How to use DuckDuckGo instead of Google and other sites to get faster and precise results

DuckDuckGo is a popular internet search engine that is privacy-focused and ad-free. It is widely recommended by security professionals, blogs, armchair experts, because it does not profile users or harvest their data.

DuckDuckGo Bangs

I should tell you this straightaway, this article is not about the search engine's privacy related features, but as the title reads, how to use the service more efficiently.

That said, here's a brief introduction about DDG (as its abbreviated). The search provider hit a milestone in January of this year, as it reached 100 Million search queries on a single day.

So why isn't DuckDuckGo used as much as Google, or even Bing? Short answer, marketing. Google and Microsoft with their endless resources promote their search engine in various ways, and it pays off. Their biggest strength is that their search engine is set as the default one in the stock browser, i.e. Microsoft Edge in Windows 10, and Google Chrome on Android. The companies also have various partnerships with popular device manufacturers and organizations, to make their search engine the default in the third-party products, e.g. Apple Safari and Mozilla Firefox. That's the reason why the search engine that protects personal information is often overlooked.

You may not know this, but nearly every browser allows you to change the default search engine with a couple of clicks. Head to the settings, and you can switch to DuckDuckGo as the default search app in a flash, as it is an option in many. Or just install the official add-on, and it let it do the job for you.

Why do more people not use DDG if it is so secure? The reason I mentioned above is a major factor, but there are others. Search results provided by Google may offer better results at times, especially when it comes to non-English searches. DuckDuckGo does have a mechanism in place to run Google searches, and the following chapter explains how that is done.

How to use DuckDuckGo instead of Google and other sites to get faster, precise results

Did you know that you can use DuckDuckGo and still get results from Google? Not just Google, you can use it to search through thousands of sites. How is that possible? Welcome to the world of DuckDuckGo bangs.

Note: DuckDuckGo Bangs take you to other search engines, websites and services, which means DDG's privacy measures cannot prevent tracking on these sites.

DuckDuckGo Bangs are special commands or filters, that you can use with the search engine to narrow down the results. According to the official website there are over 13000 bangs, including the exclusive ghacks bang !ghacks to run searches on this site.

How do you perform a search normally? You visit Google, or use the address bar, and type the search query, e.g. Windows 10 Update Issues, or something more specific like, pnp detected fatal error, and the browser loads the search results page of the default search provider.

To use bangs, all you need to do is add a prefix to your search. With Google, the bang we are looking for is !g, so an example search would look like this

!g ghacks

This will run a Google Search for the term Ghacks. Hey, that still takes me to Google. It does, but the search is more precise and faster, and technically this is made possible via DuckDuckGo. Bangs are not limited to the main Google site, you can use it with Gmail, Drive, Maps, Images, etc.

DuckDuckGo Google Bangs

You can also use bangs with DDG's own search, for example, to open the first result directly, use ! or \. This is the I feel Ducky shortcut. So, looking up ! ghacks will open the top result, which is obviously where you are now.

What else can I do with bangs? Let's say you wanted to look up something on Wikipedia, use the !w prefix before the search term. Here is an example, maybe you want to know the history of cookies. So you can search for !w cookies. This is a bit different, it's a site-specific search, in this case, DuckDuckGo will not take you to the search results page, instead it will directly take you to the relevant Wikipedia page.

How to use DuckDuckGo instead of Google and other sites to get faster, precise results

DuckDuckGo search also works directly on Steam, Twitter, Amazon. Some examples,

!steam halo

!amazon iphone or !a iphone

!twitter star wars

This also works with YouTube, Reddit, and hundreds of other websites. !yt cat videos will open YouTube's search page for cat videos. !r for searching reddit, or even better, to go to a subreddit directly use !sr

!sr awww will take you to the r/aww subreddit. !srs firefox proton will run a search for proton, and restrict it to the r/Firefox sub.

All these commands work across platforms and browsers, so regardless of if you're using Windows, Linux, Mac, iOS, Android, you can use bangs on your device. I've just brushed the basics of the search tech, you can learn more about bangs at the official page, and find more commands for the sites you frequent.

