The IE8 Smart Address Bar Part 1: Navigate Easier and Faster

For Beta 1, we discussed some of the technical improvements (like domain highlighting, multi-line paste, and improved click behavior) we made to IE8’s address bar. For Beta 2, we took the covers off of even bigger changes which fit in with our goal of making navigation easier and faster with IE8.

Starting with Beta 2, when you type in the Address Bar, IE8 returns results not just based on the URL of the sites you’ve visited, but the title and other properties as well. It has an updated look that shows you both the title and address (URL) of each match and we also highlight the matches so they’re easy to see. Here’s a screenshot:

IE8 Smart Address Bar with MSN entry

The new dropdown is easy to scan visually, displays the results by group (more on that below), sorts based on our relevancy algorithm (more on that later too), and subtly highlights matches based on what you’ve typed.

The difference between this and IE7 is quite noticeable. For instance, I, Christopher, watch and play a lot of soccer (or futbol if you prefer), and IE7 unfortunately didn’t help me get to my soccer sites very easily. Only sites that begin with the word ‘soccer’ in their domain appear (with one possible exception), and without titles, it’s hard to tell which page is which:

Soccer Search in IE7

With IE8, not only do I get more results, but it’s easier to see what’s what. I can tell much more about the sites I’m viewing with an at-a-glance compared to IE7 (I expanded the History section in this screenshot):

Soccer Search in IE8

As Paul pointed out , this means you’ll spend less time looking for the sites you’re interested in, and more time using them, and do so with fewer steps.

Find What You’re Looking For More Easily With IE8

The IE8 Smart Address bar Autocomplete also supports multiple word searches. Results will match all the words you type, so the more you type, the more refined your results will be.

IE8 Smart Address Bar Autocomplete

You can search across a site’s page title or address, and for RSS Feeds and Favorites, you can also search for them by local name and folder name as well. For Feed Items, you can also search by Item Title. IE does a prefix word breaking by default, meaning “Be” will match “Beijing” but “jing” would not (prefix means we search starting at the beginning of every word). The word breaking engine splits words at common delimiters like spaces, hyphens, and slashes.

Folders: The Tags You’re Already Using

Most people organize their Favorites into folders, so think of your Favorites and Feeds folder hierarchy as your tagging system. Type a subfolder name from your Favorites or RSS folder, and all the Favorites or Feeds under that node will be among the set of results returned to you to choose from. In this case, we searched for ‘restaurants’ and all the Favorites under the Restaurants folder were returned as possible results, even those that didn’t have that word in their title, local name, or URL:

Favorites Included in IE8 Smart Address Bar Search

Using The New Dropdown To Go Where You Want

You’ll note we group the results into 6 sections: Typed Addresses, Autocomplete Suggestion, History, Favorites, Feeds, and Keyboard Shortcuts. IE will show all available matches in each section (with the exception of the keyboard shortcut section, which shows what will happen if you enter certain keystrokes). This way you can easily tell what’s what, and won’t have to remember any control characters to filter results. Unlike other browsers, IE8 will show both read and unread items from RSS Feeds and Feed Items downloaded by those feeds. This helps for times when you know you read something, but can’t remember where. IE8 makes it easy to tell where everything came from:

IE8 Smart Address Bar in MSN

Typed Addresses

The top section (which shows but no title) is an address I’ve typed (or pasted) manually into the address bar. This section appears directly below the Address Bar, and does not have a header section (for consistency with the OS). IE shows up to 5 typed addresses that match what you’ve typed, and the results are sorted alphabetically.

Autocomplete Suggestion

The Autocomplete Suggestion is the ‘best’ match based on what you typed, and is always available with the SHIFT+ENTER shortcut. Autocomplete Suggestion takes the place of Inline Autocomplete which was available in Beta 1. The presentation may be different, but it is essentially doing the same function, only a little smarter thanks to our relevancy engine which helps determine the best match. We’ll discuss more about the Autocomplete Suggestion in a future post.


