URL and Search happily co-existing
As anybody who knows me well, or indeed past readers of this blog, will be aware that I quite like my browsers uber slim interface. If you're not aware of just how slim, take a look on at Firefox on the left. And if I could make the menu's hide ala IE7 I would.
Now, Firefox (as does many other current browsers) has an excellent feature in the form of the search bar. This allows you to search Google, or a search engine of your choice, with live on-the-fly search term suggestions. It all works very slick, very nice. However, unfortunately, there's no place in my interface for another input box.
There is a whole myriad of little problems. With my current system, since I very rarely want to reuse the current page to search, unless it's on Google anyway, I press Ctrl+T and, because it automatically focuses the URL bar, type “google search terms”. However, with the search box I have to click the search box (if someone knows a shortcut to focus it, do tell), type “search terms”, and then press Alt+Enter. Now I don't know who came up with this shortcut, but I certainly can't do it with one hand. This means not only have I had to move my hand to the mouse, but I now have to move it back again.
I'm sure I could retrain myself to instead of thinking “google this”, to think “google in the search box this”, eventually making “google in the search box” synonymous with “google”, but tbh I don't see why I should have to.
In fact, I don't really see why I should have to think “google” at all.
A recent post on The Old New Thing reignited the debate in my own head about the possibility of combining the URL and the search box. I type in my search query, it works like the search bar. I start typing in what looks like a URL, it adds the URL to the top of the drop down box, with a separating line underneath it and a label making it clear clicking this (or pressing enter) will take you to the URL. Or the normal search functionality is provided underneath if you want to click on it.
I hatched a plan to only use the search bar for a week or so, to see if it had any unforeseen consequences such as needing to search for a URL (which I've never needed to do that I recall, but also has been accommodated for in my plans above).
The main problem I noticed was that with the google toolbar, because it is separate from the URL bar, and thus independent of the page you are on, it can keep the search terms. Whereas if the two were integrated, you would have to navigate to the tab to see what the search terms were. Now I personally can't see that being a problem for me, but it may be for some people. Just who I don't know. I know at least one person that should be reading this blog uses a search bar, so please do give your feedback.
Other than that, I can see no problems with my proposed solution. I will, however, keep you posted on my investigations. Once I can make a clear and coherent argument, with the pros and cons (with as few cons as possible) I will begin campaigning for Firefox to introduce my new system….yah right.