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