Every time you browse to a web page (unless you’re in InPrivate Browsing mode), IE writes out the page to its internal ‘History’ storage, part of the collection of pages you’ve been to. This section in the dropdown will display the top matches from that collection. Every page you visit will end up here, whether it’s a Favorite or Feed you click on, or a website you browse past. That means that most of the time (unless you’ve just cleared your browsing history), you’ll have several options in your History to choose from, and the top History item is the one IE8 will choose as its Autocomplete Suggestion. IE shows the top 5 History matches by default, and up to 20 matches if you expand the section.


This is where Favorites that match what you’ve typed will appear. If you’ve visited a Favorite recently, then it will probably also have a matching History entry. Remember, when you type in the Address Bar, we search for Favorites based on their Local Name, their URL, and the Folder they’re in. IE shows up to 5 matching Favorites by default, and up to 20 if you expand the section.


Internet Explorer shows both Feeds & Feed Items in this section. Feeds are what you subscribe to, and Feed Items are the stories that get downloaded by those Feeds. Both read & unread items can be shown in this list. For Feeds, IE searches the local name (whatever you called it when you subscribed to it), the URL it points to, the name the Feed owner gave it, and the folder it’s in. For Feed Items, it also searches the title of each Feed Item. This means that the Feeds section can be a rich source of information, especially if you’ve subscribed to a lot of active feeds. IE will show up to 5 matching Feeds and/or Feed Items by default, and up to 20 if you expand the section. (IE does not distinguish between read and unread items in this view.)

Keyboard shortcuts

This is where IE will show you handy shortcuts you can use to modify what you’ve typed – just expand the section to see what they are by clicking the down arrow at the bottom of the section. We’ll blog more about the keyboard section in a future post.

If any section has no matches for what you typed, it will be hidden completely. If any section has more than 5 results to show you, IE will show you only the first 5 – but just click the header row to show up to the top 20 matches. Click it again to collapse that group. Groups don’t stick open – they’ll default to show the top 5 each time the dropdown closes and reopens.

Relevancy Sorting

Prior to IE8 Beta 2, IE would simply sort the list of URLs that match what you typed alphabetically. Starting with Beta 2, IE8 will sort your History, Favorites, and Feeds/Feed Items by relevancy. As you type, IE is not only querying across all the data types for string matches, but  also sorting them based on how often you’ve selected them from the list before, how well what you’ve typed matches each item, and how often you go there.

Simplistically, this means that the sites you interact with the most will be the ones most likely to be offered to you when you type. Based on the data we got back from IE8 Beta 2 (from both internal development and immediately following the release of Beta 2), the result that people selected from the dropdown was in the top5 of a given section over 90% of the time. We’ll blog more on relevancy in a future post.

Delete Unwanted Items Directly From the Dropdown

IE8 includes the ability to delete anything you see in the dropdown. You can delete typed addresses (like typos), History entries, Favorites, Feeds, and Feed Items from the list. Deleting anything from the list performs an actual deletion (as opposed to merely hiding it from the list), so you’ll be asked to confirm the operation, just like if you deleted it from the Favorites Center. One note on that - if you’ve set your Recycle Bin to not prompt on delete, the dropdown (and the Favorites Center) won’t ask you to confirm deleting a Favorite. This also means you can recover deleted Favorites from your Recycle Bin if you mistakenly delete one. If you delete a Feed item, IE marks that item internally so it won’t be downloaded by the RSS engine again (although there’s nothing stopping the publisher from re-publishing that item later).

Easily Delete Items from the Dropdown list

IE8: Better With Windows Search

Much of IE8’s new functionality that I’ve described here is made possible by Windows Search, which it uses as its search engine to quickly search for and display results back to you. IE8 users don’t have to run Windows Search to get the new look, but for the best experience in the dropdown we recommend you do. Windows Vista users are already running Windows Search 3, but anyone running at least Windows XP Service Pack 2, Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 2, Windows Server 2008, or Windows Vista Service Pack 1 can update to Windows Search 4 for free by visiting the Windows Search download website.

We’ll talk more about IE8 with and without Windows Search, provide answers to common questions, and reveal other interesting things you can do with the new dropdown in future posts.

