One reason Firefox 3 is going to be awesome – Auto-completion in the Location Bar

In: Browsers|Mozilla

22 Mar 2008

After seriously giving Firefox 3 Beta 4 a try due to Safari 3.1 breaking the Shift key in Gmail (update: as kindly pointed out by some of my readers in the comments, it was Gmail that was broken, not Safari 3.1, doh), I’ve converted to using Firefox 3 Beta 4 as my primary browser. Before, I was using Firefox 2 as my main web browser, with a Safari window open for Gmail (because I tend to have around 50 tabs open in Firefox 2, and having Gmail among those tabs just kills Firefox 2’s performance). So yes, I was using Safari 3 as a “Gmail browser”, so to speak (in case you’d thought I’d defected from Firefox despite my history).

Anyway, enough with all that self-indulgent background – I’m writing this today to rave about how cool this one particular feature, auto-completion in the Location Bar (or the Address Bar, you know, where you type in URLs), in Firefox 3 is. Yes, you probably have already read about it and all the other neat new features and changes in Firefox 3, but I’d love to single out this one because it was the one thing I noticed that made browsing so much better when switching from Firefox 2.

So what is it? First, a screenshot of it in action:

Firefox 3 autocompletion in the Location Bar

Yup, typing into the Location Bar brings up a list of matched webpages from your browsing history. You can see from the screenshot that I entered “javascript” and it brought up not just URLs that started with “javascript” (which is the current Firefox 2 behavior), it also brought up URLs that contained “javascript” anywhere and even pages with titles containing “javascript”.

What’s the big deal? Well, one of the worst (“worst” being a relative adjective, relative to my opinion) things that can happen while looking for a page you once visited is forgetting its URL. If I’m lucky I can find it by bringing up the History sidebar in Firefox 2 and searching for it by some keyword or dredging through my browsing history.

In Firefox 3, I just need to type in some keywords related to the page and most likely it’d come up! Here’s how I start posting a new blog entry to this very blog:

Firefox 3 search history by title in Location Bar

No need to type “blog.c” and then selecting the correct page from the dropdown while remembering that the new post page is “post-new.php”. Less typing, no need to remember URLs. Just page titles and website names. If that isn’t useful for you, “you’re doing it wrong”. What’s more, Firefox 3 uses adaptive learning to keep an eye of what you’ve typed and what you select. After some time Firefox will learn from your choices and provide better suggestions in the autocomplete list. Sweet.

If you haven’t tried out Firefox 3 yet, go grab the latest beta. And then come back to this blog to get Firefox 2 and 3 running at the same time. I’m quite sure you’ll thank me for it (because this is not the only great feature in Firefox).

Update: Phil Wilson pointed to this extension for Firefox 2 that has the same auto-completion functionality.

10 Responses to One reason Firefox 3 is going to be awesome – Auto-completion in the Location Bar



March 22nd, 2008 at 11pm

Safari 3.1 didn’t “break” Gmail, but rather, Mail for Google Apps was broken in Safari 3.1. The Google team rolled out the new version, though, which has working keypresses: if you aren’t defaulted to it, click “New Version” on the top-right side of the screen.

I still think Safari is the most beautiful way to browse the web, though Firefox is slowly following suit.


Phil Wilson

March 22nd, 2008 at 11pm

As far as I can see, all they’ve done is integrate the old Autocomplete Manager extension for Firefox2 into the core of Firefox3. I’ve been using this extension in Fx2 for about six months or so, so it’s brilliant to see the same functionality native in Fx3 :)


Koen Van der Auwera

March 23rd, 2008 at 3am

Yep I had the same “Safari 3.1 – Gmail (hosted)” problem. Yesterday I got the new Gmail version and everything is ok now.


Mark Wilden

March 23rd, 2008 at 4am

As far as I can see, this is equivalent to searching your history, except that it’s automatic. I don’t quite understand how the learning part helps, unless you never bookmark your important sites.

It sounds like a useful feature because it saves a couple of mouseclicks, but not worth defecting from Safari for. :)




March 23rd, 2008 at 5am

This is even better –


Chu Yeow

March 23rd, 2008 at 1pm

@Koen Van der Auwera, @Stephen: Ah, I guess I should have dug around more about the actual cause of the bug. Thanks for the info!

@Phil Wilson: Hey man, thanks for the pointer. I did read about that in one of the links in my blog post, but never did test it out. As far as I know though, Firefox 3’s auto-complete functionality is due to Places.

@Mark Wilden: Hehe you’re right, I only keep a small number of bookmarks in my browsers so that they are visible in the bookmarks toolbar – the rest of my stuff is on That’s where the learning part helps I guess, because there are some sites I’ll never bookmark but access directly by typing into the Location Bar.

@psmaker: Thanks for the pointer. I’ve actually seen and tried Inquisitor but it isn’t what I want. In fact QuickSilver can replicate some of the Firefox 3 Location Bar functionality if you enable the Firefox history/bookmarks plugin and that’s what I need (which Inquisitor doesn’t provide, unless I’m being a klutz for not finding where that feature is).



March 23rd, 2008 at 8pm

The new location bar is awesome, once you get used to it. I really think this is going to be the next “tabs feature” .

Not to mention that you can just star a page and it is added to bookmarks, I know of some people that don’t really know about web bookmarks, the new bar + the star makes it possible for them to use bookmarks.



March 23rd, 2008 at 8pm

Safari is terrible, and it is not even FLOSS, no point of comparison.


March 24th, 2008 at 4pm

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Chris Lees

March 25th, 2008 at 2pm

Thanks for this article. All other times that I’ve read about it, I thought it was just Mozilla finally implementing a feature that Internet Explorer 5 for the Mac had :-) But yeah, it looks rather cool, being able to type any part of a page title from your history, and Firefox finding it.