How to Solve for All

Signing up

To use Solve for All most effectively, create an account which you can customize with your preferences. You can either create a new account to log in to Solve for All, or if you don't want to manage another account, you can sign up with your account on Twitter, Google, Facebook, GitHub, LinkedIn, Wordpress, Blogger, or other sites.


Top-level plugin types

Before you start customizing your search results, take a moment to learn about the three main plugin types:

  1. An Answer Generator is a plugin that produce answers in response to your queries. Answers may either be links to other sites (link answers), or content that is displayed directly in the answers page (inline answers, a.k.a "Instant Answers", as popularized by DuckDuckGo, a.k.a cards), without the need to follow any links. An Answer Generator may get its data from third-party APIs, user-uploaded content, or by performing computations.
  2. A Feed, or RSS feed, is a source of new links which is published by many websites. You can view multiple Feeds in our Reader, where you can add Feeds to folders (called Engines, described below). When you enter an answer query, Solve for All will search the Feeds you have added, subject to the activation conditions.
  3. An Engine is a curated collection of configured Answer Generators and Feeds, which acts like a mini-search engine for a specific domain. When you add an Answer Generator or Feed, you also choose the Engine that will contain the plugin. You can use Engines that other users have shared, to search the same sources. Or, share your own Engine with the public.

Configure Reader while customizing search

An easy way to get started customizing your search is to use the Feed Reader to read new articles from your favorite sites. You can choose Feeds that have already been added by other users, create a new Feed from an RSS URL or domain name, or if you currently use another RSS reader, import your Feeds from your current reader.

When adding a Feed to an Engine, you can select the activation conditions that determine if the Feed is consulted when you search.

You can also add Engines from the community that contain pre-configured Answer Generators and Feeds.

The advantage of configuring the Reader is that you will be customizing your search preferences at the same time as creating a personalized news reader.

Selecting plugins

To add individual Answer Generators to your settings, explore all plugins, or to do more detailed configuration, use the customization section. Start by searching the catalog for plugins you are interested in, and adding the ones you want.

Configuring Activation

When you add a plugin, you will be given the choice on how to activate it. You can control the activation of a plugin in these ways:

  1. Answer Generators only Select one or more Triggers that will activate an Answer Generator when they detect certain patterns in your query. For example, the United States Address Trigger activates Answer Generators when it detects an address in the United States in your query.
    Two special Triggers are the Any and Always Triggers, which activate without requiring anything specific in the answer query. The difference is that the Any Trigger doesn't activate unless its containing Engine is explicitly activated. This makes it suitable for activating Answer Generators that produce links to domain-specific search pages.
    On the other hand, the Always Trigger always activates, no matter what. This is appropriate for Answer Generators that produce links to other general-purpose search engines.
  2. Set one or more activation keywords that will activate the plugin if found in your query.
    Answer Generators only Keywords in the default set of keywords for the Answer Generator will be removed from your query before they are passed to the Answer Genererator. For example, the Amazon Product Search Answer Generator has the default keyword amazon. If you select amazon as an activation keyword for this Answer Generator, and type the query amazon extra large condoms, only extra large condoms will be used by the Answer Generator to create this search URL in Amazon.
  3. Set an activation code that activates the plugin when your query has the activation prefix for the plugin type, immediately followed by the activation code. Each plugin type has a different activation prefix: You can include activation codes either at the beginning or end of your query. If you prefer, you can choose a different activation code when you add a plugin. If you include an activation code in your query, the answers produced by the activated plugin will appear first in the answers page.

    Pro tip 1 Solve for All automatically opens the links that produced by the Answer Generators activated by activation codes. Try it: ?nytimes ?ddg privacy

    Pro tip 2 By default, when you include an activation code in your query, only the activated plugin is executed; all other plugins are disabled. This allows answer queries with activation codes to finish much faster and avoids cluttering the answers page with results you don't want. To re-enable the plugins that would have normally been used, double the activation prefix. For example, /anand AMD shows only results from the Anandtech Feed. But if you double the /, //anand AMD shows those results in addition to the normal results you get by just searching for AMD.

    Pro tip 3 You can view recent entries from your Feeds by using activation codes. To view the most recent Feed entries, just activate the Feed with an activation code, and leave the rest of the query blank. For example, /npr shows the latest news articles from NPR.

    Pro tip 4 To search and show results only from your Feeds, activate the Feed Answer Generator like so:
    ?feeds startup

  4. Feeds and Engines only Feeds and Engines can be made active by default, so they are always used whenever you search (unless you include an activation code in your query, see Pro tip 1 above)

Granting permissions

For your security, plugins do not automatically have access to your personal information, such as email address or location, or are able to execute arbitrary code in your browser unless you grant permission. But some Answer Generators require, or optionally use, your personal information so they can produce more better results or inline answers that are interactive. For example:

  • The Calculator Answer Generator requires your permission to display an interactive user interface.
  • The Yelp Search (Inline) Answer Generator requires your permission to use your saved locations. It searches for listings centered around your saved locations.

You can grant or revoke permissions for an Answer Generator either on its detail page in the catalog or in the Permissions page.

Editing preferences

Some Answer Generators allow you to save preferences that can be used to customize the answers produced by them. For example, the Google Maps Answer Generator allows you to set the zoom level and type of map displayed.

To access the preferences page for an Answer Generator, you can either:

  • View the Answer Generator in the catalog; or
  • Click the settings icon in the header of an answer produced by the Answer Generator. Then select the Preferences tab.

Opening previews

Solve for All allows you to preview the contents of many sites, including Wikipedia, without leaving the answers page. Look for the icon next to a link result to open the preview. Not all sites can be previewed, but Solve for All maintains a curated list of eligible sites, so you can be confident that the previews you select will display properly.

When viewing in a browser, you can only preview sites that use HTTPS. But you can also preview sites using HTTP if you use the Chrome extension.

Customizing to the max

By developing your own plugins, you can get near-total control of the answers generated by your queries. Plugins can written in Javascript, but many do not require any programming at all. Once you write a plugin, you can use it for your own queries and also share it with other users. For more details, check out the developer documentation.

Browser / Mobile Device Integration

To search with Solve for All more easily from your browser or mobile devices, see the integration instructions.