Thanks, and enjoy browsing with IE8!

Christopher Vaughan
Program Manager

Seth McLaughlin
Program Manager

Comments (44)

  1. Chris says:

    This isn’t really the best place to report this, but I don’t have Connect access so I’ll say it here.

    Domain highlighting doesn’t work properly for all sites. For example, highlights instead of If you turn on Compatibility View then the whole second-level domain ends up in the list!

  2. JackyMao says:

    Well done, the IE navigator!

    I believe you make this based on "what people want", good, very exciting features such as favorite search, delete unwant result, highlighting & suggestion.

    I am advising something more here, that you may easily develop base on current features:

    Enhance the suggestion, you can make a Taobao/amazon/eachnet customered IE (or make guys make it by themselves, you have coorperate with them, right?), when people type "buy notepad", it show some wonderful search results from or something like that.

    Add some interesting thing in this navigator to attract people, such as a small game you developed. or Easter eggs. You can have many more ideas on this.

    Connect to many other program from here! Make people run photoshop, or snap picture, or something more!


    ok, so much for now.

    I think IE navigator can be an nice cmd.exe, to power people do most of the thing they want on windows (then they spend most of times in IE), it can be a powerful weapon!

  3. IEfan says:

    Nice tip! I like that I can type a folder’s name in the Smart Address Bar and all the favorites w/in that folder will display.

    I hope you’ll talk about Windows Search and the Smart Address Bar soon, as I have one or two questions (well, two questions to be exact).

    IE8 is shaping up to be IE’s best update yet.

  4. rayzie says:

    Can we middle click the url in the smart address bar to open in new tab. I also like some more keyboard shorcuts in quick tabs, favorite bar and new tab page like using the number pad in keyboard. Tabs isn’t doing it anymore and it’s really getting way too old.

  5. pato says:

    I don’t like the new bar because of one single reason, I’ve got to push the down button now to select the first (usually (but also not always…) clean URL) entry in the dropdown.

    If you type with 10 fingers on the keyboard, then this down arrow is not so easely accessible.

    I miss the autocomplete feature ๐Ÿ™

  6. Roland says:

    A wonderful feature and post, thank you!

    Two suggestion:

    – Display the favicons of the entries in the list. This would make if much faster for the user to scan the entries (if performance is an issue, a separate thread could display them with short delay).

    – The list should remember the expanded state of sections. 5 items in the History group is far too less for me, so I have to expand the group every time.

  7. Well done. I wonder what will be the search criteria? How will order the results? What the rules will be? Will the results order by PR? I think that this search may reduce the importance of Google.

  8. LorenzoDV says:

    Well done.

    The only thing I see missing is favicons in the dropdown list, then it would be perfect.

  9. Jim Green says:

    good,but I don’t like the new bar because of one single reason, I’ve got to push the down button now to select the first (usually (but also not always…) clean URL) entry in the dropdown.

  10. Nick says:

    Nice post on nice feature. One thing you can improve in this feature is the size of the font and colours. I hope you will look in to this. thank you

  11. Office Furniture says:

    was holding back until now to install the IE8, but I guess will upgrade now.

  12. Another Person says:

    Thought u guys could do with a pat on the back… a feature that beats all browsers at the moment… but at sometime add favicons. K?

  13. Eduardo Valencia says:

    ok Nice,where is the download manager and Spell-check?!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Microsoft needs more features to be visible for the consumers!

  14. Phylyp says:

    I really like this feature – it has made browsing so much faster, especially when revisiting sites (I think this feature originated out of that action being performed quite often).

    +1 for favicons in the dropdown.

  15. Wow says:

    Wow, no doubt IE dev team is very good at ripping Firefox’s features.

  16. Jeremy says:

    I’ll second rayzie’s request to have middle-click open in a new tab.  Since this is the way we are all used to opening address bar links in new tabs.

    As for the "delete" button on the list, this once again breaks the existing inconsistent chrome styling in IE and adds yet another delete icon image. (not sure if this is what it looks like in Vista, but in XP it looks way out of place)

    Also needed are favicons in the dropdown… I can recognize an image in milliseconds, way faster than I can read any content.

