For some time now I have used the search engine StartPage as the main search engine in Firefox. While I switch regularly to other search engines such as DuckDuckGo, it is StartPage that I try first before every other search engine.
What I like about StartPage is that it is using information provided by Google to power its search engine but does not come with the added baggage of doing so. Ads are kept to a minimum and the makers promise that they do not track you while you use the search engine.
While StartPage works fine out of the box, you can get more out of it by adjusting a couple of preferences that are made available and by using functionality that is provided on top of search.
Here is a list of ten quick improvements that you can make to StartPage.
1. Bookmark Searches
You can bookmark searches with a click on the bookmark this search link that StartPage displays on every results page. While this may not be useful for one-time searches, it may prove useful if you search for the same terms regularly.
Instead of having to re-enter the search phrases every time you want to perform the search, you simply load the bookmark that does the same thing.
2. Add StartPage to your browser
You can add the StartPage search engine to your web browser. I have only tested this in Firefox though and your experience with different browsers may vary. Just visit the Add to Browser page on StartPage and click on the install link next to https (or http if you prefer that) after you have selected the language that you want to use.
3. Advanced search
Load the advanced search page on the website to access a list of additional search options that you can use. From searching for specific file types to regional searches or results that have to match an exact phrase.
Experienced Internet users know that it is possible to use the syntax directly when you are searching. Exact searches for instance are enclosed with "quotation marks".
If you prefer a visual interface, this is the one to use. To make things easier, it is possible to set the default StartPage homepage to advanced search here.
4. Generate advanced preferences url
You can modify several preferences such as the desired language on the advanced preferences page. Here you have the option to save a cookie on your computer so that they are remembered across sessions, or to generate an url instead.
If you select the url, no cookie will be saved to the system but it means that you will have to load the url every time you want the selected preferences to be used.
One interesting option here is to save multiple sets of preferences, for instance one with web filtering turned on, one with filtering turned off.
5. Disable filters
Search filters are enabled by default. There is a web/picture family filter that is turned on depending on the search term, and a video family filter that is enabled.
Both filters try to block adult results from appearing in the search results. You can disable both filters completely on the advanced configuration page.
6. Anonymous image and video search
When you enable this option, image and video thumbnails that are displayed to you on StartPage are not saved to the local browser cache. This can be useful if you do not want results to appear in the local cache.
Please note that clicking through to the result itself will add it to the cache, but as long as you only see the thumbnails on StartPage, information are not cached permanently.
7. Change font size
You can change the font size in the advanced preferences. From the default medium to small or the larger variants large or very large.
Small displays more results on the same space, while large or very large may improve the accessibility of the results.
8. Search within results
Sometimes when you run a search, you may get too many results and may want to narrow them down as a consequence. You can use StartPage's search within results feature to run a second search that uses the first search terms that used and additional phrases that you add to that.
9. StartPage Toolbar
Toolbars are not really liked this much, but the StartPage toolbar may convince you otherwise. It not only includes search options but takes care of third-party tracking cookies as well as Flash Cookies for you.
It offers a translate feature, search term highlighting or zoom buttons directly from its interface. It appears to be only available for Firefox.
10. StartPage on Android or iOS
You can install the StartPage search engine on your mobile device to use it natively on it. This adds another option to use the search engine on your device. Note though that you can also open any browser and load the StartPage website using it to run searches on your device.