3,012 words
dornan.me.uk @jamesdornanUK

Search the internet like a ninja with DuckDuckGo bangs!

duckduckgo is the best search engine... because you can search almost everything!

It has a very powerful feature called bangs!

I recommend you set DuckDuckGo as your default search engine. This enables you to directly search many websites or search engines directly from your address bar.

(You can also get the 'duckduckgo' app for your phone, and these will work there too.)

For example, if you want to find cat videos on YouTube; instead of typing youtube.com into your address bar, loading the front page of youtube (with all its adverts etc) then typing your query 'funny cats' into the search bar on Youtube.... blah blah... so many steps.

Instead, you simply type this into your address bar:

!yt funny cats

There are over 13,000 of these 'bangs!', for many different websites. Yes, it takes a little getting used to, but you will save A LOT of time over years.

Here are a few choice samples. I try to avoid the obvious ones, with huge privacy concerns, and offer good alternatives depending on the type of search you are gonna do.

(You can find more at: https://duckduckgo.com/bang)


General searches (aka metasearch engines):

While you could just use DDG directly, you can also search using other engines using bangs. Different engines can give different results, and muddies your footprints, so try to mix your usage. 

Escape the filter bubble.

bangDescription
If you don't use a !bang you just get DuckDuckGo results. The results are from Bing, but with strong privacy.
!spGoogle results, but through StartPage engine. Same results, better (but not complete) privacy. Don't rely on this alone, as Google censor results.
!qw Qwant. It has it's own indexes/webcrawler so you will get unique results.
!mojeek  Stupid name, but has its own index. You will get unique results not found in other engines.
!swisscowsResults from Bing (same as DuckDuckGo) but has a unique way of showing results.
!sptioSearX engine, an open source project. It combines a few different search engines into one.
!gibGibiru. Stupid name. Claims to be completely uncensored, so good luck out there and avoid risky clicks.
!yan Yandex. One of the few sites with its own (huge) index, and a good one at that. Also it won't be subject to same restrictions the US put on Google and Bing results.

WARNING: Subject to dragnet survelience by Russian Intelligence - probably not a concern (if you are not Russian) but use a VPN and don't sign in to Yandex account.
!gigaGigablast. Old, ugly and way behind the competition. Only mentioned here as its one of the few site with its own (small) index, which makes it awesome.
!pk Peekier. Shows previews of all results as tiled webpages.

Specialist searches:

bangDescriptionExample(s)
!i
image search by duckduckgo, same results as Bing, better than Google but with no tracking
!i sunset
!maps (or !m)google maps.

WARNING:
you WILL be tracked by Google, but Google still has the best map and directions result for now...
!maps amuda to erbil

!maps macdonalds moscow
!invd
Search Invidious (a privacy focussed front-end of Youtube). If you insist on actual youtube, you can use !yt instead.
!w wikipedia
!twsearches twitter
!qwnOne of many news !bangs. Qwant are impartial, so can be trusted not to censor.!qwn

coronavirus

!wawolfram alpha. a very powerful calculator that understands natural langauge.!wa solve 8x + 6 = 15x -8

!wa days until 31 December 2020
!owm Open Weather Map. There are plenty of weather related !bangs, this one seems good.!owm kathmandu
!u urban dictionary.
!mc meta critic, for aggregated reviews of films/shows/games... etc!mc the walking dead
!rreddit, searches all of reddit.com
!rt
rotten tomatoes!rt mr robot
!imdb Internet Movie Database 
!t thesaurus
!asearches amazon. also variations of this exist, for your national store (e.g. !auk search amazon.co.uk)
!ebaysearches amazon. also variations of this exist, for your national store (e.g. !ebayuk search ebay.co.uk)
!bang

search for more bangs! e.g. !band news to list all bangs! that related to news sources

!bang news



Web browsers and Addons / Extensions

In general, it's better to limit the number of addons/extensions as each one is another risk (e.g. if the developer goes rogue or abandons the project). Also, some can be detected by websites you visit, making you stand out from the crowd and more 'unique' and therefore less anonymous (you can test your fingerprint here). This is one reason the Tor browser people recommend to not add anything to Tor browser, as some people living in opressive regimes literally have to trust it with their lives. 

