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Contextual Search with Firefox

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Found something on a web page you'd like more information about? A nifty plugin for Firefox lets you highlight text and search using any of Firefox's built-in search engines with a simple right click of your mouse.

I've written before about the excellent native search capabilities offered by the Firefox browser, and how you can easily add your own favorite engines via plugins that install in seconds.

This makes it easy to type a query into the Firefox search box and run it on your engine of choice from any page on the web. For longer or difficult to spell queries, you need to cut and paste your query into the box, then select the appropriate engine for your needs.

You can speed things up for these types of queries by using Firefox's built-in contextual search function that lets you highlight words on a page and run a Google search on those terms by right clicking your mouse and selecting the "search web for" menu item. This contextual search feature is great, but you're limited to Google results.

ConQuery is a simple tool that enables a contextual search function for all of your Firefox search plugins. ConQuery adds a "Query to..." menu item to the right click context menu. To use it, simply highlight text on a web page, right click and select "Query to..." and choose any of the Firefox search plugins you've installed.

Even better, you can customize ConQuery, in a number of ways. To customize, right click and select "Query to..." just as if you were performing a search. Then, instead of selecting a search source, double-click the "Query to..." selection with the left mouse button.

This brings up a dialog box with several options. Have some search sites you know you'll never use from a contextual search? Use the check box to de-select it from your ConQuery list. You can also change your preferences to change how results are displayed (in a new tab or window, for instance), or change the appearance of ConQuery itself.

One of ConQuery's coolest features lets you install ConQuery specific search plugins that are smart about what you're looking for. For example, the ISBN book lookup plugin only appears in your context menu if the highlighted text appears to be an ISBN number. Whois lookup services only appear if you're searching for an IP address, and so on.

Other ConQuery specific plugins include dictionary lookups, computer programming references, advanced Google search and a number of others.

As with most Firefox search plugins, the price is right (free), and if you don't like ConQuery it's very easy to remove—just follow the instructions on the Firefox uninstall search plugins FAQ.

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