Friday, July 04, 2008

Write a Search Plugin for Firefox [Howto]

Firefox 3 currently supports plugins in two specifications. These are Apple's Sherlock format and the more recent OpenSearch syntax which is now preferred as it is supported by both Firefox (2+) and Internet Explorer (7+). In this post, I will show you how to create your own search engine plugin using the OpenSearch syntax.

1. Pick a search engine you want to create a plugin for. For this example, I have chosen Picitup which is a new image search engine (still in beta). It is not listed on Mycroft Search Engine Plugins either, so it is likely that it doesn't exist yet.

2. Find your searchplugins directory. On Windows XP, this will typically be in

where xxxx is a random string.

3. Create a new file in the searchplugins directory called picitup.xml with the contents below:

The icon file is usually called favicon.ico and is found on the level of the homepage. However, in this case it is present in a different directory, which I found by viewing the HTML source of the Picitup homepage:

<link rel="SHORTCUT ICON" href="images/plusico/fav.ico">

To find the search URL, look at the HTML <form> element:

<form name="search" action="results.jsp" method="get">
  <input input type=text name=query size="38" style="border: 1px solid #BDBDBD;"/>
  <input type="hidden" name="searchType" value="image"/>
  <input type="hidden" name="addToDb" value="1"/>
  <input type="submit" value="Search" onclick="javascript:submitForm();"/>

4. Restart Firefox and thats it! Click on the Search Engine combo box and you should now be able to try out the new Picitup addon.

5. Share your plugin with the rest of the world by uploading it here:

NB: After restart, Firefox will change you xml file by base64 encoding the image icon URL.

There is detailed documentation about the OpenSearch format at and with reference to Firefox at the Mozilla Developer Center.


  1. Anonymous11:58 AM

    Thanks for this howto. Really helpfull. I found out that some of the search engines were not GET but POST.

    I found out howto do POST searchengines with looking at the All Music Guide (AMG) plugin.

    Compare this with the AMG page source and it is easy to sort out.

  2. thanks for the article, it was really helpful ;)

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