Don't let that put you off, if your biggest concern is to avoid dragnet surviellence and tracking by corporations then most of the below will help you here. Just regularly check and clear out addons you are not actually using. 

There are two main 'types' of browser out there now, for simplicity, let's call them Firefox-based and Chrome-based. Each has their own addon/extension store, but most of the addons/extensions are available on both stores.

While you can just choose your flavour and stick to it, I recommend to use one of each. Keep one browser only for places you have to login to (Facebook, Amazon etc), and a second one where you don't (e.g. researching, checking news, wikipedia etc). Let's call this your login browser, and your search browser

There are two reasons for using a separate browsers: If, while searching for something, you come across a malicious site - the damage will be far less if it happens on a browser where you are not logged into anything (i.e. you don't have cookies with your data in that browser). Second, the places you are logged into can do what is known as 'cross site tracking' - which basically means in some cases being logged into Facebook/Google in your browser might allow Facebook/Google to know what other sites you visit in that browser. Using the right browser addons and settings should prevent this. Using a second browser makes it impossible.

The two browsers I recommend are Firefox (or Cliqz, also uses Firefox store), and Brave (Chrome-based, so use the Chrome store for extensions). I use them like this:

Login browser - Firefox/Cliqz: 'Firefox containers', where you can set a unique container for each major site (e.g. one for Facebook, another for Google), makes Firefox/Cliqz the perfect login browser. It also has a robust password manager, if you don't want to use a third party one. These browsers, unlike Brave/Chrome, also allow you to set a 'master password', again another reason to use this for places you stay logged in. If someone gains access to your computer, this is another step they have to bypass...

Search browser - Brave or Tor browser:
 Brave, with it's option to use the Tor network, and privacy by default settings, makes it the perfect browser search browser. Tor browser itself is stronger, but I prefer the usability of Brave.

However both Firefox/Cliqz and Brave are solid browsers and either would make fine primary browsers.

No reason to stop at just two browsers.... I use Safari only for banking and booking flights, and Waterfox just for some particular addons I need sometimes but don't particularly trust - experiment with what works for you.



For ALL browsers

uBlock Origin

The only adblocker you should use. 

(Not needed for Brave, which has it's own adblocker built in)


Privacy badger

Intelligently stops tracking between sites. Not an ad blocker, so can be used in conjunction with one.

HTTPS everywhere

Ensures your connection to the site you are visiting is encrypted.

(Not needed for Brave, which has this built in)


I don't care about cookies

Blocks those annoying popups asking about cookies. It just accepts them. Use only if you either set your browser to permanent 'private window mode' or you use an addon to delete cookies (see below)

(this is a feature built into 'Cliqz' browser so no need if you use this browser)


Cookie AutoDelete

Delete cookies, unless its a site you care about staying logged into - in which case you whitelist them (works with Firefox containers too, so each container has its own rules)

(not needed if you set your browser to always open in private mode)


History Cleaner / History AutoDelete

I won't ever need to remember which websites I visited more than a week ago, and data is a toxic asset, so may as well clear the history.


Behind the Overlay Revival

A kind of popup blocker.

Neat URL (Firefox or Brave)

Strips URLs (web addresses) of all the crap typically used to track you. Essential to do this if you share links.

Privacy Pass

Prevents those annoying 'click all the traffic light' verification tests.

Terms of Service; Didn't Read

Doesn't actually do anything. But warns you how shady the TOS of the website you are on is.

Decentraleyes

Hard to explain what this does... but recommended by many who know their stuff.

Dark Reader

The only non purely functional addon I use. Open source and approved by Mozilla (who make Firefox) so should be fine to add. Makes websites kinder on your eyes.



