Google chrome

How to Fix and Use Custom Search Keywords in Google Chrome

Google has changed how custom searches work in Google Chrome. Now you can no longer type your custom search keyword and press Space to do a quick search. There is, however, an alternative and a way to revert the old custom search behavior.

What is a custom search?

Google Chrome has a search feature that lets you assign “keywords” to custom searches. For example, after setting it up, you can type “w chickadee” to search Wikipedia for “chickadee” or “h windows” to search for Windows articles in How-To Geek.

You can control them in Chrome by going to menu > Settings > Search engine > Manage search engines. The “Keyword” field defines the custom keyword that launches a custom search. Add a short one to speed things up. (To set a search keyword for a search engine, click the menu button to its right, click “Edit” and enter the keyword in the Keyword box.)

Custom search engines in Google Chrome.

What changed?

Let’s say you have a search keyword “y” that searches YouTube. Previously, you could type “y cooking” into Chrome’s omnibox and hit enter to search YouTube for cooking videos.

However, the spacebar no longer works that way, thanks to a change made to Google Chrome version 88 in February 2021.

As a Chrome Developer explained on RedditGoogle made this change to prevent users from accidentally triggering custom searches with the spacebar while performing normal searches.

How to use custom search keywords with tab

There’s always a way to easily use your custom searches, with the tab bar.

To perform a custom search, focus Chrome’s address bar (e.g., with Ctrl+L), type your keyword, press Tab, type your search, and press Enter.

For example, if you had a YouTube search that searched for YouTube when you typed “y”, you would now type “y”, press Tab, type your search, and then press Enter.

Using a custom search keyword in Google Chrome.

How to get the old space button behavior back

If you’re used to the old spacebar behavior, you can flag it back. As usual, there is no guarantee that these Chrome flags will remain. Google will probably remove this option one day.

To get started, open Chrome’s flags page. Type “chrome://flags” (without quotes) in Chrome’s address bar and hit enter to find it.

First, type “omnibox keyword” in the search box at the top of the page. When the “Omnibox Keyword Search Button” option appears, click the “Default” box and set the option to “Disabled”.

Disable the "Omnibox keyword search button" characteristic.

Second, type “omnibox suggestion” in the search field. When the “Omnibox Suggestion Button Row” option appears, click the “Default” box to its right and set the option to “Enabled”.

Activate it "Row of Omnibox Suggestion Buttons" flag.

You are now done and you can click the “Relaunch” button at the bottom of the page to restart Google Chrome. On restart, you will be able to use the spacebar again with your custom searches.

To note: We tested it with Chrome 88 on February 16, 2020. If the options are no longer present in a future version of Chrome, there may not be a way to recover the old spacebar behavior. You can still use custom searches with the Tab key.

RELATED: How to Enable Google Chrome Flags to Test Beta Features