Is Firefox’s Awesome Bar really that awesome?

! Warning: this post hasn't been updated in over three years and so may contain out of date information.

firefoxWith the release of the Firefox 3 RC1 recently, I decided it was time to try out the new browser. I did so with trepidation, mainly due to worries over which add-ons I’d lose. Initially, it seemed a no-hoper as Tab Mix Plus and the add-ons weren’t supported. To my mind, Tab Mix Plus (TMP) is the single most important add-on ever for Firefox. It turns just another browser into an amazing tool. It lets you work within a single window, and can be made to always open links in the same tab, regardless of what links want to do etc. It has a massive number of features for customising the way tabs work, so that you can really get them to work “properly” (for just about anyone’s personal view of what “properly” is). Luckily, there is a pre-release test version of TMP available, which worked just fine on my machine.

Having sorted out TMP, I decided that FF3 RC1 was usuable and so kept it. The bookmark add-on was updated to support the release candidate yesterday (I also updated to RC2, so I’m not sure if the two events are related). With the other useful add-ons working (Flashblock, Adblock Plus, IE Tab, Tab Catalog and Download Statusbar), it’s a nice, stable browser, except…

… the “Awsome Bar”. The idea behind the new location bar in FF3 is a good one. Whereas previous browsers have matched URLs from left-to-right as you type, the Awesome Bar searches for the typed string anywhere in the URL and page title. It also uses a clever algorythm to rank the results (including taking into account what you selected before if you have typed those characters before). This is all very nice, but the resultant bar is a real usability nightmare as the screenshot below shows:

Different font sizes and colours and bold+underlined characters all presented in a dense mess that just completely overloads the user. I know what I’ve typed, so I don’t need the terms highlighted. Yet these draw the eye away from the page titles and URLs making it really difficult to read.

Luckily there is a really nice add-on available that fixes the problem: oldbar. The clever underlying algorithms are still there, but it simplifies the view back to something similar to that offered by FF2:

Now that really is awesome!

One thought on “Is Firefox’s Awesome Bar really that awesome?

  1. The awesome bar blows and it’s a shame that you have to install add-ons and edit about:config to get something like what was FF2. The ONLY people I can see liking the awesome bar are those that have crap tool bars installed and find those useful.

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