Critical Section

Firefox realtime address-bar search

Thursday,  10/30/08  09:18 AM

Remember when Firefox 3 first came out, and one of the cool new features was realtime in-address-bar search?

You don't?  Well in case you're still an IE user, or just haven't noticed, when you type something into the Firefox location bar, it searches for previously entered addresses to prompt you in case one of them matches what you want now, and in so doing is searches the page titles as well as the page addresses.

So I have to say, I didn't like it at first; it seemed annoying, because I couldn't predict what it was going to do.  But now after several months of using it I love it.  It has become the fastest way for me to get to something, even when I know exactly where it is and could find it with a few clicks.  For example, Aperio's slide gallery, which just requires that I type  That is not much typing, but now I just type "ga" and poof, the Aperio slide gallery is at the top of the search list.  Wonderful.

Other examples of tools I like which have realtime search: iTunes, and X1.  The X1 example is particularly pertinent; I love the way I can search email and files on my disk with just a few keystrokes, and poof! realtime search results.  If you are still using Outlook's search for email or Windows Explorer's search for files, you will love this...

This is a great example of a small UI tweak which makes a big difference to users.  We've tried to do the same sort of thing in Aperio's Spectrum digital pathology information system, which is web-based.  We use JavaScript on the client-side to interpret input as the user is typing it, and do database lookups with AJAX to try to match what they've typed.  So if they want "breast cancer", by the time they've typed "br" the search result is right there, ready to be selected.


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