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How to use DuckDuckGo instead of Google and other sites to get faster, precise results
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How to use DuckDuckGo instead of Google and other sites to get faster, precise results
Description
Learn how to use DuckDuckGo bangs, to search the internet more efficiently, using simple keyboard shortcuts.
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Ghacks Technology News
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Comments

  1. JV said on April 15, 2021 at 2:49 pm
    Reply

    I’m using DDG for a while now and honestly… i’m NOT (yeah i wrote it in capital letters) impressed with the search results. It’s just way way below Google’s playfield still. A lot of the time they are no even really relevant. Google might be Google but if you need to search for something, Google is still the way to go, DDG, Bing, and all other Runaroo’s out there don’t come even close. Just my two cents…

    1. hedgar said on April 15, 2021 at 6:44 pm
      Reply

      i agree but nowadays i do find sometime google getting dumber…especially if u search something “question like” word…still not gonna move to other search provider tho, well at least not yet.

      1. pwned said on April 16, 2021 at 10:17 am
        Reply

        Search results quality have dropped considerably across the board for the last 5 years or so and has been getting gradually worst recently.

        DDG and friends based on Google could tweak their algorithms (algo(s) from now on) to counter this, Google had the best search algo for years and now its just mediocre at best with the best results being nowehere in top 10 pages when they use to be relevant on first page from outset, someone could just do a similar algo to what Googles use to be, but how profitable would that be for them?

        In sum no one should be required to learn special anything to perform web searches where results are immediately relevant on top 2 pages, just use sensible keywords rather thann asking questions.

        Bing not much better in fact theres no decent search engine that is comparable to the golden years of search algos.

      2. ShintoPlasm said on April 18, 2021 at 8:33 am
        Reply

        @pwnd

        DDG and most other search engines (except Startpage) are based on Bing.

    2. ShintoPlasm said on April 15, 2021 at 7:14 pm
      Reply

      @JV: Totally agree. Google (and Startpage leveraging Google) is the undisputed king.

    3. Patrick said on April 15, 2021 at 7:57 pm
      Reply

      Yeah, I found myself almost always using !g the I have used it for many months repeatedly and I just can’t stick with it.

      Currently really happy with the Searx docker running on my unread server.

      1. Patrick said on April 15, 2021 at 7:58 pm
        Reply

        *Unraid, stupid spell check…

    4. m3city said on April 16, 2021 at 8:56 am
      Reply

      Qwant seems good for european-centric, english/french/german language pages. Not so much for all the rest. It’s the second best thing after croissant that the french gave us.

  2. Daniel said on April 15, 2021 at 2:52 pm
    Reply

    For quite a well, have been using this script as bookmark to search any site:

    javascript:q=%22%22+(window.getSelection?window.getSelection():document.getSelection?document.getSelection():document.selection.createRange().text);if(!q)q=prompt(%22Search%20terms%20[leave%20selection%20and%20box%20blank%20to%20list%20all%20pages]%20…%22).replace(/\s\+/g,%22%252B%22);if(q!=null)location=%22http://www.google.com/search?q=%22+q.replace(/\s+/g,%22+%22)+%22+site:%22+location.hostname;void(0);

    Wanted to use Presearch (more privacy) instead, but for some reason, it does not work on Vivaldi (at least with my tests).

    As per your extensive tip, will look more into DDG’s way now.

  3. BM said on April 15, 2021 at 2:53 pm
    Reply

    Good write-up!

    DDG is my default. BUT, about 1/4 of the time I have to go w Google as the results are sometimes wanting.

    I find that this is for search results that are for more technical aspects of a topic.

    For most common searches or for surface level information, it is perfect.

  4. VioletMoon said on April 15, 2021 at 4:32 pm
    Reply

    Ashwin, thanks; totally forgot about the ability of DDG.

  5. Robert said on April 15, 2021 at 5:37 pm
    Reply

    Please do remember that using DDG’s bangs will take you to the target website and away from the privacy protection of DDG.

    Startpage, despite it’s recent controversies, is still a very good private search engine and more private than Google. Just a pity that its “Anonymous View” feature at times struggles to work.

    1. Lemegeton said on April 16, 2021 at 1:14 pm
      Reply

      There is DDG’s Bang for Startpage too: !sp

  6. Anonymous said on April 15, 2021 at 5:54 pm
    Reply

    “The companies also have various partnerships with popular device manufacturers and organizations, to make their search engine the default in the third-party products, e.g. Apple Safari and Mozilla Firefox. That’s the reason why the search engine that protects personal information is often overlooked.”

    Thank you Apple and Mozilla, fighting for privacy against Google as always. Not.

    “DuckDuckGo is a popular internet search engine that is privacy-focused and ad-free.”

    Not ad-free, what a surprising falsehood, on the contrary it is ad supported.
    Not really privacy focused either as it monetizes search terms for ads.

    Like there is no reason to use Google instead of DDG, there is no reason to use DDG instead of Searx, a metasearch engine made for the users and not for surveillance capitalists, with plenty of great features as one would expect from such, that DDG purposefully doesn’t have. But Searx doesn’t have an advertising budget like DDG and can only count on genuine recommendations.

    1. Anonymous said on April 15, 2021 at 7:03 pm
      Reply

      I wonder if products using the search engines get any kind of trackback about users, theres usually an affiliate code sent out with the search if the browser has a partnership. i assume the search engine could reflect back ip/data to the browser maker if that was in the deal. Browser companies consider themselves 1st party it seems so they could get away with it?

    2. Lemegeton said on April 16, 2021 at 1:27 pm
      Reply

      Searx is useless: it is only safe if you run your own instance (which very few people do). Using public instances is not safe (as the creators of Searx explicitly warn against).

      1. Anonymous said on April 17, 2021 at 1:40 pm
        Reply

        “Searx is useless: it is only safe if you run your own instance (which very few people do). Using public instances is not safe (as the creators of Searx explicitly warn against).”

        Bullshit. It is safer than all alternatives even when not self-hosting, especially Duckduckgo, which is what matters here.

        Although there is a rising threat with fascists infiltrating and taking over privacy tools to use data against the political opposition on behalf of capitalists and their cops. Always be wary of subtle and less subtle signs of reactionary slips from privacy tools, or your data won’t be safer than if you used Duckduckgo or Google.

      2. Iron Heart said on April 18, 2021 at 3:08 pm
        Reply

        @Anonymous

        Yes, people talk lots of BS about searx and I think this needs to be opposed.

        What you say about privacy tools is true in my experience; if you look into the ownership of many such tools, you will find that they serve certain interests while pretending the opposite. Many VPNs are data-gathering honeypots where they monetize user data. Tor is a honeypot (those expensive entry and exit nodes which maintain Tor’s performance level are state-run). They in fact don’t need the middle node because of network timing / timing correlation attacks.

        Firefox serves big tech, you can see it when they take a pee on decentralized infrastructure by claiming that *white supremacists* use them, but the real goal is to shut down the possibility of opposition for any kind of opposition. They want everyone in honeypots under centralized control and use the white supremacist excuse because people are very gullible and fall for it. “Yes, please, rip us the tools for opposition out of our hands because white supremacists can also potentially use them!” – Stupid humanity, they just want to shut any kind of political opposition down and look for cheap excuses.

        Search engines are mostly honeypots and decentralized instances like searx are most likely the least compromised (even though certain instances could well be compromised).

        Many encrypted E-Mail services have to include backdoors supposedly for law enforcement (which might be true, but it gives the opportunity for large scale surveillance and destroys trust in the E-Mail service in case an activist means to use it).

        Social media are under centralized control of course. Operating systems apart from Linux are made for data gathering and even in case of Linux there could be backdoors in the kernel for targeted surveillance (not saying that it is so, we just need to look out for it).

        This is total surveillance and is 100% state-run, with the kind cooperation of big tech.

        We should try to promote services that are true to their promises, which we might find out by holding them under scrutiny. But sometimes we can’t be sure.

  7. Anonymous said on April 15, 2021 at 6:09 pm
    Reply

    Searx is a very good private search engine, but one that is best self-hosted. You should still be wary of public run Searx search engines (public instances) as some privacy policies in the background are not good and log a lot of items like user agent, IP address, log times etc, and only use public run Searx search engines whose administrators who run it you trust.

    Even the creators of Searx warned about this.

    1. Ipnonymous said on April 15, 2021 at 11:04 pm
      Reply

      !searx

      On yeah, you can search SearX too! Hehe

      1. Anonymous said on April 17, 2021 at 10:20 am
        Reply

        @Ipnonymous Do the !searx bang on Duckduckgo only takes you to the https://searx.me web site, not a specific Searx search engine. You then have to find a suitable public instance yourself.

