Welcome to the Advanced URL Builder Homepage. This page seeks to answer any questions you might have about this Firefox extension, although not how it was built (that's for another day...)

I guess you're asking "What does this extension do for me?". Let me answer that by telling you why I first wrote the extension.

I did a search that resulted in a load of postcodes (zipcodes) being displayed and I wanted to know where each of these places were. I cannot begin to tell you how tedious it was opening up a new browser, going to google maps and pasting in the postcode for the hundred or so results!

After failing to find a suitable extension that was already written I decided that the time had come to venture into the world of XUL and write my own.

So here it is; highlight any text, right click and search for it using whatever sites you have defined. It's the most generic solution to a common problem and hopefully you'll find it as useful as I do.


Download the latest version of Advanced URL Builder here, or the latest approved version from Mozilla.

Instructions for use

Set your options

Firstly and most importantly, you need to set your options.
Out of the box, Advanced URL Builder comes with three commonly used URLs. If this is all you need it for then great, you can skip this part, but most users will want to open their own favourite sites using this tool.


To find the options (unreasonably obscure in firefox) go to: Tools, Extensions. You will then get a list of the extensions you have installed. Select Advanced URL Builder and click Options.

Whatever 'Name' you give to the options here will be displayed on the popup menu (marked 'A').
The 'URL' is the corresponding URL that you want opened when you choose that option (marked '1').

Note option three here 'Just open' and see Cool uses below.

Look for something to find

pop-up menu

With your options chosen, you are now free to use the Advanced URL Builder.

On any web page, you can invoke the Advanced URL Builder by highlighting some text (marked '2') and right-clicking.

You then select an option that you would like to use (marked 'A') and the magic happens...



The Advanced URL Builder looks up the option you have chosen, gets the URL that you gave (marked '1') and appends the highlighted text to the end of it (marked '2').

The resulting complete url is then opened in a new tab.†

Note that '%20' has been added in place of the space in this example as a space is an invalid URL character.

†The tab will open in the same window, but whether it is selected or not depends on if you have ticked 'Select new tabs opened from links' in Firefox's Advanced options.

Cool uses

Probably the coolest use of all is the 'Just open' option, whereby in the options you leave the URL part blank (see above), then anything highlighted is opened 'as-is'.
This enables you to highlight a URL (or part of a URL) on a page that isn't a link (or even if it is) and open as though it is. Saves all that slow copy and pasting.

Here is a list of some of my favourites.

Name URL Notes
Google Maps Simply the best mapping tool ever
Just Open Just leave the URL blank for this
eBay Negs Saves adding another extension
Google UK Because sometimes redirects to, what's all that about?
Yellow Pages You'll have to replace SOMEPLACE with your own postcode/town
Scoot You'll have to replace SOMEPLACE with your own postcode/town
Thomson Local You'll have to replace SOMEPLACE with your own postcode/town

See below for how to make your own!

Hints and tips

Probably the hardest aspect of Advanced URL Builder is getting the URL's that you want to open.

If you're technically savvy then this isn't too much effort, but for a lot of net users the 'how' is a bit harder.

URL Scraping

The easiest way of finding the URL to use is by simply looking at the URL after you have submitted a search from a website.
For example, if you type 'test' into Google ( you get a page with this as its URL:

As you can see, my search criteria, 'test', has been included in the URL, which is great as this is the biggest clue that you can use this method.

So now you can start building your URL. Firstly you will need everything before the '?', this is the actual URL.

Taking this give us:, but we know that we also need our search criteria. To find that we need to understand the rest of the URL.

Everything after the '?' are parameters which take the form of 'key = value' pairs. In this example we have four of these pairs, each pair is delimited by the character '&'.
The four pairs are:

key h1 q btnG meta
value en test Search <nothing>

We know that we searched for 'test' so we need the appropriate key for this (as well as the '=' sign), which is 'q='.

Putting it all together forms our first attempt at the URL: In your browser, you copy that in and put anything you like on the end to see if it works.

In the case of Google, this is actually all we need, but some of the other parameters might be important depending on what you need to do, experiment by adding them in and see the results (remember to add a '&' to separate the pairs).

The last thing to remember is that Advanced URL Builder will append to the text you highlight to the end, so you will need to ensure that the URL ends with the appropriate parameter.

Viewing source

If the above method doesn't work, you only really have one choice, to look at the code.

To do this:

  • go to the page you are interested in
  • highlight the area around the text box where you type your search criteria into
  • right click
  • select the option 'View Selection Source'

A window will open with a bunch of code in it and a portion selected.

This can be a bit daunting, but bear with it, you are looking for a bit of code that looks like <input ... type="text" ... >, where the ... can be other attributes. The important part is the type="text", this means it's a text box (Note: 'text' is the default, so the 'type' might be missing altogether).

Now you have found the text box you usually type stuff into, you need its name. Look for an attribute like name="somename", you now know that the name is 'somename'.

You now have to look for the form that surrounds the text box, hopefully it's not buried too far away. Look for the first <form ... > before the textbox (Note: you might have to select more of the web page to find this, or else you might have to view all the source!)

Once located, it will have an attribute like action="someaction". This action is the URL that you will need, sometimes it is a complete URL (i.e. starts with http://), but more often it is part of a URL that the browser appends to the host name when it is submitted.

If we take Google ( as an example, you will see that the textbox that you type into is <input maxlength="2048" size="55" name="q" value="" title="Google Search">, so the name we are interested in is 'q'.
The form that surrounds the text box is <form action="/search" name="f">, so the action we are interested in is '/search'.

Putting it all together, we take the host (, add the action, add a '?' to separate the parameters, add the name of the text box, and finally add a '='.

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