The IE8 Smart Address Bar Part 1: Navigate Easier and Faster

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The IE8 Smart Address Bar Part 1: Navigate Easier and Faster

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For Beta 1, we discussed some of the technical improvements (like domain highlighting, multi-line paste, and improved click behavior) we made to IE8’s address bar. For Beta 2, we took the covers off of even bigger changes which fit in with our goal of making navigation easier and faster with IE8.

Starting with Beta 2, when you type in the Address Bar, IE8 returns results not just based on the URL of the sites you’ve visited, but the title and other properties as well. It has an updated look that shows you both the title and address (URL) of each match and we also highlight the matches so they’re easy to see. Here’s a screenshot:

IE8 Smart Address Bar with MSN entry

The new dropdown is easy to scan visually, displays the results by group (more on that below), sorts based on our relevancy algorithm (more on that later too), and subtly highlights matches based on what you’ve typed.

The difference between this and IE7 is quite noticeable. For instance, I, Christopher, watch and play a lot of soccer (or futbol if you prefer), and IE7 unfortunately didn’t help me get to my soccer sites very easily. Only sites that begin with the word ‘soccer’ in their domain appear (with one possible exception), and without titles, it’s hard to tell which page is which:

Soccer Search in IE7

With IE8, not only do I get more results, but it’s easier to see what’s what. I can tell much more about the sites I’m viewing with an at-a-glance compared to IE7 (I expanded the History section in this screenshot):

Soccer Search in IE8

As Paul pointed out , this means you’ll spend less time looking for the sites you’re interested in, and more time using them, and do so with fewer steps.

Find What You’re Looking For More Easily With IE8

The IE8 Smart Address bar Autocomplete also supports multiple word searches. Results will match all the words you type, so the more you type, the more refined your results will be.

IE8 Smart Address Bar Autocomplete

You can search across a site’s page title or address, and for RSS Feeds and Favorites, you can also search for them by local name and folder name as well. For Feed Items, you can also search by Item Title. IE does a prefix word breaking by default, meaning “Be” will match “Beijing” but “jing” would not (prefix means we search starting at the beginning of every word). The word breaking engine splits words at common delimiters like spaces, hyphens, and slashes.

Folders: The Tags You’re Already Using

Most people organize their Favorites into folders, so think of your Favorites and Feeds folder hierarchy as your tagging system. Type a subfolder name from your Favorites or RSS folder, and all the Favorites or Feeds under that node will be among the set of results returned to you to choose from. In this case, we searched for ‘restaurants’ and all the Favorites under the Restaurants folder were returned as possible results, even those that didn’t have that word in their title, local name, or URL:

Favorites Included in IE8 Smart Address Bar Search

Using The New Dropdown To Go Where You Want

You’ll note we group the results into 6 sections: Typed Addresses, Autocomplete Suggestion, History, Favorites, Feeds, and Keyboard Shortcuts. IE will show all available matches in each section (with the exception of the keyboard shortcut section, which shows what will happen if you enter certain keystrokes). This way you can easily tell what’s what, and won’t have to remember any control characters to filter results. Unlike other browsers, IE8 will show both read and unread items from RSS Feeds and Feed Items downloaded by those feeds. This helps for times when you know you read something, but can’t remember where. IE8 makes it easy to tell where everything came from:

IE8 Smart Address Bar in MSN

Typed Addresses

The top section (which shows msnbc.com but no title) is an address I’ve typed (or pasted) manually into the address bar. This section appears directly below the Address Bar, and does not have a header section (for consistency with the OS). IE shows up to 5 typed addresses that match what you’ve typed, and the results are sorted alphabetically.

Autocomplete Suggestion

The Autocomplete Suggestion is the ‘best’ match based on what you typed, and is always available with the SHIFT+ENTER shortcut. Autocomplete Suggestion takes the place of Inline Autocomplete which was available in Beta 1. The presentation may be different, but it is essentially doing the same function, only a little smarter thanks to our relevancy engine which helps determine the best match. We’ll discuss more about the Autocomplete Suggestion in a future post.

