How to add more contextual search services in macOS

When you select text in nearly any program in macOS and then
right-click, a Search With Google option appears. Select it,
and Safari comes frontmost with the results of that Google
search. But what if you want other options?

Macworld reader Forrest finds this particularly irritating in
Apple Mail, given that he’s switched from Google to DuckDuckGo
for all his searching.

You should be able to change this in Safari: Safari
> Preferences > Search and select one
of the four search engines listed there, which includes
DuckDuckGo. That doesn’t appear to be working for Forrest, so
the following may help.

mac911 search safari preference
IDG

Safari lets you change the system-wide default for search
engine, but only lists four choices.

Also, if you’d like to be able to set up other search options
or have the ability to select a search engine on the fly
instead of being stuck with the one you picked in Safari, these
instructions give you that control, too.

The secret lies in Services, which you find in the
Application Name > Services menu in nearly
every app, and which also appear as contextual options when you
right click, depending on the app and context. These services
are listed in the Keyboard system preference pane in the
Shortcuts tap when you click the Services item in the list at
left. You can scroll through and see the panoply, disable and
enable them, and set keyboard shortcuts.

Under Searching, you’ll find Search With Google. But this isn’t
the interface for adding services, which are typically
installed by software programs directly. You can also use
Automator to add services, and that’s the best way to add more
search options.

  1. Launch Automator.
  2. Click New Document.
  3. Click Service and click Choose.
  4. Find the Run JavaScript item in the Library list
    (you can type it in to search for it) and drag it into the
    Automator main section.
  5. Paste in exactly (as shown in the figure below, too):
    function run(input, parameters) { return
    "https://duckduckgo.com/?q=" + encodeURI(input) }
  6. Drag in Display Webpages below that.
  7. Save as “Search with DuckDuckGo”.
mac911 make automator service
IDG

You can create a custom search service in Automator with a
paste and a few clicks.

You can make multiples of this service, and change the
JavaScript to use the appropriate query URL for the service you
want. You could even set this up to search text you select
against Amazon or your local public library (if it has a search
URL pattern that’s simple enough).

Now you’ll find that item in the Services menu under Text, as
Apple reserves the top-of-menu Search option to Safari’s
preferences. So to use it, you have to select text,
right-click, choose Services, and scroll to find it. However,
as I noted above, you can also set a keyboard shortcut.

Pick something unique—something that isn’t already in use by
the system or the apps you’ll commonly use it with. Then you
can just press, say, Command-Shift-Option-D, and any text you
select automatically opens that as a search in DuckDuckGo in
Safari.

Ask Mac 911

We’ve compiled a list of the questions we get asked most
frequently along with answers and links to columns:
read our super FAQ
to see if your question is covered. If
not, we’re always looking for new problems to solve! Email
yours to mac911@macworld.com including screen captures as
appropriate, and whether you want your full name used. Every
question won’t be answered, we don’t reply to email, and we
cannot provide direct troubleshooting advice.

%d bloggers like this: