Most desktop browsers include a feature to quickly search Google [1] for highlighted text. This feature is actually in Safari for iOS too, but it’s hidden behind a button labeled “Define”. I’m hoping to raise awareness for a feature that saves me time every day.

This feature has existed in iOS for a few years, but in polling a handful of semi-technical iOS users, I find most weren’t aware of it.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Highlight text
  2. Tap “Define”
  3. Tap “Search Web”

The example uses Safari, but this works in any app where you can highlight text.

Of course there are other ways to search for highlighted text.

  • Launch Safari, click the search bar, paste some text, hit return
  • From the home screen: swipe down to activate Spotlight, paste some text, scroll to the bottom, click “Search Web”

But both require the text you want to search for to be copied to your clipboard. It’s also possible to search the web with Siri, but it’s currently not possible to send Siri highlighted text as input.

Note: this story was crossposted to Medium here.

  1. While I mention Google, this method works for whichever search engine you’ve selected for Safari in ↩︎