AwesomeBar is awesome

Firefox, General, Innovation, Mozilla, Work 41 Comments

In Firefox 3 the URL bar is being completely revamped in extremely exciting ways. In Firefox 2 the URL bar is fairly staid and plain, giving you a drop-list of recently-visted URLs and partial page titles. If you started typing in the Firefox 2 URL bar, it would generate a drop list of URLs whose domains matched what you were typing, like so:

Firefox 2's URL bar - less awesome than AwesomeBar

It would only match the start of the domain, however, so typing “mozi” would only list URLs that started with “http://www.mozi…”, which doesn’t include things like “http://developer.mozi…”. Those would only be listed if you started typing “developer” in the URL bar:

Firefox 2's URL bar - less awesome than AwesomeBar

This is OK behaviour. If you happen to know the URLs of the pages you’re looking for, the Firefox 2 URL bar will help you out by giving you a list of URLs whose starting bits match what you’re typing. Saves a little time, and becomes a quick way to get back to sites whose URLs you have at least partially memorized. If you were hoping to revisit a site but you didn’t know how the domain started, you’d be out of luck and would have to resort to using one of the major search engines to look for it.

Enter AwesomeBar

In Firefox 3, however, the staid and plain URL bar has been transformed into a much, much more powerful and useful tool. Dubbed the “AwesomeBar”, it lets you use the URL field of your browser to do a keyword search of your history and bookmarks. No longer do you have to know the domain of the page you’re looking for — the AwesomeBar will match what you’re typing (even multiple words!) against the URLs, page titles, and tags in your bookmarks and history, returning results sorted by “frecency” (an algorithm combining frequency + recency).

Not only that, but the drop-list results show you the page’s favicon, the full title, the URL, and whether you have bookmarked and/or tagged the page in a richly formatted two-line display.

Here are some screenshots illustrating the magic. I tend to look up a lot of recipes on the internet, and the other day I wanted to find the recipe for a spicy ginger carrot cake I’d seen somewhere in my surfing. Here’s how the new AwesomeBar makes this unbelievably simple:

I start by typing “ginger”, and AwesomeBar searches through my history and bookmarks to return everything that matches that keyword, showing the first six and letting me scroll through the rest. You’ll notice here that several of the results are bookmarked (blue star icon on the right), and tagged (tag icon). The sites’ favicons are displayed on the left, making it really easy to scan through the results if you know what site you’re looking for in particular:

Firefox 3's AwesomeBar in action - one keyword

Instead of scanning and scrolling, however, I just add another keyword, “carrot”. AwesomeBar updates the list to show only the three results that match both these keywords:

Firefox 3's AwesomeBar in action - two keywords

Adding one more keyword, “cake”, narrows the list to just a single option:

Firefox 3's AwesomeBar in action - three keywords

Et voila. Out of thousands of entries in my bookmarks and history, AwesomeBar has found the single “ginger carrot cake” recipe I had read somewhere online in the past year. I had no idea which site it was on, so wouldn’t have been able to search by the site’s domain. Even Google wouldn’t have helped me here since this recipe doesn’t appear until the 8th page of results when searching for “ginger carrot cake”. AwesomeBar searches only my personal, local bookmarks and history, making it an incredibly powerful tool for finding pages that I’ve visited before and want to find again.

I’ve been using the Firefox 3 nightly releases for some time now, and I can honestly say that the new AwesomeBar behaviour has absolutely changed how I use the Web. Not having to remember URLs or resort to global web searches to find pages I’ve visited before has made using the Web a whole lot easier and more efficient.

So, yeah. AwesomeBar? Awesome. If you’re willing to play with not-quite-fully-baked software (by which I mean “beta”), you can experience the awesome yourself by grabbing the Firefox 3 Beta 5 download and testing it out.

Want to read more?
Edward Lee, the primary AwesomeBar developer, has written a bunch of blog posts over the course of AwesomeBar’s development:

41 Responses to “AwesomeBar is awesome”

  1. Bo Says:
    April 17th, 2008 at 12:31 pm

    AwesomeBar is truly awesome. It’s right up there with tabbed browsing and find-as-you-type in terms of Will Change The Way You Use Computers.

    Firefox developers should be very very proud of this feature.

  2. David Naylor Says:
    April 17th, 2008 at 12:59 pm

    Yes, I’ve found the biggest advantage is that you don’t have to redo web searches that you did before. And if you do want to redo a web search, you can just type in one or two of the keywords and firefox will find the search page in your history. Wonderful!