    If I know the "Ultra Soccer" site has a Purple "U" character with a soccer ball balanced in the "U", then I don’t need to read any of the text to find the site I care about.

  17. Chris says:

    Another vote for favicons beside the list of web addresses.

  18. This is a nice feature, but it is also my biggest annoyance with IE8. My complaint is with the speed of the bar. I just want it to autocomplete the url’s I type in there, but the dropdown only appears 3 full seconds AFTER I stop typing. This is really frustrating because more often than not I can type the full url faster than the prompt shows up. And if I misskey the url, then that is stored in the list of addresses that show up in future prompts. If it were just faster, it would be great.

  19. Really show the favicon is necessary, but not so much as a download Manager.

    at the moment I used the IE7Pro in IE8 to be able to have a download Manager, but it is not compatible with the IE8 64 bit! Download Manager please!

  20. Josh Owings says:

    I really like the new features with the address bar.  HOWEVER, can you modify the tab order?  When I press tab once as in your first picture above where you have MSN typed and MSNBC comes up, you would get AutoComplete Suggestions as your tab selection instead of which is listed.  This is aggravating and a quick tab+enter is very nice when it knows that you are looking for and it is the first item in the list.  Can you please correct in the next beta or explain further why the tab settings is set this way?

    Otherwise, very nice work!  I am liking it!

  21. mikefarinha1 says:

    1. I really think the shortcut key combo SHIFT + ENTER should take the user to the domain root, not what IE thinks is the most relevent. For example if I start typing in ‘www.homed’ I should be able to do either a SHIFT + ENTER or TAB + Enter to have it take me to instead of some meaningless search results page that I was at before.

    2. I really, really think you guys should consider the feature of being able to pull tabs out of IE. They either can be placed in their own IE instance/window or maybe make IE a MDI type application. This is something I’ve silently wanted for a while now and was pleasently suprised when Google’s Chrome implemented the feature.

    3. It is much more common now days to have long pages that require lots of scrolling, I think this is a good thing. One feature that I’ve gotten used to in other applications like Word and Visual Studio is the ability to drag the page-split-bar (or whatever it is called) down to allow me to view my content from two different places on the same page. I think this would be an awesome feature to implement in IE and would make it easier to cross-reference different areas on a long web page.

    4. Please, please please add speel check to IE8!

    Finally I want to say that IE8 is really shining through. I switched to Firefox back in 2005 and have been a satisfied user since then. IE7 was good but still lacked the versatility that I enjoyed in Firefox. IE8 OTOH has won me back. Keep up the good work.

  22. Jan says:

    I just want to say that after using the accelerators a while I love it. I can map a name or adress to a location with two mouse clicks.

    I hope more accelerators will be available soon for my locale. Can you create such a handy self accelerator utility like on the IE7 Add Search Provider page. That would be really nice.

  23. rayzie says:

    how about delete browsing history for each tabs

    About the folder tagging Well I tried to search Favorites bar folder and it did not show the list of favorite website on that folder at all.

  24. Matt says:

    I have found that sites visited from an InPrivate browser show up in the history suggestions of a later, non-private browser.  This is very troubling.

  25. @Matt: Hi, I’m the PM for the InPrivate feature. History items from an InPrivate browsing session should NOT be showing up outside of InPrivate.

    If you have repro steps or other feedback, please feel free to ping me at Thanks! – Andy

  26. 332 says:


    What is InPrivate blocking data that is saved by Internet Explorer? Why is information about your InPrivate session saved? (see Delete Browsing History)

  27. Rob Cannon says:

    So, when can we see this in the Vista Start Menu search?

  28. What is still not working in beta2 is that the title of visited pages is searchable. I mean the <title> tag is used in the search, but what if you have set the title with JavaScript? Most Web applications like a Web mailer are changing the title each time i.e. you’re opening a mail.

  29. IEBlog says:

    Hello everyone! One of the features we improved in IE8 is the โ€˜new tabโ€™ page, which is the page you see

  30. Jamie Eisenhart says:

    I love that edits to a search on the Google or Live Search results page get propogated back to the search box. I haven’t seen anyone remark on that feature, but it’s really cool!

