Here’s a great tip for making searching online Chinese dictionaries a lot easier and faster. It can be annoying when reading or writing Chinese online to have to type in the URL of the dictionary you want to search, then type or paste the word into the search box and hit the search button. With this tip you can cut all that down to one step (well, two steps if you include opening a new tab a step – but hitting ‘Ctrl + T’ hardly counts as a step).
Search from your address bar
The result of this hack is that all you need do when you want to search an online dictionary is type a keyword following by the word you want to search for. For instance when I want to search Yahoo’s Chinese dictionary for a word all I need do is type ‘d’ in the address bar followed by the word I want to search for (in the image below you can see I am about to search for the word 網站). I chose the letter ‘d’ as it stands for ‘dictionary’, but you can use anything.
How to set it up
This is really easy to set up and simply involves creating a bookmark in your browser – I’ll be covering Firefox and Chrome here.
First browse to the dictionary that you want to search and perform a search. Next, copy the address from the URL bar. Using Yahoo Dictionary as an example and my search for 網站 above, I copied the following from the address bar:
Open up the bookmark manager in Firefox and choose a place for your new bookmark to – In the image below you can see I have created a new folder for Chinese dictionaries. Right click and select ‘New Bookmark’.
In the New Bookmark dialogue paste in the URL that you just copied from the address bar.
Here’s the important part – replace the word that you searched for with ‘%s’, and then enter the word or letter you would like to use to represent the dictionary in the ‘Keyword’ field. Here I have used ‘d’ as I mentioned above:
The process is a little bit different for Chrome, as you need to create a custom search engine rather than a special bookmark.
First, right click in the address bar and choose ‘Edit Search Engines’:
The following preferences panel will appear for adding search engines. In the ‘Other search engines’ section add a new search engine using the same method that we used for adding a bookmark to Firefox. The first field is the name of the search engine, the middle field is for the keyword we will be using to represent this dictionary, and lastly is the URL with the search term replaced with %s, as shown here:
Now you don’t have to waste time typing URLs or memorising websites – just create a series of custom search engines for the dictionary websites you use on a regular basis. Here’s a list of some common Chinese dictionaries and the search URL you can use to create your custom search engine:
Yahoo! Chinese Dictionary
MDBG Traditional Chinese
MDBG Simplified Chinese
If your dictionary isn’t listed and you create a custom search engine with please post the URL string in the comments below and I’ll add it to this list!
I was planning to write up how to accomplish this is in IE< though the method doesn't seem to be the same across IE versions and Safari doesn't seem to be able to accomplish this without the aid of an extension.
If you have any similar tips or know how to add custom search to other browsers then please post a comment below.