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How to customize search on your Android device

For most Android users, the search tool is strictly for Web search. CNET shows you how to broaden its use to include the data that you need quick access to most often.

Andoid searchable items window

Google does search like nobody else and, with a few tweaks, your Android search tool can help you easily keep track of all the bits and pieces of your life. With a quick run through your settings and one fairly simple change of habit, you can save yourself plenty of time and get personalized hits you might otherwise have missed.

To get started, just click the menu button, then "Settings," then "Search." Click "Google search" to look at the big picture. If your search results are cluttered, try disabling one or more of the three options, but each one adds some great, targeted functionality:

  • "Show Web suggestions" is great for those of us with clumsy fingers, as Google's guesses about what we really meant to type are often quite good.
  • "Use My Location" can be a big help if you're trying to find a nearby coffee shop or restroom, but if you're concerned with privacy, you've probably already disabled this feature.
  • "Search history" makes frequent searches much simpler, and can also mitigate the aforementioned fat-finger problem.

You can also click "manage search history" to enable Google's personalized search history, which maintains an archive of your past searches. This is especially worrisome to privacy advocates, but unlocks some serious power if you need to track down some info you know you had last month.

Android search window options

To widen the scope of your Android's search tool, back up and click "Searchable items." This brings up a list of apps to include in searches, making the search tool your portal to most of your mobile experience. Add any app you ever bring up to look for info or browse through, like Contacts or Music Player, and you should start to see more focused results right away.

If you want to focus an Android search more sharply, it's easy just tap the icon in the upper left of the search window (usually the Google "g") to bring up a list of apps to search. It's reset each time, so you don't have to worry about bollixing up your search the next time.

It does take a small shift in perspective to make it really work for you, though. For most of us, it's intuitive to go to Contacts to seek out a phone number or Evernote to dredge that old link out of the digital swamp, but if you can rewire yourself to always hit the search button, you can save a bit of time (and repetitive stress) every time you use your mobile device. Better still, you're likely to start getting search results that fit you in helpful and surprising ways.