    I’d love to see a way to change search providers while typing in the search box. Maybe alt-left and alt-right? It would make the preview experience much more valuable.

  31. anony.muos says:

    Somehow IE8 seems to be getting everything "just right". Autocomplete Suggestion is better than Inline AutoComplete (marginally better because it offers a keyboard shortcut). Can you keep Inline AutoComplete functionality intact but disabled (removed thru the UI but optionally "enablable" thru the registry? Also you really need to add:

    1. Favicons in the dropdown.

    2. Remembering the expanded state of sections.

    3. Ctrl+clicking/Ctrl+Enter on any result should really open in a new tab, Shift+clicking on any result should open in a new window. (better than middle click).

    4. Reorder the results using drag and drop.

  32. Hello everyone! One of the features we improved in IE8 is the โ€˜new tabโ€™ page, which is the page you see

  33. EricLaw [MSFT] says:

    @Jamie Eisenhart: Use CTRL+DOWN and CTRL+UP in the search box to cycle between search providers using the keyboard.

  34. William says:

    There is a bug in the history stuff, titles set by an ActiveX (in my case an Active Document Server style control) with:

    IWebBrowser->ExecWB(OLECMDID_SETTITLE,                                        OLECMDEXECOPT_DONTPROMPTUSER,                                        &title, NULL);

    Which works for the title bars, and works for the history stuff in IE7, but doesn’t work for the history stuff in IE8 Beta2.

    Ofcourse both IE7 and IE8 Beta2 screw up the title in the title bar by replacing spaces with %20’s if the title starts with something that looks vaguely like a URL, which is bizzare, since it might be a URL followed by some other text.


  35. Edward says:

    If are using IE7 and then you install IE8 beta and uninstall it using Add Remove programs in CP, IE7 will now pop open Favorites folders that are of the same name as the website you are trying to search from the Addres URL window…very annoying.

  36. IEBlog says:

    As mentioned in the first post on this topic , the IE8 Smart Address Bar works better with Windows Search

  37. says:

    One of the features we improved in IE8 is the โ€˜new tabโ€™ page, which is the page you see by default when

  38. hAl says:

    [quote](or futbol if you prefer)[/quote]

    Actually we prefer football.

  39. Tanveer Badar says:

    !futbol, football.


  40. IEBlog says:

    Hello World! Iโ€™m Sharon Cohen, Program Manager for Search in Internet Explorer 8. If youโ€™re already using

  41. If youโ€™re already using IE8 Beta 2, youโ€™ve probably already seen the new search features available in

  42. Lee says:

    Hi –

    I am using IE8 beta 2.  After deleting browsing history, I find that the Search in IE8 function still is listing my browser history as suggestions for search terms.  Is this a glitch or intentional?  Is there another process for clearing the search window for the history of all pages visited?

  43. ๋งŽ์€ ํ”ผ๋“œ๋ฐฑ์ค‘์˜ ํ•˜๋‚˜๋Š” ์„œ๋น„์Šค๋ฅผ ๋ฌดํšจํ™”ํ•ด์„œ, ์„ ํƒ์ ์ธ ๊ตฌ์„ฑ์š”์†Œ๋กœ ์„ค์น˜ํ•˜๋Š” ๊ฒƒ์ž…๋‹ˆ๋‹ค. ์ด ๋ถ„์•ผ์— ๋Œ€ํ•œ ์šฐ๋ฆฌ ๋ชฉํ‘œ๋Š” ์ด์ „์˜ ํฌ์ŠคํŠธ์—์„œ ๋‹ค๋ค˜์Šต๋‹ˆ๋‹ค. ์ด๋Ÿฐ ์ข…๋ฅ˜์˜ ์ปจํŠธ๋กค์— ๋Œ€ํ•œ ํ•„์š”์„ฑ์˜ ์š”์ธ์€

  44. IEBlog says:

    Today weโ€™re excited to release the final build of Internet Explorer 8 in 25 languages. IE8 makes what

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