When you think of website search engines, it’s big-name brands like Google or Yahoo! which come to mind — even Microsoft’s Bing is doing very well in the rankings. However, there is an underdog in the mix and it’s not Dogpile.
DuckDuckGo Search is a very simple engine which borrows a lot of traits from Google’s UI. Their search functionality is easy to use and also includes extra features for custom searches — in this way you can limit to specific domain names or even search in alternate places such as Wikipedia. Their web app is certainly fantastic, but the company has done an even better job for their iOS app, which we’ll delve into after the break.
Launching the App
On first startup, the app runs very clean with almost no distractions. The layout is created from a tab bar with four icons labeled Search, Bang, Bookmarks and About.
In the search view, you have easy access to entering keywords located in the top bar. If you’ve used the app previously, then all your history of recent searches will display in the background view. You can tap any cell in the table to immediately display search results related to those keywords, which is great functionality for a search engine to adopt! You can alternatively choose not to record your history in the app’s settings.
On the results page each link is split up with a larger site description. I feel this can actually be very annoying and difficult to sort through. These descriptions don’t always provide context for the website, so it’s difficult to gauge how useful the website will be.
Mobile Search Results
As you move through search links, the HTML page will render into a mobile browser window. The top toolbar appends some handy function icons to go forward/back in page history, reload the current page or access a more detailed sub-menu.
You can also easily bookmark specific websites or share links with your Instapaper or Twitter account. DuckDuckGo boasts a whole slew of unique functionality. There is even a button used to re-open the current page in Mobile Safari if you prefer.
The rendering engine is pristine and appears similar to Opera Mobile. Page transitions are very snappy — a big +1 in my book. I can’t stand slow applications and especially slow animation in search engines.
Down at the very bottom of each search result page is a small button to load more results. By default, DuckDuckGo limits the amount of links pulled out. This helps to reduce load time and gives you more accurate results to choose from. Notice, you can always tap the back button in the top-right corner to select a new set of keywords.
Using !Bang Filters
The terminology comes off as a bit silly, but the inner-workings of their search filter is profound. By quickly scrolling through the list of suggested websites you can perform a !bang search limited to another website URL. There are practically hundreds of different choices, even options including foreign websites like Amazon Germany.
There are plenty of practical uses for these filters. You may quickly pull results out from a number of infamous websites, and there are new domains added frequently. The developers have spent a long time building up this system and I really enjoy it!
Say you want to look up dog bowls on Amazon. Simply type: !amazon dog bowls and you’ll be taken to Amazon’s website, where you’ll get search results for dog bowls. This has to be one of the coolest features available in DuckDuckGo.
Accessing More Data
If you are confused about all these different !bang concepts, don’t worry. The developers have made things a bit easier so you don’t need to jump online and research this yourself.
On the About tab you’ll find another small table view of links. These are mostly attached to pages on their website which actually load optimized for mobile settings. The first and second links read Goodies and Bang, respectively. Just going through these two pages should give you a much better idea about how their search engine functions.
Additionally, you’ll find a whole set of other handy links below. Their About and FAQ pages are an absolute must-read for newbies. This holds especially true for those interested in search engines who have never even heard of DDG before.
Keeping Things Simple
My favorite point to make about this application is within its simplicity. There is nothing too difficult to understand about searching with DuckDuckGo. The developers have documented custom bang searches making them super easy for anybody to use.
Additionally, the main search page features such a minimalist layout. There is plenty of room to fit the keyboard and search bar. Since the results are loaded within another view, the history of search keywords is a nice extra page effect.
Notably, the Bookmarks feature isn’t exactly the most handy. If you are a big fan of DuckDuckGo then you’ll likely find yourself within the app more than anywhere else. In this scenario you may be hitting the bookmarks menu more often than not!
Whether you’ve heard about this search engine before or are just being introduced, DuckDuckGo is a fantastic iOS application. It’s completely free to download and you will not regret giving it a shot. I am still a huge fan of Google — it’s set as the default home page on all my computers — but on your iPhone you’re in a completely different world.
Having an alternate search app can come in very handy at certain times. Not to mention that Mobile Safari, while great, can be very limiting in it’s own regard. I have to highly recommend that new users give DuckDuckGo a fair shot. You may discover some really cool features and develop a bond with this wonderful piece of modern search engine technology.