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Fix and use custom search terms in Google Chrome



A zoomed in Google Chrome logo on a blue desktop

Google has changed the way custom searches work in Google Chrome. Now you can no longer type your custom keyword and press the spacebar to quickly search. However, there is an alternative – and a way to get the old custom search behavior back.

What is a Custom Search?

Google Chrome has a search feature that allows you to assign “keywords”

; to custom searches. For example, after you set it up, you can type “w chickadee” to search Wikipedia for “chickadee” or “h windows” to search How-To Geek for articles about Windows.

You can manage these in Chrome by clicking menu> Settings> Search engine> Manage search engines. The “Keyword” field defines the custom keyword that will start a custom search. Add a short one to speed things up. (To define a keyword for a search engine, click the menu button on the right, click “Edit” and enter the keyword in the Keyword box.)

Custom Search Engines in Google Chrome.

What changed?

Let’s say you have a keyword “y” that you use to search YouTube. Previously, you could type ‘y cooking’ in Chrome’s omnibox and hit Enter to search YouTube for cooking videos.

However, the spacebar no longer works this way thanks to a change in Google Chrome version 88 in February 2021.

As a Chrome developer explained on Reddit, Google made this change to prevent people from accidentally triggering custom searches with the spacebar while performing normal searches.

Using custom search terms with tab

There is still one way to easily use your custom searches: with the tab bar.

To perform a custom search, focus on Chrome’s address bar (for example, with Ctrl + L), type your keyword, press Tab, type your search, and press Enter.

For example, if you had a YouTube search that searched YouTube when you type “y”, now you need to type “y”, press Tab, type your search, then press Enter.

Using a custom keyword in Google Chrome.

How to get back the old behavior of the space buttons

If you’re used to the old spacebar behavior, you can bring it back with a flag. As usual, there is no guarantee that these Chrome flags will stick. Google will probably remove this option one day.

Open Chrome’s flag page to get started. Type “chrome: // flags” (without the quotes) in the Chrome location bar and hit Enter to find it.

First, type “omnibox keyword” in the search field at the top of the page. When the ‘Omnibox keyword search button’ option appears, click the ‘Default’ box and set the option to ‘Disabled’.

Turn it on

Second, type “omnibox suggestion” in the search field. When the ‘Row with omnibox suggestion button’ option appears, click the ‘Default’ box on the right and set the option to ‘Enabled’.

Turn it on

You are now done and you can click the “Restart” button at the bottom of the page to restart Google Chrome. When it reboots, you can use the spacebar again with your custom searches.

Click on the

Note: We tested this on February 16, 2020 with Chrome 88. If the options are no longer present in a future version of Chrome, there may be no way to get the old spacebar behavior back. You can still use custom searches with the Tab key.

RELATED: Enable Google Chrome flags to test beta features




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