Using Search Engines to Find Information on the Web

Search Engines

Search engines on the World Wide Web are remotely accessible programs that let you do keyword searches for information on the Internet. There are several types of search engines and searches may cover titles of documents, URL's, headers, or full text. Keep in mind that the results you get from one search engine may not match the results you get from another search engine. In fact, they are often different due to the way each search engine behaves. Therefore, it may actually be beneficial to use more than one search engine on a regular basis.

In this section, we briefly look at Google and Bing. Web pages are often dynamic and can change at any time. As a result, you may find that if either site changes, your experience with JAWS may be different than what is described here.


EXERCISE: Use the link below to go to the Google web site and follow along with the instructions.

When you first go to the Google web site there is a blinking cursor in the search edit box near the middle of the page. Forms mode comes on automatically when you go to a web page which has the focus set to a blinking cursor in an edit box. If for some reason forms mode does not come on automatically on your computer, you can also press ENTER to go into forms mode, or you can press INSERT+F5 to open the JAWS Select a Form Field dialog box.

TIP: Mouse users can also click inside edit boxes and forms mode comes on automatically.

If you use Chrome or Firefox as your browser, Google is the default search engine so you can also perform searches right from the address bar. To move to the address bar, just press ALT+D.

Either way, as you begin typing, an autocomplete list may appear. You can press DOWN ARROW to move through the list and then ENTER to perform a search, or you can simply continue typing what you are searching for without using the list.

After you have typed in some text, press ENTER to activate the Search button. Results appear on the page below. We will discuss some techniques for finding the results on the page in a moment. But first, Google only returns web pages that contain all of the words in your query. If you find that you get too many "hits" or web pages that match your search, you can enter more words in your search query to narrow the choices.

Using good keywords gives you better results. Be as specific as you can. For example, a search for the keyword "musicians" will yield far more results than a search for the keywords "Elvis Presley." You do not need to include "and" between terms, but the order in which you type your keywords will affect the search results. You can also search for a specific phrase by including words in quotation marks. Google searches are not case sensitive.

You can also use the following items within your keywords for Google searches:

As you narrow your search and use better keywords, you get more relevant results. Putting a phrase into quotes tells Google to look for the exact words in that exact order.

Try typing different things such as names, phone numbers, and more to find people or things.

Try a search for Freedom Scientific. Use this link to go to the Google web site. On the results page, there are a couple of things you can do to get more information about the results of the search:

EXERCISE: Google uses regions to make navigation easier. Explore them by pressing R to move from region to region, and then press DOWN ARROW to move into the next section.

You can also read through the search results page using normal reading keys or use INSERT+F7 to open the list of links and see what related links were found. Use the Move to Link button in the links list, ALT+M, to move to a particular link and then down arrow through the associated text to find out if this might be what you are looking for.

In addition to the information displayed on the initial results page, there are often links to more pages of information that meet your search criteria. These pages are reached by activating the link for the number of the page. Usually you will find links for additional pages 2 through 10 near the bottom of each page, along with a Next link. Each page beyond the first page also contains a number of items that match your search.

Google Search Tools

Google also provides easy-to-use search tools. For example:

NOTE: For both the Google web site and the Bing web site discussed in the next section, be sure to check out the other links on their sites for Advanced Search, Help topics, and more.


Bing is another popular search engine that many people use. As with Google, when you first go to the Bing website there is a blinking cursor in an edit box and JAWS should automatically turn on Forms mode. If you use Edge as your browser, Bing is also the default search engine so you can perform searches right from the address bar. To move to the address bar, just press ALT+D and begin typing what you want to search for.

After you have typed in some text, press ENTER to activate the Search button.

Bing behaves very much the same way as Google and displays a list of hits of matching items. These are links to further resources, and each link here also has a text description taken from that source that matches your query.

After the Bing results page loads, press the letter H to move to the different headings on the page. Since the headings are also links, pressing ENTER on one takes you to the web page indicated. Beneath each heading/link is text that describes a little bit about that page. Press INSERT+F7 to use the list of links to explore the links, or you can also press TAB to move from one link to another.

To find the number of matches, use the JAWS Find and look for the word "results" without the quotes. You may have to use the function key F3 to repeat the JAWS find. The results for Yahoo! are typically near the bottom of the page, so you may find the number of matches more quickly by pressing SHIFT+F3 to search backwards.

Bing also has links to other results pages, just as Google does. These links show as numbers 2 through 5, along with a Next link, and are located near the bottom of the page.

Changing the Browser's Default Search Engine

Typing your search query directly into your browser's address bar is a fast and convenient way to locate information. For this to work, web browsers are configured to use a specific search engine. When searching from the address bar in Edge, results are displayed using Bing while searching from the address bar in Chrome or Firefox displays results using Google. If you prefer, you can change to a different search engine through your Browser's settings. For instance, you may wish to have Edge use Google instead of Bing when searching from the address bar.

Press ENTER on one of the following links to view information on changing the default search engine for your specific browser. After pressing ENTER, press DOWN ARROW to review the information.

Change the Default Search Engine in Edge

Change the Default Search Engine in Chrome

Change the Default Search Engine in Firefox

Going Beyond the Search Engine Results Page

OK, so what happens when you choose one of the links you find on a search engine page? What strategies do you use to find the information you were initially searching for on the resulting page?

ANSWER: All of the strategies you learned in this series of Surf's Up lessons, including:

  • Use N to jump past a series of links to move to the next block of text that has at least 25 characters without a link.
  • Use the list of links (INSERT+F7) to look for links that begin with specific words.
  • Use the list of headings (INSERT+F6) to look for structure in the headings on a page.
  • Use the JAWS Find to search for words or phrases on a web page.
  • Look for regions.
  • Use the JAWS Quick Settings dialog box (INSERT+V) to change things as needed such as:
    • Stop page refreshes
    • Search for <title> attributes, acronyms, abbreviations, and more.
  • Use the Custom Label feature of JAWS to label unlabeled links or unlabeled form fields on pages that you visit often.