  3. Asa Dotzler Says:
    April 17th, 2008 at 8:46 pm

    I think this feature is so awesomely awesome that it alone would warrant a full version rev. I can’t wait for two hundred million people to experience the awesomeness of the AwesomeBar this year.

  4. Chris G. Says:
    April 17th, 2008 at 8:50 pm

    I agree, the AwesomeBar is simply fanastic. In fact, I cannot use IE or Safari anymore at all, since I keep expecting the address bar to do the same thing as the AwesomeBar.

  5. Chris G. Says:
    April 17th, 2008 at 9:50 pm

    I agree, the AwesomeBar is simply fanastic. In fact, I cannot use IE or Safari anymore at all, since I keep expecting the address bar to do the same thing as the AwesomeBar.

  6. Kelson Says:
    April 18th, 2008 at 12:35 am

    Somewhere in the middle of the beta cycle I started using Firefox 3 heavily. This single feature is so useful that I not only didn’t go back, but installed the betas on 2 other machines.

    I do 99% of my browsing these days in either a Firefox 3 beta or an Opera 9.5 preview (Opera 9.5 has a similar feature, though Firefox’s implementation makes it easier to spot the page you want at a glance), and it’s extremely frustrating to go back to Firefox 2 or use Safari. (As for IE, I haven’t used it for anything but testing in years.)

  7. voracity Says:
    April 18th, 2008 at 1:04 am

    I’m not usually one for superlatives, but ‘awesome’ is certainly appropriate here. I’ve cut way down on my web searches because of this feature (so maybe Google, etc. won’t be too happy :) ). And it makes it easy to use even more ‘dynamic keywords’ — for example, typing ‘lo jo’, then down/enter now takes me straight to the ‘new journal entry’ on my localhost. Brilliant stuff.

  8. Pierre Says:
    April 18th, 2008 at 1:41 pm

    @Kelson:
    >”Opera 9.5 has a similar feature”

    Opera 9.5 can search since Sept. 2007, via the address bar, not only inside history and bookmarks, but _also in full indexed textual content of visited pages_…


    Pierre

  9. Pierre Says:
    April 18th, 2008 at 2:41 pm

    @Kelson:
    >”Opera 9.5 has a similar feature”

    Opera 9.5 can search since Sept. 2007, via the address bar, not only inside history and bookmarks, but _also in full indexed textual content of visited pages_…


    Pierre

  10. Neelark Says:
    April 20th, 2008 at 8:46 am

    Yes, it’s by far the most useful addition to Firefox.

    But for all those who are unhappy, please don’t give up on it. You’ll soon get used to the new behavior and Firefox will get used to your browsing habits and the results it returns will improve!

    I have been using Firefox 3 since the first beta and after I type two or three letters in the URL bar, the page I want is usually in the top three results.

    Well done, team Mozilla!

  11. Billy Says:
    April 20th, 2008 at 10:36 pm

    Just like tabbed browsing, this will be another annoyance that needs to be turned off immediately. Why reinvent the wheel and add more tabs (taking up more vertical real estate) when the Windows taskbar already does it for you? Some people with brains need to be put in charge of FF.

  12. Billy Says:
    April 20th, 2008 at 11:36 pm

    Just like tabbed browsing, this will be another annoyance that needs to be turned off immediately. Why reinvent the wheel and add more tabs (taking up more vertical real estate) when the Windows taskbar already does it for you? Some people with brains need to be put in charge of FF.

  13. bharadwaj parthasarathy Says:
    April 22nd, 2008 at 3:35 am

    Heh deb,

    first time out here. nice to see a very useful bar. But i am bit concerned about a few things.

    Do we need two lines? It takes up a lot of space. i see that people are already reverting back to the url style to firefox2 in firefox3. There is a small hack, i guess you can post about that too.

    Also i use my bar for a google smart search, for instance, i used to type in “java hashtable” to go directly to the java docs page. Is the search feature still there?
    I need this search feature more than any thing else.

    I Do not hurt the web.. :-)

  14. bharadwaj parthasarathy Says:
    April 22nd, 2008 at 4:35 am

    Heh deb,

    first time out here. nice to see a very useful bar. But i am bit concerned about a few things.

    Do we need two lines? It takes up a lot of space. i see that people are already reverting back to the url style to firefox2 in firefox3. There is a small hack, i guess you can post about that too.

