November 28, 2006 | Category:

One Interface

Raymond Chen has reasonably pointed out that most low-end users don’t like using the search boxes that modern browsers provide in addition to address bars. I couldn’t agree more.

The first thing I do with any new FireFox install, before loading up bookmarks or any of my favourite extensions, is to remove the search bar. Why?

  1. Ease of use. I don’t want to have to think about which box I’m going to use for a particular action, especially when the most common action is using Google: which works equally well in both boxes.
  2. Address bar is faster. Any time you move your hands from the keyboard to the mouse, you lose a significant portion of time. I don’t know if the search bar has a keyboard shortcut, but I know that the address bar does (Alt+d). Even if it does, how do I then quickly select a different search engine than the default?
  3. The address bar is multi-functional. I can use it for URLs and google, but if I add some keyword searches to my bookmarks (replace the query string %s and add a keyword), then I can have any search engine I want at my finger tips.

This makes the search box dead space in a prime location. It’s one (recent) saving is the addition of Google-style autocomplete. With a little more work this could, and should, be integrated into the address bar. At the very least, the option should be available.

So, what other things do I use the address bar quick search for?

  • Javadoc – Look up any standard class with a quick “jdoc Class”.
  • Man pages – As with terminals, “man [program]” works just fine for looking up UNIX stuff.
  • Acronyms – Need to know what something means ASAP? “acronym ASAP” would do.

I use it for dictionaries (“dic”), the thesaurus (“thes), torrents (“torr”), and just about any other common search because it is better. Give it a try.