Google Chrome has spread the concept of the Omnibox: merging a browser’s URL bar with the search bar. Type anything, and it’ll access one of these 5 sources:

  • Search Engine
  • Bookmarks
  • History
  • Apps
  • Related sites

It works as most address bars nowadays, and even adds 2 features:

  • being a Google product, Chrome has the exclusivity of holding the Google Suggest feature directly in the address bar
  • Chrome “learns” new search engines. Repeatdly using a search field on a website gives it easy access by pressing Tab.

But I still prefer the Firefox address bar. It already works as a search engine: any query will end up as a Google search.

What about other search engines? Firefox is shipped with a default search bar with Google, Yahoo, Amazon… But the address bar can work as a substitute considering the well-known feature “Add a Keyword for this Search”: right-click any search field and add a keyword for it to make it available in the address bar by typing <keyword> <query>.

Whereas Chrome’s search engines add themselves automatically after a few uses, it has to be done manually in Firefox. It can help defining really short keywords for any search engine. I’ve got g for Google, i for Google Images, w for WikiPedia, d for the Free Dictionary, fr and en to translate from/to French to/from English… It just takes some organization and memory to make full use of this feature.

But what I love most about Firefox’s address bar is its incremental search. It looks through the history and bookmarks (and bookmark tags) by using keywords separated by spaces:

  • local + project name = access a project on the localhost
  • blog name + admin = access the admin area of a remote website
  • tw + username = access a previously visited twitter profile
  • ny + wri = access a NY Times article about writing you’ve already read but don’t remember the exact tile
  • iph + desi = access all bookmarks tagged ‘iphone’ and ‘design’

It really comes in handy when trying to find a page you’ve visited but only remember part of the title or the url. Type a few keywords (or even partial keywords) and the result list will narrow down rapidly.

Chrome works slightly that way too but provides a maximum of 6 results, and favors the search too much over the bookmarks and history. But it shouldn’t be a surprise considering the identity of its author.