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How to Change the Web Browser Default Search Engine in OS X

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Difficulty:BeginnerLength:ShortLanguages:

Apple's Mac computers ship with the Safari web browser which, by default, uses Google for its search. In this tutorial, I'll show you how to change the default search engine.

For the purpose of this tutorial, I am using:

  • OS X 10.11.2 El Capitan
  • Safari 9.0.2
  • Chrome 47.0.2526.111 (64-bit)

If you are using an earlier version of OS X, not all search engine options will be available to you in Safari.

Google Search Engine Dominance

According to Google, itself, Google now handles in excess of 40,000 search queries per second, on average. That's more than 3.5 billion search queries per day and more than 1.2 trillion per year, worldwide. 

I know, because I googled it.

Google is the undisputed leader in internet search and has come a long way since its beginnings as a project at Stanford University in 1996.

There was a time, in 1995, that internet search was a largely hit and miss affair. More often than not, miss. In the search for information, one would check AltaVista, Infoseek, Lycos, Yahoo and Ask Jeeves. It was necessary to check all, as all indexed in different ways and with varying degrees of success.

Since that time, Google has dominated through innovation of search engine algorithms to ensure that relevant and popular content is returned in search results.

Google isn't really a search engine company; it's much more than that. Taking its search engine in isolation, it's still not a search engine company, it's actually in the business of selling advertising. It does this by placing adverts alongside relevant content.

Google Search Statistics
Google Search Statistics (Internet Live Stats)

Searching, using Google, is free. Free in the sense that it does not cost money to search—though Infoseek did attempt to charge for search in the mid-1990s—but it's not free, there is a cost.

It's the old internet maxim of if you're not paying then you are the product that applies here. Google provides its services at no financial cost in exchange for collecting data about you. 

Google collects data in order to serve carefully targeted ads. Advertisers know that their ads are carefully targeted and bid (money) against their competitors to have their ads displayed to you.

Google collects a lot of information.

Tutorial Aims

In this tutorial, I'll show you how to:

  • Change the default search engine in Safari
  • Change the default search engine in Chrome
  • Define a custom search engine in Chrome

1. Changing the Search Engine in Safari

Whether it's Google's dominance and data collection that you wish to move away from, or whether you just fancy experimenting with other search engines, I'll show you how to change the default search engines in Safari and Chrome, the main browsers on OS X.

1. Launch Safari

Launch the Safari web browser
Launch the Safari web browser

Safari allows you to choose from one of four search engines. It defaults to Google.

To change the default search engine, launch Safari by clicking on the compass icon on the task bar.

2. Check Which Search Engine Safari is Using

Launch Safari and conduct a search to see which search engine is being used
Launch Safari and conduct a search to see which search engine is being used

Launch Safari and conduct a search to see which search engine is being used. In the example, above, Safari is using the Google search engine. 

Safari defaults to Google.

3. Select Preferences

Go to Safari > Preferences to open the preferences pane for the web browser.

4. Select Search Preferences

On the preference pane, select the Search icon to display the search preferences for Safari.

5. Change the Search Engine

Safari defaults to Google for search. It is possible to select from the following search engines:

  • Google
  • Yahoo
  • Bing
  • DuckDuckGo

Use the drop down menu to select the preferred search engine.

Click the red traffic light to close the preference pane.

6. Launch Safari

Relaunch Safari and conduct a search to check which search engine is being used
Relaunch Safari and conduct a search to check which search engine is being used

Open a Safari web browser window and conduct a search to see the result of the default search engine change.

In the example, above, you will see that the default search engine has been changed, from Google, to DuckDuckGo.

2. Changing the Search Engine in Chrome

1. Launch Chrome

Chrome allows you to choose from one of four search engines. It defaults to Google. Furthermore, Chrome allows you to define custom search engines.

To change the default search engine, launch Chrome by clicking on the compass icon on the task bar.

2. Check Which Search Engine Chrome is Using

Launch Chrome and conduct a search to see which search engine is being used. In the example, above, Chrome is using the Google search engine. 

Chrome defaults to Google.

3. Select Preferences

Go to Chrome > Preferences to open the preferences pane for the web browser.

4. Select Search Preferences


Chrome opens up the Settings page in a new browser tab. Find the Search section, on the webpage, to see the search preferences for Chrome.

5. Change the Search Engine

Safari defaults to Google for search. It is possible to select from the following search engines:

  • Google
  • Bing
  • Yahoo
  • Ask Jeeves

Use the drop down menu to select the preferred search engine.

You can close the settings webpage if you wish. 

6. Launch Chrome

Open a Chrome web browser window and conduct a search to see the result of the default search engine change.

In the example, above, you will see that the default search engine has been changed, from Google, to Bing.

3. Setting a Custom Search Engine in Chrome

An advantage of Chrome over Safari is the ability to define custom search engines and set them as the default. 

Safari only allows from the choice of four with no ability to customise the search engine of choice.

1. Customise the Search Settings

Open the Settings page in Chrome by navigating to Chrome > Preferences or by clicking the menu icon on the top right of the web browser.

Look down the page until you see the Search Engines section.

Click on the Manage search engines... button to open the search engine settings.

Complete the boxes under Other search engines to define a new search engine.

In my example, I wish to configure the DuckDuckGo search engine. In the lefthand box I enter the name of the search engine. In the middle box I enter the search engine domain. In the righthand box I enter the search URL. 

To first ascertain the search URL, visit DuckDuckGo in a web browser and enter a search term. In my example, I entered envato as the search term. I copied the URL from the address bar and pasted it into the righthand box in the Chrome search engine settings. 

The URL that I copied is: https://duckduckgo.com/?q=envato&ia=about

There is a small change that is required to ensure that the custom search engine will function as expected. In this example, remove the search term envato and replace it with %s

The search term will look like: https://duckduckgo.com/?q=%s&ia=about

2. Make the Search Engine the Default

Hover over the URL search term, towards the right, to reveal a blue Make Default box and click this to make the custom search engine the default for Chrome to use.

3. Launch Chrome and Test the Search Function

Go to a new page tab and enter a search term. Now, when Chrome searches, it will use the custom search engine that you have defined. In the example, above, Chrome is using DuckDuckGo as the default search engine.

Conclusion

In this tutorial, I have shown you how to change the default search engine in both Safari and Chrome. Safari only allows a choice of four pre-defined search engines. 

Chrome allows a choice of four pre-defined search engines and I have, further, shown you how to define other search engines.

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