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I'm trying to find something in GNOME 3 to support keyword based searches. For example, I want to enter "yt car boys" in the system search dialog, and have it bring up https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=car+boys in the default web browser.

I got addicted to this in, I think KDE 2, and have been using QuickSilver & Alfred for it on macOS.

Is there something out there which does this for Gnome?

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From the CLI

First of all, it's easy to do something like this from the command line. You can define a function like this one (put the following in your .bashrc or .zshrc or whatever file your shell sources at startup):

yt () { xdg-open "https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=$*" }

And you can call it this way from a terminal running your shell:

yt car boys

From an app runner

If you want to emulate the behavior of Quicksilver or Alfred, you want to use an app runner. I suggest you check out gmrun because of how easy it is to make extensions for it.

Add the following line to the file ~/.gmrunrc:

URL_yt = xdg-open 'https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=%s' Launch gmrun and input the following:

yt:car boys

In both cases, xdg-open will launch your default web browser to the desired webpage. It should be fairly easy to adapt these instructions to any website you want.

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