    Also i use my bar for a google smart search, for instance, i used to type in “java hashtable” to go directly to the java docs page. Is the search feature still there?
    I need this search feature more than any thing else.

    I Do not hurt the web.. :-)

  15. Stennie Says:
    April 23rd, 2008 at 8:49 am

    I get the feeling that Billy doesn’t use a dresser with drawers, he just simply throws all of his clothes into one large basket and claims superiority to his method.

  16. Jason Says:
    April 23rd, 2008 at 12:07 pm

    Tell Microsoft and Apple to start the photocopiers.

  17. Jason Says:
    April 23rd, 2008 at 1:07 pm

    Tell Microsoft and Apple to start the photocopiers.

  18. Jean Azzopardi Says:
    April 23rd, 2008 at 2:08 pm

    Been using it a bit..lovely feature. I wouldn’t call it life changing but it does making searching bookmarks that much easier! 9/10 for this new release overall!

  19. Robin Says:
    April 23rd, 2008 at 3:19 pm

    I love the idea… hate the name. Is there a less lame term for the “awesomebar”? How about the “navtasticbar” or the “BarEssentials”?

    “AwesomeBar” sounds like something that should have nougat in it.

  20. Robin Says:
    April 23rd, 2008 at 4:19 pm

    I love the idea… hate the name. Is there a less lame term for the “awesomebar”? How about the “navtasticbar” or the “BarEssentials”?

    “AwesomeBar” sounds like something that should have nougat in it.

  21. mawrya Says:
    April 23rd, 2008 at 7:14 pm

    It would be interesting, no Awesome, to see if there is a noticeable dip in traffic to Google after Firefox 3 and the Awesome Bar are released.

  22. mawrya Says:
    April 23rd, 2008 at 8:14 pm

    It would be interesting, no Awesome, to see if there is a noticeable dip in traffic to Google after Firefox 3 and the Awesome Bar are released.

  23. M Says:
    April 24th, 2008 at 3:42 am

    Well by default it’s only holding your history for 90 days, so it won’t find stuff “from the last year” unless you have actually book marked it. At which point if you have book marked it, FF can find it forever.

    You can easily set your “Keep History” to 365 days I assume, Lord only knows how much space that’ll take up though.

    Great run down all the same.

    M

    ps I love Carrot cake.

  24. Byron McCollum Says:
    May 6th, 2008 at 5:54 pm

    The “AwesomeBar” has an amazing amount of noise. Tone down some of the colors, you’re killing me…

  25. Jonah Dempcy Says:
    May 16th, 2008 at 1:57 pm

    One more reason to love Firefox 3. I’ve been Fx3 Beta for a few months now but I still do a large amount of browsing and 100% of development on Firefox 2. Why? Because I can’t figure out how to override extension max version checking in Fx3. If you can help me, I’d be grateful. :)

    I can’t live without extensions like Firebug, the Web Developer Toolbar and a handful of other extensions that facilitate web development. I tried overriding max version checking by adding a flag to the internal preferences, following a tutorial for how to do it in Firefox 2, but it didn’t seem to work. Maybe the property name in the prefs has changed?

  26. Cooner750 Says:
    May 25th, 2008 at 5:05 am

    @Jonah Dempcy:
    Save the extension, rename it so it has a .zip extension instead of .xpi, extract it, open the install.rdf file in a text editor and change the Max Version property for Firefox to 3.0 (if you’re using RC1) or 3.0b5 (if you’re using Beta 5). Compress those same files back into a zip archive, rename it back to XPI, then drag and drop it into an open Firefox window.

    Beware of unexpected results when doing this, as many extensions that haven’t been updated to at least be compatible with 3.0 Alpha won’t work at all.

  27. Johnz Says:
    June 12th, 2008 at 7:18 pm

    Sign, I can see how this can be really helpful. HOWEVER….there are some of use who bookmark items that we consider to be private. In other words, when I’m typing in digg.com…I don’t want Firefox to begin displaying my bookmarks that happen to have the word d@ck in them (think porn). Will there be an option to turn this feature off?

  28. W. B. Mook Says:
    June 16th, 2008 at 5:49 pm

    Weirdly, IE 5.whatever for the Mac had a behavior like this (not the icon or the two lines, but the “matches against the page title” and I hung onto that browser for ages longer than I should have, just because it did. I’ve always been somewhat astonished that the feature hasn’t cropped up in one of the living browsers since then.