History

Every time you browse to a web page (unless you’re in InPrivate Browsing mode), IE writes out the page to its internal ‘History’ storage, part of the collection of pages you’ve been to. This section in the dropdown will display the top matches from that collection. Every page you visit will end up here, whether it’s a Favorite or Feed you click on, or a website you browse past. That means that most of the time (unless you’ve just cleared your browsing history), you’ll have several options in your History to choose from, and the top History item is the one IE8 will choose as its Autocomplete Suggestion. IE shows the top 5 History matches by default, and up to 20 matches if you expand the section.

Favorites

This is where Favorites that match what you’ve typed will appear. If you’ve visited a Favorite recently, then it will probably also have a matching History entry. Remember, when you type in the Address Bar, we search for Favorites based on their Local Name, their URL, and the Folder they’re in. IE shows up to 5 matching Favorites by default, and up to 20 if you expand the section.

Feeds

Internet Explorer shows both Feeds & Feed Items in this section. Feeds are what you subscribe to, and Feed Items are the stories that get downloaded by those Feeds. Both read & unread items can be shown in this list. For Feeds, IE searches the local name (whatever you called it when you subscribed to it), the URL it points to, the name the Feed owner gave it, and the folder it’s in. For Feed Items, it also searches the title of each Feed Item. This means that the Feeds section can be a rich source of information, especially if you’ve subscribed to a lot of active feeds. IE will show up to 5 matching Feeds and/or Feed Items by default, and up to 20 if you expand the section. (IE does not distinguish between read and unread items in this view.)

Keyboard shortcuts

This is where IE will show you handy shortcuts you can use to modify what you’ve typed – just expand the section to see what they are by clicking the down arrow at the bottom of the section. We’ll blog more about the keyboard section in a future post.

If any section has no matches for what you typed, it will be hidden completely. If any section has more than 5 results to show you, IE will show you only the first 5 – but just click the header row to show up to the top 20 matches. Click it again to collapse that group. Groups don’t stick open – they’ll default to show the top 5 each time the dropdown closes and reopens.

Relevancy Sorting

Prior to IE8 Beta 2, IE would simply sort the list of URLs that match what you typed alphabetically. Starting with Beta 2, IE8 will sort your History, Favorites, and Feeds/Feed Items by relevancy. As you type, IE is not only querying across all the data types for string matches, but  also sorting them based on how often you’ve selected them from the list before, how well what you’ve typed matches each item, and how often you go there.

Simplistically, this means that the sites you interact with the most will be the ones most likely to be offered to you when you type. Based on the data we got back from IE8 Beta 2 (from both internal development and immediately following the release of Beta 2), the result that people selected from the dropdown was in the top5 of a given section over 90% of the time. We’ll blog more on relevancy in a future post.

Delete Unwanted Items Directly From the Dropdown

IE8 includes the ability to delete anything you see in the dropdown. You can delete typed addresses (like typos), History entries, Favorites, Feeds, and Feed Items from the list. Deleting anything from the list performs an actual deletion (as opposed to merely hiding it from the list), so you’ll be asked to confirm the operation, just like if you deleted it from the Favorites Center. One note on that - if you’ve set your Recycle Bin to not prompt on delete, the dropdown (and the Favorites Center) won’t ask you to confirm deleting a Favorite. This also means you can recover deleted Favorites from your Recycle Bin if you mistakenly delete one. If you delete a Feed item, IE marks that item internally so it won’t be downloaded by the RSS engine again (although there’s nothing stopping the publisher from re-publishing that item later).

Easily Delete Items from the Dropdown list

IE8: Better With Windows Search

Much of IE8’s new functionality that I’ve described here is made possible by Windows Search, which it uses as its search engine to quickly search for and display results back to you. IE8 users don’t have to run Windows Search to get the new look, but for the best experience in the dropdown we recommend you do. Windows Vista users are already running Windows Search 3, but anyone running at least Windows XP Service Pack 2, Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 2, Windows Server 2008, or Windows Vista Service Pack 1 can update to Windows Search 4 for free by visiting the Windows Search download website.

We’ll talk more about IE8 with and without Windows Search, provide answers to common questions, and reveal other interesting things you can do with the new dropdown in future posts.

Thanks, and enjoy browsing with IE8!

Christopher Vaughan
Program Manager

Seth McLaughlin
Program Manager

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