IE8 Smart Address bar: What’s new

During the IE8 beta periods, we unveiled a bunch of exciting new changes to the address bar. Throughout the beta period, we observed how the feature was being used and listened to your feedback. Two major themes developed from this feedback: performance, and control.


Although the Smart Address bar performance during the beta periods was acceptable for the most part, in some cases the address bar performed a bit slowly, and sometimes incredibly slowly. We made several changes under the hood with the net result of improved performance by 50% on average, and over 98% in some scenarios. Most of these changes don’t affect the actual behavior of the address bar, but I’m going to call out two that do.

First, when you type a single character into the address bar, you will now see only typed addresses:

IE8 Smart Address bar with just one letter typed.  Only typed addresses are shown as results.

Second, when you type two or more characters, we look for results from typed addresses and other local data (history and favorites by default) just like we did before. The difference is that you may see typed addresses first, followed shortly by the other results.

This is due to the fact that typed addresses are stored in the registry while history, favorites, and feeds are indexed using Windows Search. Accessing data from a small, fixed list of registry keys is quicker than querying a database such as Windows Search. Instead of waiting for all the returned results, results are now shown dynamically as they become available.  In most cases you will still see all results populate in the address bar simultaneously. Depending on your machine configuration and the size of your Windows Search index, there may be times where you see typed addresses first follow by a slight pause and then items from history and favorites.


The second major theme we heard in Beta 2 feedback was the desire for more control over the contents of the address bar. I’m pleased to announce that we now offer much greater control over what you see in your address bar. The AutoComplete settings dialog in Internet Options has changed to provide these new settings:

Autocomplete settings dialog which allows you to contorl what you see in the address bar.

Feeds off by default

As part of this change, we chose to turn Feeds off by default. We saw that most users preferred to interact with feeds through the Favorites Center instead of the address bar, and turning Feeds off in the address bar allowed us to provide a more streamlined experience. If you really like to see feeds in your address bar, you can quickly turn them back on. Just open Tools -> Internet Options -> Content tab -> AutoComplete settings.

If you have Windows Search installed (it comes with Vista and later by default), you can now explicitly control whether Windows Search is used to index your data. Please see our earlier post to read the benefits of using Windows Search. Note: once again, if you disable Windows Search, you will not be able to view feeds in the address bar.

If you do not have Windows Search installed, you’ll now see an install link in the address bar which will let you take advantage of this technology.

IE Smart Address bar with a link to install Windows Search

More typed addresses

As part of the request for more control, many of you desired to see more typed addresses. The other sections (History, Favorites, and Feeds) are expandable to show 5-20 items, but in Beta 2 we limited typed addresses to 5. I’m excited to announce that we now offer the option to see more typed addresses.

Turning off one address bar section (ex: feeds) will increase the number of typed addresses from 5 to 12. If you decide you really just want typed addresses and turn off all the other sections, you will now see up to 25 typed addresses. Coupled with the change to turn feeds off by default, you will now see up to 12 typed addresses in the default case.

Enhanced SHIFT+ENTER shortcut

The Shift+Enter shortcut was designed to give you fast access to our “suggestion” – the item in the address bar we thought you’d most likely want to go to. In Beta 2, we gave preference to history items. Throughout the Beta, however, we observed that it was more common for users to pick a typed address than a history item. So we made the obvious change to prefer typed addresses. You’ll notice we also removed the section header “AutoComplete Suggestion” to reduce noise and streamline the UI.

IE8 Smart Address bar, there is no "AutoComplete Suggestion" title and the shift enter item in in the autocomplete section.

Revamped TAB key behavior

Since there are multiple sections within the Smart Address bar, we initially thought it would be best to use the TAB to let users quickly jump down the list, from section to section. This fit with general Windows UI principles (TAB should cycle between UI controls) and seemed like it would speed up access to items in the address bar dropdown list. The arrow keys function to move through each item, line by line, in the address bar dropdown list. This was a change from previous releases and other similar products – in Internet Explorer 7 (and Windows Explorer), pressing TAB allows users to cycle through each item in the address bar dropdown. 

The feedback we heard centered around two main points: “I’m used to TAB working one way, why did it change” and “I prefer using TAB instead of the arrow keys because I don’t have to take my hands off the keyboard home row – it’s just faster”. We carefully considered this feedback and weighed it against real usage data which helps us see which items in the address bar users select most often. The usage patterns that emerged from this data supported the feedback – users are most interested in getting to items at the top of the list, and TAB should help speed this up.

