will send you to an encrypted google search.

Unfortunately, you either have to click the address bar, or hit h-[end] before typing your !g-[return], which altogether is rather cumbersome. I've uploaded a user script for Greasemonkey which binds "g" to focus the search bar, and append the bang!. With this script, queue up all the promising looking links from your DuckDuckGo query, then hit gg-[return] to check if google has any better results (it seldom does).

Giving to Google what is Google's

Some terms are clearly better handled by Google. Google is currently better with context-sensitive terms like showtimes, or local restraunts. I've heard it does better with long-tail searches, but I haven't found an example yet.

To provide instant google access, I've bound [ctrl]-j to prefix the address bar with a "g", which is the keyword I've assigned to google in Firefox's search engine preferences. If you'd like to do the same, install Keyconfig as above, and bind [ctrl]-j to

gURLBar.value = "g ";


May you fare better.