For login browser (Firefox)


In addition to those listed at the beginning 'For ALL browsers', I recommend the following for browsers where you login to websites:

Firefox Multi-Account Containers / Facebook Container

Makes containers for websites, to prevent you being tracked by them across tabs (e.g. you signed into Facebook ONLY it its container, so the 'LIKE' buttons you see everywhere won't link back to your facebook account. This is under-rated.)


Bloody Vikings

A very easy way to make single use anonymous temporary email addresses. Only available for Firefox-based browsers.


Bitwarden (or other password manager)

An addon for my choice of password manager. It generally better not to rely on the one built into your browser, as you are locking yourself into them and can be a nightmare to export/import them all later... 

N.B: The optimum, but inconvenient, solution is not to store passwords anywhere near a browser as they are inherently insecure environments... better to just copy/paste them from an offline encrypted database such as KeePass. But you should be fine if you don't use out-of-date Windows versions or obscure outdated browsers. 


Blur/Burner Emails/c0x0.com

Useful for when you need to give an email address... these services generate a site specific email that forwards to one of your actual email addresses

NoScript Security Suite

WARNING: Advanced users only - this will break many sites!

This can be a pain at first - it essentially blocks many of the scripts websites run, until you allow them. It takes a while for to train it, but once its set up it will really harden your browser. This is why I recommend it for your 'login browser', as you don't want to set it up for every new site you visit (and you will visit hundres on your 'search browser'). Also, the sites you login to are exactly the sites you want to control like this. For example facebook.com has dozens of scripts, only a few are needed to operate the site. Using this addon will allow for a more controlled, quicker, and more private use of many of the major websites on the web.




For search browser (Brave)

In addition to those listed at the beginning 'For ALL browsers', I recommend the following for the browser you use exclusively for searching. No need for password manager as you won't be logging in anywhere.

Privacy redirect

Automatically takes you to privacy-centric versions of major websites, such as YouTube and Twitter.

Unpaywall

Useful for research. If you find an article behind a paywall, this might help find another source.


Also interesting, but not essential

TrackMeNot / AdNauseam

These 2 go together well. The first conducts random searches on your computer (obscuring your actual searches) and the second silently clicks on the ads (reducing the value of ads). Better to just use uBlock Origin, but you might have a use for this if you don't have a VPN and want to pollute your data.

Joplin Web Clipper / Turtl

Addons to clip websites to these encrypted notebooks applications, if you have them installed (they also need to be running). Joplin is better, as it actually takes the entire website to your notes, so you can read them offline or add your notes directly to them and dont have to worry about sites going offline. Turtl just bookmarks the site with a nice icon.

ProtectIID

If you have your own domain and use a catch all email addres, this allows you to create on-the-fly email adresses.

(or use https://www.fakepersongenerator.com/)

Reggy

create fake sign-up information

Flowcrypt / Mailvelope

Two very easy ways to encrypt your webmail with PGP. But your friends also need to use PGP... better just to use ProtonMail / Tutanota...

Keybase

Allows you to send encrypted messages to people on Twitter/Facebook etc if they are also using Keybase.

User-Agent Switcher

You can make the internet think you are using a different browser or computer (to reduce the amount of info websites have on you). Some say this doesn't add much to your privacy.

Foxy proxy

Allows you to easily switch your internet traffic through a proxy (e.g. Tor or JAP network). Useful if you don't use a VPN or the Tor browser. Some VPN providers also have their own addon, so this is another option (one or the other, both not possible).


Ghostery / Duckduckgo

Similiar to uBlock Origin and Privacy Badger respectively.

Snowflake

It allows your browser to contribute to the Tor project

Choosy

Allows you to open links in other browsers. Useful if you use many differet browsers for different purposes. I think is Mac only.

Pocket

Allows you to save articles you read, for reading later. Built into Firefox and endorsed by Mozilla, so probably 'OK' as far as privacy concerns, but would still use a fake generated email to register with them.

