Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Fix the Awesomebar in Firefox 4

In the interest of duly contributing to this meta-brain we call the internets, I thought I'd clearly outline a tip I figured out only after some Internet Detective (NSFW) work.

In Firefox 4, they took a smart cue from Chrome and combined the URL bar and the search bar. So if you enter a URL, it goes to that page. But if you enter anything else, it uses your entry as a Google search, then goes to the Google results page.

Unfortunately, this means they lost an advantage Firefox has always had over Chrome, which is that if the non-URL terms you put into the bar have a single, obvious destination, Firefox will go directly there. It's basically Google's I'm Feeling Lucky result. So you can just type in, say, "youtube" or "gmail" and it'll go right to those services. Or, more interestingly, you can type "wikipedia giraffe" to get right to that article or "minecraft wiki" if you can't remember the name of Minepedia, the de facto standard wiki for Minecraft. But you know Google would know what you mean, so you know you'll going right there. Basically, you're typing exactly what you desire, which is already in your head in "words" format, instead of first translating it into URL format.

Beyond the time saving, it feels more natural and, well, it makes Firefox's "Awesomebar" truly awesome. I remember back in 2008 when I first downloaded Firefox 3, the first thing I did was type in "add ons" and it took me right there. It definitely felt like the future. So no, I can't stand to go back. ..I still don't really know the add-ons site URL.

Man, sorry bout the tl;dr. Here's the fix, gleaned from this Google groups thread.

Open a new tab
Enter "about:config"
Promise to be careful
In the "Filter" box, type "keyword.URL"
Double-click on the one result
Enter this as the string value: ""

Want to know what you're doing? Well the about:config page is good to know about. It's the whole, deep set of user-changeable preferences in Firefox. There's often a way there to fix something there that you just can't find a regular option or add-on to change. But yes, you can mess up your browser there.

Anyway, the keyword.URL preference seems to be the URL template that Firefox uses for non-URL terms you put into the Awesomebar. As in, if you put "" in there, then entered "test" into the Awesomebar, Firefox would direct the browser to "". And apparently there's a way to form the URL that gives you the I'm Feeling Lucky result. It seems to require including "sourceid=navclient" and "gfns=1". Go ahead, try out I swear that link isn't actually to Paste it in your browser to see for yourself. Cool, right? You learn something new every day.

Update: This guy has an even better explanation of the issue, as well as some behind-the-scenes info on how the decision to remove the feature was made in the first place.


  1. the value was empty in mine, so i didnt even got to google.
    tnx a million

  2. Thanks a million. That change in FF4 was driving me nuts.

  3. Doesn't work...