QRZ Search plug-in

Firefox, and several other browsers, have a second text entry field in the address bar (at the top of the browser window) where you can type in what you're looking for, and send that to a search engine automatically, rather than having to visit the search engine's main page first. For example, you can type a word into this field and automatically do a Google search on that word without having to visit Google's home page first.

Most search engines have "search plug-ins", which are just little XML files that teach your browser how to send proper queries to that search engine. If you know the standard for these XML files, it's very simple to write your own. The XML format is documented at opensearch.org, and the Firefox developers have also written a more concise page with an example of an XML file, just waiting to be customized.

That's what I did- I took their example, plugged in the values needed in order to look up call signs on QRZ.com, saved the XML file on my web server, and added a "<link>" tag to the top of the page you're reading right now, so that if your browser knows how to deal with OpenSearch plugins, your search field should be indicating that there is a search plug-in available. With Firefox, that indicator is a blue circle around the triangle between the search engine's icon and the text entry area. I had never noticed it before- these images show you what to look for:

[Search Plug-in Available]
Search Plug-in Available

(Note: I took these screen shots using Firefox on my Mac. If you are using some other browser, or using Firefox on some other platform, what you see may be slightly different.)

When you click on the icon for the currently selected search engine (in these images, Google) you will get a list of the search engines you have installed, and there will be a selection to add the plug-in available through the page. When you select the option to add the plug-in, it will be installed in your browser and activated. You should see the icon for the new search engine.

Menu with option to install
new search plug-in
New search plug-in installed

Now when you look at the menu, you will see the new "search engine" on the list. You can now do searches using that "search engine" by typing what you're looking for in the search box and hitting ENTER. In this case, you can enter a call sign and it will show you the QRZ page for that call sign.

Menu including the new option
[Searching for W1AW]
Searching for W1AW

How does it work?

There are two parts of it- an XML file containing the parameters that your browser needs in order to build a query for the "search engine", and an HTML <link> tag in the <head> section of each web page from which the plug-in may be installed.

On my site, the XML file is called qrz.xml (or qrz.xml.txt to download it as plain text.) It looks like this:

<OpenSearchDescription xmlns="http://a9.com/-/spec/opensearch/1.1/">
<Description>Look up a Call sign on QRZ.com</Description>
<Image height="16" width="16" type="image/x-icon">http://www.qrz.com/favicon.ico</Image>
<Url type="text/html" method="GET" template="http://www.qrz.com/db/{searchTerms}"/>

The <link> tag, if you don't feel like doing "view source" on this page, looks like this:

<link rel="search" type="application/opensearchdescription+xml" title="QRZ" href="/qrz.xml" />

That's really all there is to it! And the nice thing is that, because it "installs" into your browser, you don't have to come back to this page (or QRZ's page) in order to access it (although you can obviously visit this page again to install the plug-in into another browser if needed.)

I am going to email QRZ and let them know about this page- I would imagine they will be very interested, since it does offer a quick and easy way to use their site. Don't be surprised if they add the same plug-in to their web site. Note that I'm not claiming any copyright on the "qrz.xml" file or the "<link>" tag shown here- for copyright purposes, these two pieces of text are hereby released to the public domain and may therefore be used by anybody for any reason (including by QRZ for use of their own web site.)

2009-10-06 I got an email from David Levine, K2DSL, letting me know that QRZ.com had changed the format of the request to look up a call sign. I have updated this page, as well as the qrz.xml file, to use the correct format. Thanks for letting me know about this.

If you're curious, this page on qrz.com explains how the lookups are supposed to be done, and the fact that any other methods which may have worked in the past are no longer guaranteed to work. Everybody who uses QRZ's web site to look up call signs should be using the correct format. Either that, or pay for an XML subscription and be allowed to send queries directly to their database.

Copyright 2009 John M. Simpson <kg4zow@kg4zow.us>
Last updated 2009-10-07