Adding Custom Searches to Google Desktop

So you had the Google Deskbar installed but then you upgraded to Google Desktop. When you were using the Google Deskbar you created all of these custom searches and all was well because those custom searches were transferred over when you upgraded to Google Desktop. But now you can't create custom searches because that isn't an option in Google Desktop.

Well, if you are comfortable editing the Windows registry then you can create your own that way! (Warning if you don't feel comfortable - don't edit the registry. It can be VERY dangerous - you've been warned!) How fun. The custom searches are stored under:


Now, let's look at the structure of this thing.

First you should have the (Default) value and (No value set)... pretty standard. Then you'll have numbers starting at 0 and going up (obviously) from there. There should already be numbers 0 and 1, but maybe even more defaults.

For example, my first custom search is number 3 and is a search for the online encyclopedia Wikipedia. So under the registry key above there is a string value called "3" and it's value is:

<searchitem id='{id}' title="Wikipedia" url='http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&lr=&as_qdr=all&q={1}+site%3Awikipedia.com' group='user' cmdkey='Ctrl+W' useviewer='yes' encoding='standard'/></blockquote>
Unfortunately that is not going to be on one line like it should be - but cutting and pasting will keep it on one line. So go ahead and right click on "CustomSearch" and select "New" then select "String value". Name it the next logical number, and then double click that number. When you've double clicked that number paste in the code above.

Now, we must create a sub-key under HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Google\CustomSearch that goes by the same number. So to recap: Following the example above, we've created a string value called "3" under HCU\Software\Google\CustomSearch and pasted the above code into it. After we've done this right click on "CustomSearch" again and select "New" then "Key". It will create a subkey represented by a folder (in the left pane) and you'll have a chance to name it. Make sure you name it the same number that you've named above.

Now, with the subkey created we need to fill in some information in that subkey. This information is (with their value types):

Encoding (String Value)
Key (String Value)
Title (String Value)
Url (String Value)
UseViewer (DWORD Value)
You may notice that I didn't say "(Default)" because it is already created with the key.

Now, let's take these one step at a time.

Encoding: You have a few choices but mainly you want either "UTF-8" or "standard" (without the quotes, never copy my quote marks). Just use standard if you don't care or don't know which to use.

The Key string is basically the shortcut key you want to use to launch your custom search. Now beware because there already some reserved, just look over the other custom searches and select something unused. Using numbers seems to be the safest bet - just number them in the order you input them so it's easy to remember. For our example, a Wikipedia search, I've used "Ctrl-W" and that is exactly how you want to put it in the registry.

Title: This is nothing more than the common name you want to call the custom search - I've choosen "Wikipedia" of course.

URL: The url for our custom search is simple. Basically you use {1} as a placeholder to For a better guide to designing custom search URL's see this Google Deskbar Help page. Here are a few examples to help you get started though (notice the bold {1}, that is where our search terms are inserted):

Wikipedia (our current example):
Yagoohoogle! (shows Google and Yahoo! results side by side):

You can also omit the {1} and just use a plain URL to launch a page. For example, I've got a custom search that loads blogger.com and uses the shortcut (Key) Ctrl+B. It doesn't search anything. By using Alt+Ctrl+G (moves cursor and focus to search bar) and then Ctrl+B I can launch blogger in seconds. Pretty cool huh?

UseViewer: This isn't relevant with Google Desktop Search/Google Sidebar, but the Google Deskbar will use a miniture Internet Explorer based browser to show the results. It is pretty cool, but is painfully slow on some systems. It is a DWORD string, and can either be set to 0 or 1, off or on. Set to 0 just to be safe.

Okay did you get all of that?

If not here is an example registry file that you can play with, but I don't suggest importing it (as it will replace your fourth custom search if it exists):

What I do recommend is this: Open the Windows Registry Editor (Start -> Run -> regedit) and drill down to:

Then export that key to a file, paste the text of the above file into your export, and edit from there and then import the modified file into the registry.

Please, don't try any of this without making the proper backups.

Before I go; you can export custom searches from one machine to the next. And by all means leave some feedback.


At Sun Jan 25, 08:54:00 AM 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Note that the format for the key needs to be "Ctrl+X" where X is the key you want (a plus sign rather than a minus sign). Also note that at least in recent versions of Google Desktop, the value with the snippet of XML is not required. Only the "Title", "Url" and "Key" values are required. Recent versions of Google Desktop do not show the custom searches in a menu, but will still perform them if you use the keyboard shortcut you choose.


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