Mendeley / Send to kindle

Good for research/reading, but bad for privacy so maybe have in own browsers dedicated for research.

Alternative to Grammarly:

Grammarly is awesome, but is essentially a keylogger.... try this instead: https://www.languagetool.org/

Note taking apps

Standard Notes

Best for just text. No real linking of documents. Encrypted and audited - this app is the only note taking app I would trust completely - even with passwords. Free (for text only version)

Best for:

  • Lists or tasks.
  • Plain text.
  • Unordered and unlinked notes, relying on search to find them again (cant link notes, wikipedia style)
  • Just dumping information for finding later
  • Its the quickest to add/access data so use this the most often.

Pro features give it more features, better even than Joplin:

  • inline images (drag and drop when on Desktop)
  • publishing notes online (you are reading one now)
  • more features added regularly

This one suits the type that just wants to capture all info without spending time to sort it out/organise it - but you also can do that if you like.

This is simply the best note taking application, especially if you pay for Extended.

(N.B The only problem encounted is sometimes notes appearing blank when offline on your phone and it was written in one of the fancy editors - you can still access the note if you load it in the standard editor)

Joplin

Best for web-clipper, takes copy of actual site. Free. Most advanced features (even compared to the free version of Standard Notes), closest to evernote. can use external text editor. Stores to Google Drive or other online services (encryption optional), so could store a lot of info for no/little cost

Best for:

  • Web page clipping
  • Having nested/ordered notes with thematic areas to find them
  • Linking notes together, Wikipedia style
  • Inline images or files
  • You use it primarily on one device (desktop is better) as the syncing is not perfect

Had some problems syncing (adding stuff on phone that got wiped) and not sure the encryption is as trustworthy as Standard Notes. Can be kinda buggy. Might be useful for specific purposes.

Crypt.ee

Encrypted. Paid service (store data with them). Has 2 basically separate services - photos and notes. Good for photos. Good for linking documents together with references, so good for research project. Completely system agnostic. Everything stored in thier cloud, so need some trust (even though open source), and I guess the service (and your data) could disappear overnight.

No sharing. No web clipper.

Best for:

  • Photo storing (not linked to notes at all, like a separate service)
  • Linking documents together/referencing other documents like a wiki
  • best for hiding data and leaving no trace on the computer (e.g. shared computer), you can have ghost folders you summon by name only, and you its essentially a fancy website so you could just delete it with no trace
  • Easy to use for non techy people
  • Might be best as a journal, can easily add photos directly inline from phone
  • Website is Tor friendly

Protected text

Another Web-app/online only. You choose a page (e.g.https://www.protectedtext.com/whatever) and set a password. You can now add notes and access that site with that password. Text only. Has tabs so you kind get sub-pages within your page. Has an android app.

Good for:

  • Those that want online-only/website based notes and dont want to or cant install any apps.
  • Android only notes that you occassionaly want to access on a website.
  • If you want to collaborate with other people, you can give them the address and password
  • No sign up required and you could potentially be anonymous (access over Tor browser and don't have any identifying content in notes or page name)
  • Website is Tor friendly 

The project is partially open source, but not audited and the server code is not open source - I wouldn't trust this site with very sensitive information.

I don't see any reason to use this, unless you want to collaborate - stick with Standard Notes.

    Turtl

    Encrypted. Paid service (you store data with them). Good for website book marking. Good for sharing notes. Seems like Pinterest, so good for 'boards' of general interest areas (e.g. fitness/travel) to collect and inspire later. Can share. No IOS app. Can take the following types of note:

    • Password
    • File
    • Image
    • Bookmark
    • Text note

    Has a web clipper, but is only really a bookmarker that grabs an image with the link.

    Best for:

    • Collecting ideas for a project (e.g. a trip, or workout) - similiar to Pinterest

    Evernote

    The only app with text recognition OCR for photos. But privacy is completely compromised. 

    Best for non-sensitive PDFs (e.g. textbooks) to exploit the OCR search (pro version only)