    2. Tom Hawack said on April 16, 2021 at 1:25 pm
      Reply

      @Anonymous, the Searx instance criteria you mention is essential indeed, together perhaps with another which is the instance’s capacity to call search engines correctly (Searx is a meta-search engine). In particular several instances I try/test encounter more or less occasionally a problem with Google results (given of course they propose this engine and the user has included it). For some time now I’ve been using [metasearch.nl] which is fast and reliable, Google results included; TLD is Netherlands but the servers appear to be in Germany.

      For those interested with Searx the list of available instances : [ https://searx.space/ ]

  8. Sebas said on April 15, 2021 at 6:57 pm
    Reply

    Metager.de, a German search engine with the option to search anonymous. Germany has tough privacy laws anyway, although that might change.

    Searx of course. And Qwant lite esp. for Europeans.

    There are stories about ddg: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=23708166

  9. I've got one that can SEE! said on April 15, 2021 at 8:00 pm
    Reply

    MetaGer
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MetaGer

    Tor users will appreciate this search engine:[1]
    http://metagerv65pwclop2rsfzg4jwowpavpwd6grhhlvdgsswvo6ii4akgyd.onion/en

    [1] Requires Tor, this is an .onion hidden service URL

  10. Jojo said on April 15, 2021 at 9:41 pm
    Reply

    So WHO is doing DDG’s searches for them?

    I thought it was Google underneath but apparently not for this write-up. I doubt DDG has actually written the code to search the billions of sites on the internet day-in and day-out.

    1. Lemegeton said on April 16, 2021 at 1:23 pm
      Reply

      Bing. For Russian-language queries – Yandex.
      They also have their own search index, but it is small (selective).

  11. Anonymous said on April 15, 2021 at 11:14 pm
    Reply

    Great tip!
    DDG gets what I want most of the time and is my default. Every now and then I need Google. This is a great shortcut to (for example) Google and far better than setting a fully non-private search engine for regular use.

  12. user said on April 15, 2021 at 11:24 pm
    Reply

    thank you for the suggestions, will add thiese to my toolbox.

  13. ULBoom said on April 16, 2021 at 12:20 am
    Reply

    DDG is up and down with results quality. Stinks for a while, then gets better. Seems OK presently. It’s been our default for years with Qwant No. 2. Qwant’s changed a lot, not much customization now and middling results.

    What I’ve always done with DDG in FF is customize it to my liking, save the customized URL and use it as my home page. Also my new tab page with New tab Redirect or New Tab Homepage extensions. I do the same thing when I have a Chromia installed, although the new tab extension is different.

    The result is a clean DDG page when opening a browser and the same thing opening a new tab. No ads, no feeds, no news, just a search field.

  14. alfa said on April 16, 2021 at 2:07 am
    Reply

    Startpage +1. It’s basically google-results-via-anon-proxy, without the need for “bangs”, without the need to allow anything in NoScript.

    Not perfect; there are times that google itself still gives better results, but SP is my 95%-of-the-time engine for text searches. I check out DDG and Searx and others regularly (I have over 20 search engines quick-linked in my browser at any given time, and have been geeking out on this topic since before AltaVista, if that means anything to anyone), but in recent years have always ended up back at Startpage.

  15. Benjamin said on April 16, 2021 at 11:19 am
    Reply

    Unfortunately even with “the Duck”, there are no more than these 2 large globally active search engines which make up the biggest part of internet indices. The corporations are Alphabets Google and Microsofts Bing of which “the Duck” is a derivative.
    Really the only alternative considering transparent democratically open would be an trully open source non profit indexer paid for by taxes and therefore the state and therefore by the people.
    Only then can true competition and free choice coexist but not with only 2 for profits alternatives which are even censoring ever more openly without any democratic legitimation. Free markets are not capable to achieve such things as democracy and liberty.

  16. Lemegeton said on April 16, 2021 at 1:41 pm
    Reply

    paid for by taxes and therefore the state and therefore by the people.

    State-sponsored search engine? Nah

  17. Anonymous said on April 16, 2021 at 6:38 pm
    Reply

    “So why isn’t DuckDuckGo used as much as Google, or even Bing? Short answer, marketing. ”

    Or of course maybe Google produces better search results.

  18. Panama Patrick said on April 16, 2021 at 9:51 pm
    Reply

    I used to use DDG until I read an article that said DDG contributes to the ALCU and that is not one of my favorite organizations. I switched to STARTPAGE for privacy and occasionally use Google Panama for local search results and have been happy with both.

