Custom Search Engines

If you’re like me, you regularly do research on the Internet, ranging from in-depth research on Lexis or Westlaw, to pulling statutes from Virginia’s Legislative Information System (LIS) or Virginia Decoded, to searching other online databases and sites. Modern web browsers allow users to create custom “search engines” (or special bookmarks that function like search engines) that can be used to quickly perform searches on specific websites. Once configured, you can search the specific website by typing the selected keyword into the browser’s address bar, followed by a space, and then the search term. For example, I have configured a custom search engine for the Virginia LIS website so that I can type va 13.1-782 into my browser’s address bar to immediately retrieve that statute (Virginia Code § 13.1-782).

Examples

Here are some examples that you might find useful. (Directions to setup these examples or to create your own custom search engines are provided below.)

  • LIS: Virginia Code
    • Description: This will retrieve the specified statute from Virginia’s Legislative Information System (LIS) website. You can access the Table of Contents by typing TOC instead of a statute number.
    • Keyword: va
    • URL: http://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?000+cod+%s
  • LIS: Virginia Code (beta)
    • Description: This will retrieve the specified statute from the new beta version of Virginia’s Legislative Information System (LIS) website. You can access the Table of Contents by typing TOC instead of a statute number.
    • Keyword: vabeta
    • URL: http://law.lis.virginia.gov/vacode/%s/
  • Virginia Decoded (VaCode.org)
    • Description: This will retrieve the specified statute from the Virginia Decoded website. To learn more about the Virginia Decoded website, see Vaden Warren’s Tech Tip.
    • Keyword: vacode
    • URL: http://vacode.org/%s/
  • LIS: Virginia Administrative Code
    • Description: This will retrieve the specified section of the Virginia Administrative Code from Virginia’s Legislative Information System (LIS) website. You can access the Table of Contents by typing TOC instead of a section number.
    • Keyword: vac
    • URL: http://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?000+reg+%s
  • Lexis VA Code
    • Description: This will retrieve the specified statute from Lexis.
    • Keyword: valn
    • URL: http://www.lexis.com/research/xlink?searchtype=get&search=va%20stat%20%s
  • Lexis Citation Search
    • Description: This will perform a search in Lexis using the specified search string.
    • Keyword: ln
    • URL: http://www.lexis.com/research/xlink?searchtype=get&search=%s
  • Wayback Machine (Internet Archive)
    • Description: This will search the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine for the specified website. For example, use: archive vba.org to see historic versions of The Virginia Bar Association’s website.
    • Keyword: archive
    • URL: https://web.archive.org/web/*/%s
  • TSDR – Serial No. Search
    • Description: This will retrieve the specified trademark application (by serial number) from the USPTO database.
    • Keyword: tsdr
    • URL: http://tsdr.uspto.gov/#caseNumber=%s&caseType=SERIAL_NO&searchType=statusSearch
  • Google Scholar
    • Description: This will perform a search in Google Scholar for the specified search string.
    • Keyword: scholar
    • URL: http://scholar.google.com/scholar?hl=en&q=%s

How to Install Custom Search Engines

To create or install a custom search engine, you will need to supply three pieces of information: (1) a name for the search engine (this can be whatever you want), (2) a keyword or shortcut to reference the search engine (this should be a single, easy to remember word or abbreviation), and (3) the URL used to perform the search.

Directions for Google Chrome

To install a custom search engine in the Google Chrome web browser:

  1. Click on the menu button and select Settings
    Custom Search Engines - Chrome Screenshot 1
  2. Then click Manage search engines…
    Custom Search Engines - Chrome Screenshot 2
  3. When the following dialog appears, scroll to the bottom:
    Custom Search Engines - Chrome Screenshot 3
  4. Enter the search engine name, keyword, and URL into the fields shown below and click Done
    Custom Search Engines - Chrome Screenshot 4

To use the newly created custom search engine:

  1. Place your cursor in the address bar by clicking with your mouse or pressing [Ctrl] + [L]
  2. Type the keyword selected for the search engine followed by a space
    Custom Search Engines - Chrome Screenshot 5
  3. Then type your search terms and press [Enter]

Directions for Mozilla Firefox

To install a custom search engine in the Mozilla Firefox web browser:

  1. Click on the bookmark button and select Show All Bookmarks
    Custom Search Engines - Firefox Screenshot 1
  2. When the Library window opens, right click on Bookmarks Menu and select New Bookmark…
    Custom Search Engines - Firefox Screenshot 2
  3. Type the name for your custom search bookmark, enter the URL into the Location field, and type your desired keyword into the Keyword field:
    Custom Search Engines - Firefox Screenshot 3
  4. Then click Add
    Custom Search Engines - Firefox Screenshot 4
  5. Then close the Library window

To use the newly created custom search engine:

  1. Place your cursor in the address bar by clicking with your mouse or pressing [Ctrl] + [L]
  2. Type the keyword selected for the search engine followed by a space
    Custom Search Engines - Firefox Screenshot 5
  3. Then type your search terms and press [Enter]

Creating Your Own Custom Search Engines

When using a custom search engine, the text that you type into the address bar will replace the %s placeholder in the search URL. For example, the URL used to create the Virginia LIS custom search engine mentioned above is: http://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?000+cod+%s, and when I type va 13.1-782 in the address bar, my custom search engine converts that to: http://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?000+cod+13.1-782. Thus, you can often reverse engineer the appropriate custom search URL by performing a search on a website, and then copying that URL and replacing your search string with %s.

An earlier version of this article was published on October 8, 2014 by The Virginia Bar Association in the VBA Law Practice Management Division’s Tech Tips Forum at: http://www.vba.org/forums/permalink.asp?id=1016620.