If you've read the July 18th edition of the Windows Vista Report titled "My six favorite Sidebar Gadgets," you know that I use Search Gadget in the Vista Sidebar because it allows me to quickly and easily launch a search on my preferred search engine: Google.
Well, I was recently updating my collection of Sidebar gadgets and after weighing the pros and cons, decided to ditch Search Gadget in favor of another more useful gadget. In any case, it wasn't too long before I found myself missing Search Gadget and its instant access to Google. However, rather than putting it back on the Sidebar, I decided to look for an alternative.
After a bit of investigation, I discovered two very satisfactory alternatives. First, I discovered that I could add Google to Vista's Start Search feature. Second, I discovered that I could make Google the default search provider in Internet Explorer 7's Instant Search box. Since I've found both of these alternatives to be extremely useful, I decided to pass them on to you.
In this edition of the Windows Vista Report, I'll show you how to add Google to Vista's Start menu and to Internet Explorer 7. I'll then show you how to take advantage of these two techniques.
This blog post is also available in the PDF format in a TechRepublic download.
Customizing Vista's Start Search feature
Back in September 2006, I covered Vista's Start Search feature in the article "A deeper look at Windows Vista's integrated search feature." While the operating system was still in the Release Candidate stage at the time that I wrote that article, Start Search was a fully developed feature so that information is still current. You may want to take a look at that article if you want to learn more about the Vista's Search feature.
Fortunately, you can make Vista's Start Search feature even more useful by adding Google to it. To do so, you'll use the Local Group Policy Editor, which you can launch by pressing [Windows]+[R], typing gpedit.msc in the Run dialog box, and clicking OK. When you do, you'll encounter a UAC and will need to respond accordingly.
Once the Local Group Policy Editor launches, drill down through the following folders in the tree:
User ConfigurationAdministrative TemplatesWindows ComponentsInstant SearchYou'll then see the Custom Instant Search Internet Search provider policy setting, as shown in Figure A.
You'll modify the Custom Instant Search Internet Search provider policy setting in the Local Group Policy Editor.
Now, double-click the Custom Instant Search Internet Search provider policy setting to open the properties dialog box. At this point, click the Enabled button and the two text boxes in the panel will become active. As soon as they do, type Search Google in the first one and the following URL in the second:
http://www.google.com/search?q=%wYour Custom Instant Search Internet Search provider Properties dialog box will look like the one shown in Figure B.
Be sure that you type the URL carefully to ensure that the Google Search will work correctly.At this point, click OK and then close the Local Group Policy Editor. Now, you'll need to apply the new policy setting. To do so, press [Windows]+[R] to access the Run dialog box, type cmd.exe, and click OK. When the Command Prompt windows opens, type gpupdate/force, press [Enter], and wait for the success message, as shown in Figure C.
You'll use the gpupdate/force command to update the Local Group Policy.Now, when you're working and decide that you want to conduct a search on Google, all you have to do is click the Start button and type a word in the Start Search box. You'll then see Search Google appear below the See All Results and Search The Internet Search options, as shown in Figure D.
You'll now find Search Google on the Start menu when you type in the Start Search box.When you select the Search Google option, Internet Explorer will appear and transport the search query you typed in the Start Search box directly to Google, and you'll instantly see the results page, as shown in Figure E.
The Google search results will instantly display in Internet Explorer.
Customizing Internet Explorer 7's Instant Search featureMaking Google the default search provider for Internet Explorer 7's Instant Search feature is actually a very easy procedure. To begin, launch Internet Explorer as you normally would and then click the drop-down arrow adjacent to the magnifying glass icon in the Instant Search box. Once the menu appears, select the Find More Providers command, as shown in Figure F.
Once the menu appears, select the Find More Providers command.When you do, Internet Explorer will open the Add Search Providers To Internet Explorer page, as shown in Figure G. This page on Microsoft's site lists the search providers from which you can choose.
From this page, you can select a new search provider for Internet Explorer.Now, just select Google (or any search provider you prefer) from the Web Search list. When you do, you'll see the Add Search Provider dialog box, shown in Figure H, which basically prompts you to accept the change. To continue, select the Make this my default search provider check box and click the Add Provider button.
Select the Make This My Default Search Provider check box and click the Add Provider button.You'll now see Google appear in the Instant Search box, as shown in Figure I.
Google will now be your default search provider.
Now, when you're in Internet Explorer and want to conduct a search on Google, all you have to do is type your search term in the search box and click OK. You'll then instantly see the results page.
Will you customize the search features?
Now that you know how to add Google to Vista's Start menu and to Internet Explorer 7, will you do so? Please drop by the Discussion area and let us hear from you.
Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.