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Window Manager
Brian Livingston
How to make Google, or any search engine, your default searcher in Internet Explorer

WHEN MICROSOFT bundled its Internet Explorer browser into Windows 98 and then into Windows 2000, the productivity of PC users soared. Workers who once might have wasted time playing Solitaire could now waste time surfing the Web.

Reader John Dooley, when he isn't wasting time, scours the Web for valuable information using the search engine. He asks, "Is there any way to get Google as my default address line search engine?"

Of course there is a way, but it's a bit trickier than you would expect. Versions 4 and 5 of Internet Explorer have the handy feature of allowing you to type a question mark (?) into the Address Bar, followed by a space and a string of words. IE then queries one of the engines found on its default list. (If you leave out the question mark and type a string that is not a Web address, IE will use MSN Search.)

The problem is that Google isn't listed. In IE 5, you can click the Search button, and then click Customize to choose among eight search engines. But Google is notably absent. In IE 4, changing the default involves editing the Registry. Microsoft describes this process in an article posted at The article doesn't mention Google, although it documents the trick for several other engines.

This once wasn't an issue, but Google is now one of the top 30 most-visited sites in the world, according to Media Metrix.

The answer to Dooley's question is to edit the Registry as described in Microsoft's article. But instead of typing a line for one of the other search engines it suggests, insert this line:

Fortunately, Google itself provides a better way to do this that doesn't require manual editing of the Registry. Go to and click "other Google shortcuts." On the page that appears, scroll down halfway to the section entitled "Make Google Your Default Search Engine."

Explanations are provided for both Netscape Navigator and Internet Explorer. The IE discussion includes three .reg files you can download and run to edit your Registry for you. One of them returns IE to its old defaults, if you wish.

Another option is the Google Toolbar, currently available only for IE 5. The toolbar, among other things, allows you to search all the pages at any site you're visiting. This is great for sites that don't provide their own site-specific search tool. You can find it at

Google's special buttons, which you add to the Links toolbar in IE 4 or 5, provide even more flexibility. The Google Search button performs a query on any word or phrase you've highlighted in your browser window. The Google Scout button displays sites that are similar to the one you're currently viewing, including competitors, etc. Get these buttons at

Internet Explorer itself has too many search options to cover fully here. For more information, pull down IE's Help menu, and then click Contents. Click the Index tab. Then select "automatic search from the Address Bar" and click Display.

Reader Dooley will receive a free copy of Windows Me Secrets for suggesting this idea. perks up

I wrote in my April 9 column about a new Web site that allows you to search Microsoft's and other firms' knowledge bases using natural-language queries (see "Now you can search Microsoft's database in good old English or almost any language"). The site had been receiving only 50 visitors a day, but it shot up to 4,500 visitors the day my column appeared and continues to grow.

The site has improved enough that I now recommend you start directly at its home page,, instead of its advanced search page. Click the "A La Carte" button for advanced searches.

'Geek for a Day' winners

I'm pleased to announce that Robert Miles III of Salem, Va., and Bruce Kube of Scottsdale, Ariz., are the winners of my "Geek for a Day" contest.

I picked at random two readers of my new newsletter, E-Business Secrets, and I'll soon spend a day helping them optimize their Windows PCs.

I'll describe whatever interesting tips I learn from these visits in a future issue of E-Business Secrets.

Get Livingston free via e-mail

Go to and click Window Manager or E-Business Secrets to receive either of Brian Livingston's weekly columns free via e-mail.


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