Address Bar Improvements in Internet Explorer 8 Beta 1

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Windows Internet Explorer Engineering Team Blog

Address Bar Improvements in Internet Explorer 8 Beta 1

Hey everyone, Christopher here. It’s been a while since I’ve blogged anything here (over a year in fact). While my role in IE7 was focused on security community outreach, for IE8 I’m focused on increasing security, and delivering great end-user features. The first of which we gave some love to is the Address bar.

Domain Highlighting

At a glance, the most visible change with IE8 is Domain Highlighting. Internet Explorer 8 will automatically highlight what it considers to be the owning domain of whatever site you’re currently viewing. This helps users identify the real site they’re on when a website attempts to deceive them. The screen shot below shows how IE8’s Domain Highlighting can help users spot these attacks:

Address Bar Domain Highlighting

With IE8, it should be clearer that you’re at a website owned by Example.com and not Microsoft.com.

Domain Highlighting effectively calls out what Internet Explorer 8 recognizes as the owning domain for the purposes of making security decisions. This helps with things like sharing cookie information with subdomains, or whether it allows scripting calls. Domain Highlighting does not make any security guarantees in itself, but it gives the user more information to determine whether to trust the site based on their own experience. If you think you've found a site that incorrectly reports the owning domain, we want to know about it. Refer to the IE Beta Feedback post for channels to get this information to us.

Domain Highlighting will ‘disappear’ if the user hovers over or clicks in the Address Bar. This lets you edit, copy or paste a URL without being distracted by the highlighting.

Domain Highlighting cannot be turned off by users or websites. It works in concert with other information provided in the Address bar, like Safety Filter warnings or HTTPS certificate information. It appears on all versions of Windows that IE8 supports: Windows Vista, Windows Server 2008, Windows Server 2003, and Windows XP.

This screenshot below shows how Domain Highlighting looks when a user is at a site using an Extended Validation (EV) SSL certificate:

Address Bar Domain Highlighting with EV SSL Certificate

When used with SSL (or EV SSL) sites, both the owning domain and the HTTPS protocol are highlighted.

Besides domain highlighting, we’ve also added a few usability improvements to IE8’s address bar:

Support For Pasting Multi-Line URLs

IE8 will automatically strip out excess carriage returns and line feeds within a URL when pasted into the Address Bar. Many web e-mail applications automatically split long lines into multiple lines, which meant you couldn’t easily copy and paste them into the browser. Users can now highlight an entire URL, no matter how many lines it spans, and paste it directly into the Address Bar.

Example: if you copy and paste the next 3 lines into the Address Bar of IE7, only the first line (an incomplete fragment of the entire URL) will appear. In IE8, the entire URL will appear:

http://bl
ogs.msdn.
com/ie

Improved Click Behavior

Internet Explorer 8 has an improved model for inserting the selection carat, and selecting words, or entire URLs in the Address bar:

  • Single-click within a URL to insert the caret. This allows the user to make an in-line edit easily.
  • Double-click within a URL to select the word (words are delimited by common characters like slashes).
  • Triple-click to select the entire URL.
  • A subsequent click (a fourth click) will cycle back to the single-click behavior.

Inline Autocomplete: cut for IE8

We’ve cut the inline autocomplete feature in the Address Bar in IE8. This option was disabled by default in IE7 and has been removed from the Address Bar in IE8. However the advanced option that controls the behavior will still exist, because other parts of Windows will still use this functionality if the user chooses to enable it – just not the Address Bar.

One final change

Finally, we’ve made one more subtle change in IE8 Beta 1. Prior to IE8, when you typed a string into the address bar, an option at the very bottom would always appear that says “Search for <the string you typed>.”  If you selected this option, IE would check to see if it was the name of a top-level Favorite, and if not, pass off the request to Windows File Explorer, then pass off the request to the network (and hopefully to the Internet). If all else failed, you might see a page provided by your auto-search provider (likely but not always the same as your default search provider), or in some cases, your ISP might offer up some choices instead. Back in, say, 1997 when the option was added, it seemed like ‘search’ was an appropriate term to use. Of course today, ‘search’ is a loaded and specific term, and it doesn’t really correctly describe what happens when you choose that option, so we renamed it. Now it’s “Go to <the string you typed>.” The behavior of IE8 itself isn’t different, it still follows the same steps to try and take you where you’re going, but we thought it was worth changing the wording so nobody got confused.

That’s a summary of what’s new & different for the Address Bar in IE8 Beta 1. I will be looking through the comments to this post for useful & constructive feedback about these changes.

Thanks for trying Internet Explorer Beta 1!

Christopher Vaughan
Program Manager

Edit: updated spacing in http://blogs.msdn.com/ie example

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