Dual search revisited

Paul Pival noticed a problem with the browser widget I made the other day to search Google and Live side-by-side. The service invoked by that widget, at dualsearch.atsites.net, fails when your query contains double-quoted phrases.

It’s an easy fix as I’ll demonstrate here. There are three ingredients:

  • A itty-bitty web application
  • A simple XML file
  • An even simpler HTML/JavaScript file

Let’s examine them.

1. The web application just receives a query, URL-encodes it, and interpolates it into the template for a web page that invokes the two search engines in side-by-side frames.

There are a million ways to do that. Here’s a Python/Django implementation:

def doublesearch(request):
  import urllib
  q = request.GET['q']
  q = urllib.quote(q)
  template = """<html>
<frameset cols="*,*" frameborder="no">
  <frame src="http://www.google.com/search?q=__QUERY__" />
  <frame src="http://search.msn.com/results.aspx?q=__QUERY__" />
  html = template.replace('__QUERY__',q)
  return HttpResponse(html)

2. The XML file contains an OpenSearch description that invokes that little web application, passing it the query that you type into your browser’s search box. Here’s an example that uses a sample service I’ve located at my elmcity.info site:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8" ?>
<OpenSearchDescription xmlns="http://a9.com/-/spec/opensearch/1.1/">
<Description>DoubleSearch provider</Description>
<Image height="16" width="16" type="image/x-icon">
<Url type="text/html"
  template="http://elmcity.info/doublesearch/?q={searchTerms}" />

3. Finally, here’s the HTML file that encapsulates the snippet of JavaScript that installs the OpenSearch widget into your browser:

<a href="javascript:window.external.AddSearchProvider
 ('http://jonudell.net/doublesearch.xml')">Add</a> the
 DoubleSearch provider.

You can Add the DoubleSearch widget and try it for yourself. Unlike other variants I’ve found, this one doesn’t wrap any cruft around the side-by-side results. It simply presents them.

As I mentioned the other day, I’m finding that combining the top 10 results from both engines makes for a more useful set of 20 results than taking the top 20 from either.

With today’s wider screens, placing the two result frames side-by-side works out pretty well. In this mode, however, you’ll want to avoid clicking through directly on a result. Instead, right-click on the result and open it in a new tab.


  1. > You’ve got to remember to escape < too

    Great point, thanks Philip. I switched to Python’s urllib.quote which now escapes the whole query string.

  2. This is VERY nice, Jon…both as a service, and (perhaps even better IMO) a great example of how to whip this sort of mashup together quickly and easily.

    Obviously, it requires a background in Django for this to be immediately usable, but regardless: a) this is case for any toolkit/framework, and b) Python is so close to pseudo-code that anyone “skilled in the art” can basically just read the script and translate it on the fly.

    Now I see how to wire up OpenSearch widgets as well…nifty! Thanks again.

  3. > Obviously, it requires a background in
    > Django for this to be immediately usable

    The web “application” piece of this is just one step up from Hello World, you can do it trivially in any CGI-like environment on any platform in any language.

  4. Hi, I’d like to swap the sides on the DoubleSearchProvider panes in an attempt to overcome my left bias. If you do that in the provider, that’d do. Faling that, if it was a parameterisable thing it owuldnt be the end of the world.

    Also the article should probably mention that middleclicking is typically wired up to ‘open in new window’

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