With the feedback and usage data in hand, the decision was clear. We changed the TAB behavior back to function as it did in Internet Explorer 7 and other, similar products.  


In Internet Explorer 8, we improved performance and provided greater control over what you see in YOUR address bar. We’d like to personally thank everyone for sharing their thoughts and opinions on the Beta 2 and RC1 releases – your feedback was invaluable for implementing these changes. Happy browsing!

Seth McLaughlin
User Experience Program Manager
Internet Explorer

Comments (42)

  1. gabe says:

    i hope microsoft sell windows 7 without internet explorer in us to

    if they dont im tempted to take some vaction in late october to go to europe

  2. Disk4mat says:

    I love the smart address bar feature. Now that I am using it, I couldnt live without it.


    I wish MS would boycott the EU. When you give someone something great and they complain about, then take it away! BTW enjoy your new home there.

  3. David says:

    i have not seen march talk about IE9

    is there a IE9 blog like there is for IE8 blog

    all so when will work start on IE 9???

  4. HappyAndyK says:

    The new address bar is truly amazing. One small feature I’d like to see is a simple Paste & Go context item. Helps when you have copied a url from say a notepad and you wish to directly visit the site. Opera & Maxthon have it. Otherwise IE8 is all that I want!

  5. Soum says:

    Turning of feed search in address bar is good for most of the times. But what if we want to search for the feeds? We are so out of luck then.

    Please put a search bar in all in favorites cetner to search for all three items in a more exhaustive way (full text search, more results, categorized by favorites, feeds and history).

    And please, please update the favorites manager. At least give a two-pane view (folder hierarchy/favorites) that supports multiple-selections.

  6. mocax says:

    windows 7 and ie8 has become quite search-centric…

    i find myself using search to launch programs and open documents more.

    i’ll only browse through the icons and menus when i’ve nothing better to do 😀

    perhaps windows 8 will be text only? haha 😛

  7. shola says:

    This is a really good feature, with direct impact on my productivity.

  8. someone says:

    Hey IE team, can you please add the APIs in a security update to make this gadget made by a Microsoft employee work?

  9. Aaron says:

    Ok, I think the major problem is why always Microsoft is supposed to follow what others have already done ? Smart Address Bar is already built in Mozilla’s Firefox. I think it’s time for Microsoft to create its own uniqueness. You need people who have really fresh and unique ideas and which are also acceptable and useful. I mean people won’t accept things just by their uniqueness or freshness but also how much they are useful. For example, I love Smart Location Bar in Firefox especially this tagging feature.But with Windows 7,I’ve already tested it myself, my hopes came back again and actually it’s the first windows operation system that I’ve been waiting for a long time. So if you really wanna accomplish something you have guys who can do that. So please do it, just do it.


  10. Don Reba says:

    I wish there was an option to not show local folders in address bar suggestions. It is often full of them.

  11. Leo_Koester says:

    Shift+ENTER is awesome but it was a bad idea to make TAB act just like UP/DOWN keys while using the Smart Address Bar. Now, we have 2 keys to do the same work. TAB became completely useless.

    Using TAB to cycle sections, we could change between "Suggestion", "Favorites" and "Bookmarks" really fast, and UP/DOWN to select the URL we want. *This* will be really smart, instead to press UP/DOWN 6 or 7 times to select the URL we want.

    Please, consider keep it.

  12. Sterling says:

    I love the Smart Address Bar. It could be a bit smarter but hopefully that’ll be the case in IE9. Usually the Smart Address Bar displays an address/page title that I’m looking for it 2-3 entries down. I wish it was the top one.

    I miss the TAB option to switch between headers in the drop-down! Oh, that saved a lot of time! maybe y’all can have it as an option? Turned off by default for those that prefer the old way.

    I think an option to display more entries when clicking on the Smart Address Bar button would be better, from 5 to 10, especially when Feeds are off.

    I don’t know if this is possible but using the address bar to search files on the computer would be nice (instead of typing the full path).

  13. Bill Barnes says:

    Is there a way to stop recording or clear the "favorites" visited in the address bar ?

