DuckDuckGo is a genuine alternative to Google when it comes to finding stuff on the web: it currently handles 3 billion searches per month, and that number is growing as people are turned off by Google’s ad tracking and privacy policies.
The DuckDuckGo interface is designed to be simple to use—just type out your search query and go—but if you need more advanced features, the plucky underdog has plenty.
1. Get walking and driving directions
You don’t need to turn to Google Maps any longer to get from A to B, because DuckDuckGo has its own navigation options. On the web, type out a destination, then pick Maps from the results page. When the location loads, click Directions.
You can choose between walking and driving instructions, and in most cases you’ll get multiple routes to choose from. This is all powered by Apple Maps and, per DuckDuckGo’s usual practices, none of your searches are logged.
2. Customize its appearance
As we said, the DuckDuckGo web interface is simple, but you don’t have to settle for the default: Click the menu button (three lines, top right) and choose Themes to see the various looks that are available. You can switch to a dark mode or a high contrast theme, for example.
Select Appearance to take even more control over how DuckDuckGo looks. Here you’ll find options for adjusting the font style and size, and for selecting the specific colors used on the results page. Click Save and Exit to log your choices in your browser.
There’s also a cloud save option on the right—use this to keep your preferences saved and synced between browsers.
3. Limit your search by date
Like with Google, you can restrict the search results you see on DuckDuckGo based on when the pages were published or updated. On the results page on the web, click Any time to limit the results to those from the last day, week, month, or year.
You can also pick Custom date range from the same drop-down menu to get even more precise with your filtering—perhaps you want to see pages published in the 2010s. Click Apply to set the limits.
4. Open new tabs and keep on scrolling
DuckDuckGo features a couple of useful interface tweaks that you might find significantly speed up your searching. You can find them both by clicking the Settings option (top right) that appears on the results pages on the web.
Under the General heading, there are two toggle switches. The first, Infinite Scroll, displays your results in one long, never-ending list (think Twitter or Instagram)—you won’t need to click through to page two or three of the results with this enabled.
The second, New window, opens links in a new browser tab when you click on them. That means you can load up several pages in the background while you carry on browsing through search results. From the Settings menu, click Reset to go back to the default configuration.
5. Quickly search specific websites
Sometimes you know you want results from a specific website, like Twitter or Wikipedia, and DuckDuckGo makes this easy with a feature called “bangs.” To search Wikipedia, for example, put “!w” in front of your search term; for Reddit, you need the “!reddit” bang.
The search engine currently supports more than 13,000 bangs, covering all the popular websites, from Amazon to eBay. To find the ones you need, check out the DuckDuckGo list of supported bangs (ours is “!popsci” if you’re wondering).
6. Generate passwords or QR codes
Here are two tips for the price of one: passwords and QR codes. To have DuckDuckGo suggest a strong password for you, run a search for “password” followed by the number of characters that it needs to be—so “password 10” for example.
Just as cool is the built-in QR code generator. Just type “qr” in the search box on the web, followed by the URL of the site you want the QR code to link to, and DuckDuckGo will do the rest.
7. Learn the DuckDuckGo keyboard shortcuts
Keyboard shortcuts can make a huge difference when it comes to getting things done more quickly, whether that’s on Windows, macOS or anywhere else. DuckDuckGo has its own set that you can find by running a search for “DuckDuckGo cheatsheet” on the web.
You can use the up and down arrow keys to browse results, for example, and the left and right arrow keys to move between the various DuckDuckGo tabs (like for images, videos, and news).
The idea of a “cheat sheet” works with other applications and platforms too. Try running a DuckDuckGo search for “windows cheat sheet” or “macos cheat sheet” for example.