Fix IE9 Address Bar Search

So the IE9 beta is out.  The rest of the Internet is busy reviewing it today, so I won’t bother.  I will, however, show you how to fix one little problem.  It has to do with a little-used feature that I happen to use from time to time: searching.

IE8 had separate text boxes for entering an URL and entering a search query.  This made it simple for developers, but it kind of sucked for users.  Really, by 2010 I kind of thought my web browser would know how to figure out the difference between www.microsoft.com/msdn and “Microsoft MSDN” and choose whether to navigate directly or search accordingly.  Google Chrome really upped the game here: there’s one box, and it always seems to know exactly what you want to do.  It’s still the best implementation of an address bar out there, in my opinion, but IE9 is certainly catching up.

Under IE9, if you type an address, it works.  Wonderful.  But if you type something that’s not clearly an address, one of two things happens.  Either you’re brought to a search results page (from Bing, Google, or whoever else you’ve chosen to use) or – if there’s a really obvious ‘best’ search result – you’re taken right to the site you obviously wanted to go to.  This sounds nice, but when I type something that’s not an address, I want search results.  If I wanted to go to www.linux.org, that’s what I would have typed, so why doesn’t “linux” take me to my search results page where I can click on the Wikipedia article?

Luckily, this behavior can easily be changed.  When I first started looking into this, I expected something ugly… maybe even as bad as writing my own search provider.  But the solution is really simple.  Obscure, perhaps.  But simple.  Here’s how:

Click the “Tools” button (the gear at the top right of the window), and then click “Manage add-ons”:

image

Now click on “Search Providers”, and then select Google (or Bing, or whatever else you use):

image

See the “Disable top result in address bar” link I highlighted?  Click it.  Then click Close.  That’s it!  Now, you’ll always get search results (unless you typed an address, in which case it will go where you told it to).

When I first ran into this, I started to rant a bit.  But after figuring this one out, I have to admit that Microsoft got it right.  They set up the default setting the way the unwashed masses will like it, they made it nicely configurable for those who want it to work a specific way, and they kept the details out of the way until needed.

12 comments:

  1. Wouldn't it be nice if this could be disabled interactively though- maybe through a special character in the search string? e.g. I'd like most of my searches to produce top result but occasionally I'd like to disable this without having to change the add-on setting. Maybe something like having the first character be an '%' or something.

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  2. GEEZ I just found this setting myself - why is this so deeply hidden AND enabled by default!

    Either way - thanks for posting about it!

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  3. Yes, thank you for posting this. And why Microsoft couldn't put this in the Help File is unknown to me. I thank you for this posting as I could not figure out what Top Result option was doing. Now I can turn it off.

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  4. Type question mark and space at the start of the line to force search.
    Don't know if it is mentioned somewhere, found it out myself by chance.

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  5. Thank you so very much for posting this. The automatically jumping to the best matched website was driving me crazy and I couldn't find how to stop it. I still hate the OneBox -- it is a pain for doing research and I would use the search box to store bits of text instead of using note pad.

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  6. Type ? in front of your search if you want to bring up search results instead of going to first result. Also, CTRL-E will add the ? to the search.

    ?seattle weather

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  7. I think they've changed this behaviour in the full release. I never seem to go to the top result anymore. :( I really liked that feature.

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  8. They did change this a little in the IE9 release.

    Now, do a:
    Manage Add Ons > Search Providers > Search in the Address Bar (check the check box on)

    Otherwise it says it can't find the page...what a pain!


    Sincerely,
    coder1000

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  9. Disregard that last post, I didn't read it right, the instructions work fine. No change in final IE9 release.

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  10. The "Search in the address bar" button is grayed out for me. I cannot search period. The "?" method doesn't work. And I never get search results.

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  11. why would i like such a long address bar? to remember al the long url-details?? I already regret installing ie9.

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