  14. gabe says:

    @Disk4mat i dont like internet exploerer and will pay almost any amount of money to uninstall it id even pay for windows server os (which costs thousands)

  15. Jagananth says:


    Yes it follows what fireforx does. But, there is lot more difference in the way the results are displayed. Could you please compare for yourself the differences between firefox and IE. I am talking of the catagorization.

  16. mike says:

    I think tab key would be good if it is used to jump from one section to the next section in smart address bar dropdown.

    However, seems more users prefer to use tab to move from line to line, it’s ok whatever.

    Hope that, maybe microsoft should let user decide what ‘tab’ key would function – that is, let user customize the funtion of ‘tab’ key – to press ‘tab’ to move from line to line, or press ‘tab’ to jump from section to section.

  17. ks says:

    1. I still think that the addressbar in IE7 worked much better. The display of 5 items from the history is just ridiculous! Please make this configurable to at least 50 ASAP! That arrow for displaying a few more lines just doesn’t cut it. They should show all at once if one wishes so.

    2. I’m not very much interested in knowing from where the items are, from History or from TypedURLs. It’s distracting to have them show separated and takes longer to select.

    3. Please allow swapping the per line display from title / URL to URL / title. In most cases I’m really not interested in the title of the page at all. 50% of all titles are crap, anyway. Not to talk about those many "untitled page" headers. The showing of the title first is distracting as it doesn’t match what I type and titles often are misleading.

  18. Shift + control is extremely awsome idea as it reduces the time in writing the webpage also in the process shows the related websites.

  19. Adi R says:

    On an unrelated topic – my wife is going nuts after upgrading from IE6 to IE8 this weekend. She is missing her image bar, that let her save pictures she liked, from web sites.

    What gives? I was sure I can "re-enable" it somewhere, but didn’t find anything under "Advanced".

    Right clicking image is often not an option, as silly people overwrite right-click in JavaScript

  20. not satisfited at all says:

    Total Fail – Removing the favicons from the not so smart address bar was a huge mistake!

    favicons missing, favicons missing, favicons missing, favicons missing, favicons missing, favicons missing, favicons missing, favicons missing, favicons missing.

    Other than that it is almost about 25% as good as the Firefox Awesome bar.

    Seriously though the missing favicons was an absolutely huge mistake.  I HATE using IE8 now for this regression alone.

  21. I don’t see any delay after typed addresses before items from my History and Favorites show up. Everything loads with great speed on my machine. The IE Team is religiously working everyday to improve our browsing experience. Great improvement, Microsoft!

    It’s generous to give users more control over the contents of the IE address bar.

  22. hAl says:

    I have found several people on forums aksing for for more history items.

    Currently this number can not be set and is limited to 5 history item only.

    Several people have chosen to switch of all other categories as this seems the only method to get more history items.

    So a feature request would be to make that variable in the options.

    Also the smartbar options are difficult to find in the options for most users.

    Could that be improved.

    How about a extra context menu choice (Smarbar options) when rightclicking in the adress bar.

    That would be a second feature request.

  23. A weekly digest offered by Capgemini

  24. hAl says:

    Oh and please can you drop the phrase

    ‘AutoComplete settings’ in the options as this is clearly not an autocomplete function anymore.

  25. David Bailes says:

    Not having a keystroke to move between the different groups in the dropdown is obviously an issue for those who solely rely on the keyboard for navigation, for example users of screen readers. There’s the same issue in the drop down of the search box, in the search results in the start menu, and when items are grouped in the list view of windows explorer. Is this issue being considered by Microsoft? There is clearly a problem that there aren’t many suitable keystrokes that aren’t already in use – the only one I can think of is alt + page up/down.

  26. Mark B, says:

    Arrgghhhh!!!! I didn’t know I could have used tab to jump sections… and now it’s gone ?!?!

    I almost *ALWAYS* want something from my favorites. I really wish you could set a weighting preferance so they would be on top, and the shift-enter would be more likely to pick it. As it is, I now have to type 80% of the favorite name (to skip all those history links that might be close, but *NOT* the actual corrent *ENTRY* page) to get the list small enough to make it worth navigating, when before I could type just the first few char and then arrow down to what I wanted quickly.

    I used to have a pretty good change of remembering the number of down strokes I would need, too… but not when the list is changing all the time. (Being able to move favorites to the top would help that, too!)

