How to Save a Ton of Time With Custom Searches on Android

By David Nield on at

Out of the box, Android doesn’t give you much flexibility when it comes to setting the default search in the toolbar at the top of the screen. A clever app called Custom Search Bar Widget lets you set up alternative searches for sites like YouTube, Wikipedia, IMDB, Google Maps, and more. It also completely transforms the look of the search bar.

Most of the goodies in the app require a “pro” upgrade, but it’s well worth the couple of quid. First, open up the Widgets link with a long-press on a blank part of the home screen, find the CSBW entry and drag it into position.

You can then launch the CSBW proper from the app drawer and get configuring. A range of looks and styles, including the new Pixel launcher format, are available to apply, or you can get creative and come up with your own combination of colors and shades. Don’t forget to hit the Apply button after each change you make.

If you choose a pre-made theme then you get directed to the appropriate download on the Google Play Store. If you prefer to make your own, you can adjust the background, text colors, the icons in the search bar, outline color and strength, drawer placement, and whether or not a drop shadow effect is applied.

The plus button under the widget drawer lets you add your alternative search options via the Search Item link. DuckDuckGo, Spotify, Amazon, and Gmail are some of those included, and you can add app links, web shortcuts, and actions like copy and paste too. Press and hold on any icon to remove or edit it.

Should you need to add your own custom search option, that’s easily done too. Run a search on the site you want to add, then make a note of the URL, like this one. Replace your search term with the %s placeholder (so in our case it would be http://gizmodo.co.uk/search?searchTerm=%s).

You can add then the search string through the Custom entry on the Add Search Item menu, and for the finishing touch there’s the option to add an icon image. Unfortunately this isn’t handled automatically as far as we could see so you’re going to need to go hunting for favicons and logos on your own.

The app has a few rough edges (you might need to resize the widget by pressing and holding on it to stop icons from getting squashed) but it’s one of the best options we’ve seen for bringing alternative searches to the Android home screen. [h/t The Next Web]