Tricks With DuckDuckGo

DuckDuckGo (DDG) is the search engine I prefer to use these days. When I say that people inevitably ask me why I don’t use Google. There are a variety of reasons behind that decision, not the least of which is my preference to not give an advertising company that much information about myself. But I do not want to make this into a rant about why I avoid using Google’s search. Instead I want to show some of the neat features of DDG that I find useful from day-to-day.

Bangs

A search query may begin with a bang, which is a string in the format !name. For example:

  • !yt touhou piano searches YouTube for piano arrangements of Touhou songs.

  • !firefox markdown searches for Firefox addons that handle Markdown.

  • !js canvas provides for information about working with the <canvas> element in JavaScript.

  • !acm computer vision shows research papers available from the ACM discussing computer vision.

  • !patent video codec finds patents that relate to video codecs.

I personally find bangs useful when searching for information related to technology or computer programming, but they are not limited to that. The complete list shows that DuckDuckGo has bang shortcuts for everything from online stores to web comics to music lyrics to NetHack.

Goodies

DuckDuckGo also offers a page of goodies. These are special searches, tools, and references divided up into broad categories. For example, the ‘Gaming’ section offers a quick way to simulate any type of Dungeons and Dragons die roll. The ‘Food and Drink’ goodies help you perform easy conversions between measurements applicable to recipes. The ‘Travel’ section makes it easy to find the status for flights, including departure and arrival times and information about the terminals for each.

Conkeror Webjump

Since I use Conkeror all of the time I, of course, created a webjump for DuckDuckGo. It requires only a simple one-liner of configuration:

define_webjump("ddg", "http://duckduckgo.com/?q=%s");

Now if I want to find official information on XPath I can browse to ddg !w3c xpath. The webjump in Conkeror expands that as if I browsed to DuckDuckGo itself and typed in !w3c xpath, while the bang command help restricts my search to the W3C. A useful combination of features from both the browser and the search engine.

Conclusion? Give DuckDuckGo a Chance

Most of my searches relate to programming or technology in some way, and in that area DDG has repeatedly proven itself to be a useful resource. Its bang commands and ‘goodies’ are welcome tools to help with those endeavors. Is it a suitable replacement for the behemoth Google? Certainly not for everyone. But I do suggest giving DuckDuckGo a chance. Its simplicity and straight-forward methods for refining searches has made it a cornerstone of my daily Internet browsing.

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