  19. Anonymous said on April 17, 2021 at 1:19 am
    Reply

    “It is widely recommended by security professionals, blogs, armchair experts”

    About that, there is a current trend from surveillance capitalism shills to oppose “security professionals” (like the “privacy engineers” of Google, Facebook or Microsoft for example) that should be trusted on the subject of privacy, and the “armchair experts” (the privacy activists opposing those corporations instead of being paid by them) that shouldn’t be, allegedly lacking competence on privacy because they are not the ones writing the spyware.

    For example, according to those “privacy professionals” at Duckduckgo, there would be no privacy issue at all with their search engine, which only “armchair experts” would seem to disagree with.

    Or according to those “privacy professionals” at Google, Mozilla and “assimilated”, Google Analytics would be only a “perceived” privacy issue:

    https://github.com/arkenfox/user.js/issues/1135

    And according to those “privacy professionals”, the major browsers that monetize private data for advertisers and find many other ways to harm privacy like Chrome and Firefox should be preferred for privacy over their private forks that the “armchair experts” recommend.

    The list of such absurdities one hears today is very long. The phenomenon is eased by those trillion dollar companies being able to corrupt and infiltrate easily any privacy defending organization, sometimes beheading the purest of them by using the most outrageous schemes while the terrified witnesses who still have a bit of soul remaining keep their mouth shut fearing for their own “professional” future. Or their reputation among their loved ones, when the cost of not bowing down to Google could be being falsely labeled a pedophile by all the capitalist press to give a recent real world example. Or worse. The billions of people being spied on weight little compared to the power that the sociopaths who own those companies have accumulated.

    It is typical aberrant capitalism thinking that those who profit from destroying privacy should be the ones to trust to protect privacy.

    1. Anonymous said on April 18, 2021 at 11:46 am
      Reply

      @1:19, Excellent post mate. I think it becomes glaringly obvious where the noise originates after you’ve been around a while, drawing from all these perspectives. “privacy professionals” seems right on target imo, professionals some are, world class, and have their fingers in poison pies, its known. I don’t think it is possible to completely disarm that degree of malice and intent; easier to attack than defend is my motto in many areas, before even considering the skill difference.

      If you had a channel I’d follow, dont answer that, maybe i do :p
      Distributing the info and routing around the problems maybe is the best we can hope for.

  20. day of defeat said on April 17, 2021 at 4:35 am
    Reply

    Wasn’t startpage acquired by some ad agency?

    I wouldn’t trust them anymore.

  21. Rick O'Keefe said on April 17, 2021 at 3:27 pm
    Reply

    I use Google, Bing, and Ixquick (now StartPage) depending on browser and intent. I still believe StartPage is the most secure search engine and I appreciate its Anonymous View feature.
    I agree with others who noted the decline in the quality of search results over the years. Marketing-driven censorship “for a better browsing experience” has made research considerably more difficult and time-wasting, IMO.

  22. AAA said on April 18, 2021 at 6:29 am
    Reply

    Since I set the Samsung Internet browser’s default search engine from Google to DDG, the phone is being running quite smoothly, and the battery is not draining fast. I experience same thing, long lasting battery life on iPad 3 while mainly watching and streaming videos… .. and, guess what? DDG is set as default search engine on it. Now, I need to set it on edge chromium on PC too. ☻ I do love Google’s precise and 97% relevant result, or answer I was looking for. I don’t mind if tracking, but please don’t kill the older devices battery life. ☻

  23. Gerald Brennan said on April 18, 2021 at 2:03 pm
    Reply

    Google is a far better search engine, though the sponsored results suck.
    But anyone who is using Google at this point for political, sociological, or even psychological queries (eg: google ‘alpha male’ and then query with DDG for an amusing comparo) simply is either completely ignorant of Google’s ‘mission’ or else simply wants a set of slanted and polluted responses.

  24. Anonymous said on April 21, 2021 at 2:51 pm
    Reply

    @Tom Hawack Hi Tom.

    I’ve searched for “metasearch.nl” but cannot find it.

    Can you put up the url please?

    Thank you.

    1. Heydrich said on April 22, 2021 at 10:41 am
      Reply

      @Anonymous:

      The Searx public instance URL for “metasearch.nl” is: https://metasearch.nl/

      However, I would suggest you try Searx Belgium (@ https://searx.be/), as recommended by the LibreWolf developers (i.e., a fork of Firefox browser with focus on privacy and security).

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