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Yahoo Launches Open Shortcuts, Allows Creation Of Custom Search Commands

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The new Yahoo Open Shortcuts service lets anyone create their own custom search commands for use on Yahoo. Want to navigate to a particular site quickly or have Yahoo remember a particular search string? The new service lets you do this.

This help page provides full details on how the system works, and this page helps walk you through the creation process. Time Saving Search Shortcuts on the Yahoo Search Blog also has more info.

To add a few examples, let's say you want to reach the Search Engine Watch Blog quickly. Using the shortcuts creation page, you give the shortcut a name that you'll enter (let's say "sewb") and the URL (http://blog.searchenginewatch.com/blog). Once you've set this up, you can then do this into the Yahoo search box:

!sewb

And that is supposed to take you to the Search Engine Watch Blog home page. You can make any number of commands to navigate wherever you like, and you can recall the entire list you've created through this command:

!list

How about saving searches? Sure. Say you always use Yahoo to search against our site to find stories about Yahoo. That would look like this:

site:blog.searchenginewatch.com yahoo

After doing that search, look in the address bar of your browser, and you'll see a URL similar to this:

http://search.yahoo.com/search?p=site%3Ablog.searchenginewatch.com%20yahoo

Now using the creation page, you'd enter a search command/shortcut you want to save the URL to be associated with (let's say sew-yahoo). Then anytime you did this:

!sew-yahoo

that long URL you copy and pasted would automatically be sent to Yahoo, causing it to rerun your search.

I tested the service before it went public and also 15 minutes after that, and I found the shortcuts I'd made and saved weren't working. Even Yahoo's own shortcuts like !my weren't working. If you find the same, keep trying. I suspect they'll begin operating shortly.

Don't want to use the creation page? Power folks can make any shortcut on the fly right within the search box. The magic weapon is the !set command. Use that followed by the name of your shortcut and the URL to save, and you'll make a shortcut on the fly. For example:

!set sewf http://forums.searchenginewatch.com

would instantly create a shortcut for you called "sewf" that takes you to the Search Engine Watch Forums.

Yahoo's created a number of shortcuts that anyone can use to reach or search popular sites, such as Amazon, My Yahoo and Flickr. Unfortunately, the shortcuts you create can't be shared with others.

In contrast, YubNub that I wrote about earlier this year lets you not only create any number of powerful shortcuts, but once created, everyone else can use them.

For more about that an and a similar service called Ambedo, see these past posts:


Postscript from Gary: Along with other services that blogged about above like YubNub (mobile version also available) and Ambedo, even more other tools offer similar search shortcut services and tools. Here's a quick look at a few, what my best be described as "related services" that I've used over the years.

Browsers Many browsers offer pre-built search shortcut features.

+ For example, some shortcuts are built into Opera. For example, entering a "g" in the address box and then your search terms will run a Google search, entering an "z" plus search terms runs an Amazon.com search, a "z" plus search terms runs an eBay search. Documentation about all of this is available here.

Worth mentioning that states that these options can't be customized BUT this page says they can. It will take a little hacking but it's easy enough for a non-geek to do it. The problems is I'm not sure it works. Details about what I'm talking about here in a knowledge base entry.

+ Other browsers also offer search shortcuts that can be created with little effort. One of many examples is, Netcaptor. This browser calls search shortcuts "Quick Search" and they can be set-up in seconds. The documentation is clear and is found in the Help section. The section on "Aliases" might also be worth taking a look at.

Toolbars Three toolbars allow you to customize and add search capabilities direct from any search box. I've mentioned all of them on the blog or in SearchDay during the past few years.

  • The A9 Toolbar The link above takes you to a blog post from August that explains how you can add a search shortcut to the A9 toolbar with just two clicks. It also explains how to (without an URL "hacking") to create advanced searches directly from the toolbar. The A9 toolbar is available for Firefox and IE.
  • This post describes NeedleSearch, a toolbar for only available for Firefox. Like A9, this software allows you to add the power of any search engine to the toolbar with a click or two.
  • The Copernic Meta Toolbar (IE only) also offers this feature.

Btw, these services as well as many others allow advanced users ca "hack the urls" and bring very advanced searches directly to the toolbar. Trust me, it's easy and fun. The possibilities are endless.


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