With the recent announcements about Google changing its privacy policies and even the Google faithful beginning to doubt the search giant's commitment to its own vision, I thought it was time to start exploring alternatives to everyone's favorite search engine.
Warning, Mac Geek post ahead! Turn back now unless you can't help yourself...
So. What's wrong with Google? Nothing. They're still as powerful and as good as they've always been. The issue is that they are now joining the ranks of 'regular' companies. No longer are they the greatest defenders of 'the free web'; they are looking to make a profit and they're looking to do it with a resource they master like none other: data. This isn't 'evil' as I've heard from some grumblers in recent days, it's just a company looking after its bottom-line. The thing is, I'm not looking to become a product for Google to push, beyond the information I've freely shared on any number of social media sites I'm not really looking to get every search query I type in aggregated into data for Google to sell to 3rd parties (whether directly or indirectly). Recently, Daring Fireball's John Gruber posted up that he was exploring DuckDuckGo, an open-source search engine that not only has an amusing name and a cute logo, but furthermore promises not to track you and not to create a search 'bubble'. Not only that, it has lots of cool features like 'bang script'. Enough fodder to peak my interest and for me to go have a look at it. Once I got past the 'not-googleness' of it I was actually happy for its clutter-free webpage and commitment to just showing me what I was looking for (where have I heard that before?).
OK. So I'm happy with DuckDuckGo. So now I want to dump Google on my iMac and go with this new search engine; how do I go about doing this?
I was presented with 2 challenges for the way I access my search engine on my Mac: Safari and Launchbar. I needed to find a way to make DuckDuckGo my standard search engine in Safari and I wanted to add it to the list of Launchbar search engines available.
It turns out that others have forged the path for me. A wonderful free app called 'Safari Ominbar' by Olivier Poitrey makes this wizardry possible. Essentially, omnibar gets rid of the separate search and location bars in Safari and merges them into one input bar. Indeed. Yes. Just like in Google Chrome. The nice thing is, you can add search engines to omnibar and set them to be the default. To get Omnibar to work, you will need to install the well-known OSX input manager SIMBL. After that, the instructions for getting omnibar to use DuckDuckGo as a standard search engine can be found here.
Launchbar (v 5) has a great little feature called 'search templates'. This just lets you add new search engines to the application at will. Instructions are here. If you're unsure what the search engine URL should look like, it's practically the same as in the omnibar instructions above, namely:
If you're on a Mac and you're not familiar with Launchbar (or Quicksilver or their ilk), go look at it. Then go use it. There's no excuse to not allow them to launch your Mac productivity into hyperdrive.
Lastly, I'd advise setting up an abbreviation on Launchbar to get to the search engine quicker. In my case, I used 'dg'.
There ya go! Now you can search in Safari and quick launch into a search string using Launchbar with all the added benefits that DuckDuckGo bestows. If I take the flow I've set up for myself and I want to search EtymOnline.com for the roots of the name "Glastonbury" then all I'd have to type is: Cmd-Space, dg, [space], !etymology Glastonbury, [enter]
Unless you're using Siri, it doesn't get much faster (or geekier) than that!