  27. tex says:

    What was the reason for dropping the favicons on the address bar list?

    Was this just something that broke during development and never got fixed? or is this a case where someone (usually a PM that doesn’t know what they are talking about) decided that they weren’t needed?

    In Firefox I type 1 character "s" and I can instantly see a recognizable list of sites that have some relation to the letter "s".

    Better yet I see the "label" for the page/site – I see the URL to the site (there could be more than 1 – I see the icon for the site – all the stuff I need and care about!

    The IE8 view is horrible! I don’t get a title for the site – I don’t get the icon for the site and I get a __Go to "s"__ option that just clutters my view with something that will be useless 99% of the time.  E.g. the only time it would be useful is if I have typed the entire page/site url at which point I would just press enter.

    Maybe we missed the memo from Innotech but this seems like a complete backwards step from IE7.

    Normally I would say stop copying the other browsers but in this case please, please, please copy Firefox so that IE has a usable Address Bar.

  28. howard says:

    +1 for the remove the "Go to ‘keyword’" bit from the address bar drop down.  It is a total real-estate waste since no one will use it and everyone knows what pressing Enter will do.

  29. EricLaw [MSFT] says:

    @Adi R: The "Gallery" toolbar was removed from IE7.  As you noted, all of the items it contained are on the right-click menu.  It was always possible for sites to manually disable the Gallery toolbar if they wanted to (and sites that disable the right-click menu often would do so).

    @Bill Barnes: The AutoComplete settings screen allows you to disable showing of Favorites in the Smart Address bar flyout.

    @David: Posts about IE9 will be posted here on the IE blog.  As noted previously, we’re working on IE9 now and finishing up IE8 for Windows 7.  We’re interested in hearing your feedback about what you’d like to see in IE9.

  30. Xepol says:

    Still wish the auto complete cleanup code was more finely grained than "delete everything".

    The ability to forget a single username/password from a location would be a HUGE boon.

  31. Greg says:

    Please make the delete key delete the character in the URL edit field and NOT go to the previous page.

    The edit box for the URL should behave like an edit box.  The delete, backspace, tab, shift-tab keys should work like a normal edit box.

  32. EricLaw [MSFT] says:

    @Greg: I’m not sure what you’re seeing, but delete/backspace keys already work that way and always have.  

    If you see that backspace in the address bar does anything other than delete the prior character, chances are good that you’ve installed a plugin which is using a keyboard hook incorrectly.

    @Xepol: Agreed.

  33. I will not be satisfied until INLINE AUTOCOMPLETE comes back.  It was silly to take it out.  It always was optional.  Shift+Enter is not a good substitute.  All you have to do is just copy the top result into the address bar and let me edit it.  Is that so hard?!

  34. Rembrandt A. Martinez says:

    These are all of the developements that all of the users have been shouting out loud! Microsoft has ultimately again done us more great services! Thank u!

  35. 127 says:


    unfortunally there seems no option do change the order of the results.

    E.g to have favorites above history results.

    It is quite annoying if first result is a history with useless URL (due Session ID)

    And Favorites result is hidden somewhere below.

    So it would be good to have option to change the order of history / favorites etc.



  36. Geld lenen says:

    I was wondering, the function that automatically fills out the adress in the adressbar, how can it be stopped?

  37. Yes there is a possibility to stop that function but I’m not quite sure where to find it.

  38. You can stop that function but I’m not sure how.

  39. Haritha says:

    IE 8 crashes (hangs more like) when opening several mht(web archive) files at once(5 files)

    and the tabs are not recovered .Please fix this issue

    When I open several saved html files at once and if there is an error in one of them ie stops openenig the healthy  files as well which is a headache as the aftermath of this leads me to situation where I have to manually hunt down the web pages that were not opened  .

  40. Eddy says:

    Why does IE keep removing some of the web addresses I visit everyday. I miss not being able to select them from the list. How can I get it to stop removing certain web sites from the list?

    How does it decide which addresses remain and which ones no longer appear?

  41. Eddy says:

    Why does IE keep removing some of the web addresses I visit everyday. I miss not being able to select them from the list. How can I get it to stop removing certain web sites from the list?

    How does it decide which addresses remain and which ones no longer appear?

  42. Marakra says:

    It would be nice to return to the possibility of switching between the headlines, at least as a supplement