  29. Nilo Says:
    June 17th, 2008 at 9:15 am

    Johnz is absolutely right. Blaring the titles of previously visited web pages in BIG BOLD LETTERS is a major violation of privacy.

    There is an extension called “oldbar” than can somewhat overcome this problem, but such an important setting should not require an extension. It should be a built-in option.

  30. Nilo Says:
    June 17th, 2008 at 9:15 am

    Johnz is absolutely right. Blaring the titles of previously visited web pages in BIG BOLD LETTERS is a major violation of privacy.

    There is an extension called “oldbar” than can somewhat overcome this problem, but such an important setting should not require an extension. It should be a built-in option.

  31. QB Says:
    June 20th, 2008 at 9:09 am

    Oddly, the FF3 AwesomeBar doesn’t pull up visited URLs from my current browsing session, unlike in FF2. For instance, if I open gmail.com in the first tab, then open a second tab and type “gmail” it pulls up bookmarks that contain the word gmail, but not the URL gmail.com (which I have already visited). In fact, it doesn’t display the “gmail.com” URL even if I type gmail in the URL bar of the first tab! Am I missing something?

    Also, is there a way to modify the font size of content displayed in the AwesomeBar?

  32. QB Says:
    June 20th, 2008 at 9:09 am

    Oddly, the FF3 AwesomeBar doesn’t pull up visited URLs from my current browsing session, unlike in FF2. For instance, if I open gmail.com in the first tab, then open a second tab and type “gmail” it pulls up bookmarks that contain the word gmail, but not the URL gmail.com (which I have already visited). In fact, it doesn’t display the “gmail.com” URL even if I type gmail in the URL bar of the first tab! Am I missing something?

    Also, is there a way to modify the font size of content displayed in the AwesomeBar?

  33. -=Ben=- Says:
    July 15th, 2008 at 10:14 am

    Customize the colors of your awesome bar based on it’s type!

    Tags are Yellow
    Bookmarks are Blue
    History Items are Green

    See the code here:
    http://userstyles.org/styles/8564

    Amazing UserChrome Style!

  34. -=Ben=- Says:
    July 15th, 2008 at 10:14 am

    Customize the colors of your awesome bar based on it’s type!

    Tags are Yellow
    Bookmarks are Blue
    History Items are Green

    See the code here:
    http://userstyles.org/styles/8564

    Amazing UserChrome Style!

  35. Billy2 Says:
    August 18th, 2008 at 1:47 pm

    billy how do i get to a particular browser instance with one click, visually seeing which browser window i want to click on to save me time before moving my mouse to the task bar using your method.

    …Just curious.

  36. Kabonfootprint Says:
    August 19th, 2008 at 3:01 am

    AwesomeBar really made my life easier, no need to open bookmark, no need to search for history. Just simply type and enter. Love it, love it very much thank you!

  37. Ande Says:
    August 25th, 2008 at 11:35 am

    I would like to see this AwesomeBar be a seperate entity on screen.

    ie: Put an AwesomeBar permenently at the top of the screen and have a window with tabs in it seperate from it.

  38. Karthi Says:
    March 31st, 2009 at 12:07 pm

    I really love this idea.. I always wanted to have such feature from many a years.. This replaces Google web history search..
    I also wanted to add my history( of some days or hours) to added to Favoirtes if I require.
    Hmm.. still Bookmark management can be intellgent to group the sites through tags or meta data..

  39. James Grosser Says:
    June 27th, 2009 at 10:19 pm

    How do you clear off a bookmark URL that you do not want displayed

  40. seybernetx Says:
    July 18th, 2009 at 11:25 am

    For whatever it might matter to you all…

    I tried to use that link to that ginger cake recipe (http://www.cooksillustrated.com/recipe?recipids=2098) that dria supposedly found in this post. It gave me a ‘The page you are trying to view is currently unavailable’ message.

    That, combined with the implication that dria actually keeps a full year’s browser history, leads me to wonder how real this example actually is.

  41. Tim Romano Says:
    September 17th, 2009 at 10:28 am

    The location bar intelligent search takes a long time on my Firefox because I do not routinely clear history, and I’ve been using FF for several years as my main browser. So most times, the location search is a PITA because my keystrokes die as FF is searching the history–severe lag–even though I have a fast PC. However, there ARE times when I do want to use FF’s memory of sites I visited. The location history iintelligent search could be a very awesome feature if there were a *toggle button* near the location bar that would let me turn the search on/off at will (i.e. not a general Preferences setting, which is cumbersome to change on-the-fly).

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