How to customize the Firefox search tool to better fit your needs

Firefox logo on a laptop

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When you need to search for something, what do you do? Most likely, you’ve replied, “I’ll type a search term in the address bar and press Enter to get Google’s results.” While most people search this way, there are others who don’t like the idea of ​​an integrated search and URL bar like, or those who would rather use a search engine other than Google.

In fact, back in the days of dinosaurs and 33.6k modems, we first had to go to,,,, or, manually carve our search string into stone tablets, and hope the gods would provide us with the smile at the results we were looking for. We didn’t have built-in search bars or a single true search engine to do them all.

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Now we have options.

Luckily, Firefox lets you search however you like. So instead of a built-in address bar, you can separate the URL and search features and choose which search engine you want to use by default.

Why would you want a separate search and address bar?

I have a very practical reason for doing this.

Type in your address bar and you will land on the ZDNET website. But what if you wanted to do some research on You could go to, type in the search box and get all sorts of information. With the separate search bar, you could just type in the box and hit enter to see the same results.

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You see, no matter what you type in the separate search bar, it will be seen as a search string and nothing else. In addition, the separate search bar also offers you search suggestions.

For example, if you type in the search bar and press Enter, you can hover over the magnifying glass to see a drop-down menu. Click on the drop down menu and you will see related searches. Within the results you will also be presented with options to search the string.

While it might not be as handy as a built-in address bar, it gives you more options. If you take your search seriously, and that’s a good thing.

Let me show you how to configure Firefox’s search function to better suit your needs.

How to disconnect the search bar

What you will need: The only thing you need is the installed Firefox browser. It doesn’t matter what platform you’re using (I’ll demonstrate it on Pop!_OS) as long as the browser is updated and running properly.

That’s it. Let’s configure your search.

The bottom section of the Firefox menu.

Opening the Firefox settings window from the drop-down menu.

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

In the “Firefox Settings” window, click on the “Search” entry in the left navigation.

The left navigation of Firefox settings.

Click Search to locate that section of the settings window.

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

In the window that appears, click to enable Add search bar to toolbar. You don’t need to click the “Save” button as the change will happen automatically.

The configuration section of the Firefox search bar.

Enabling the separate search bar in Firefox.

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

At this point, you should now see separate address and search bars on the Firefox toolbar.

A view of Firefox's separate address and search bars.

Separate address and search bars work better for some people.

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

How to change your default search engine

Go back to Settings > Search and you’ll see the Default Search Engine section with a drop-down menu that will likely show Google as the default. Click on this drop down menu and you can choose from Amazon, Bing, DuckDuckGo, eBay, Google and Wikipedia.

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My favorite search engine is DuckDuckGo because it’s (by far) more privacy-focused than Google. However, you should choose the search engine that best suits your needs.

The Firefox search engine selection drop-down menu.

Selection of the desired search engine for Firefox.

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

In the same section (below the search dropdown) you can also customize search suggestions by enabling or disabling:

  • give search suggestions.
  • Show search suggestions in address bar results.
  • Show search suggestions before browsing history in address bar results.
  • Show search suggestions in private windows.

I leave everything as default (i.e. everything except Show search suggestions in private windows is checked).

Once you’ve taken care of that, close the Settings tab and you’re done. You can now enjoy a Firefox search experience that better suits your needs.

Have fun searching!

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