Inline AutoComplete


Internet Explorer 8 removed support for one of my favorite browser features: Inline AutoComplete (IAC) for the address bar. This feature was off-by-default, but for almost a decade the first thing I did when setting up a new computer was enable IAC using the checkbox Tools > Internet Options > Advanced > Use inline AutoComplete. 

For IE8, we introduced a new Smart Address Bar which offers a bunch of improvements including better and more relevant suggestions in the new flyout window. The feature also includes keyboard tips, which show how to take advantage of keyboard combos to open pages in new tabs, background tabs, etc. Unfortunately, as a consequence of the rewrite, we lost the legacy AutoComplete behavior provided by the Shell. The consensus was that, while IAC had some vocal proponents (myself especially), the fact that it was off-by-default and most users didn’t have it enabled meant that it was a reasonable sacrifice when compared to the benefits brought by the new address bar. The most important improvement for keyboard lovers was the SHIFT+Enter hotkey, which navigates to the “best match” in the results list; there have long been complaints and debates about whether the default behavior of IAC was suboptimal. With the relevance engine added to IE8, we have good reason to believe that SHIFT+Enter is a great feature for most folks to more quickly get to the best result.

Nevertheless, I expected that we’d hear from vocal proponents of IAC during the IE8 beta cycles. The initial blog post announcing the change had a few heated comments, and one bug with a meager 16 votes was filed on Connect, but we didn’t receive nearly the level of feedback I was expecting. After two betas and one release-candidate which were used by many millions of users, I could only count a handful of supporters for IAC. Since we shipped the final version of IE8, I’ve received more mail asking why IAC was removed. The gist of much of the feedback was “You already had the feature, it wouldn’t have cost you anything to keep it.” Unfortunately, that’s simply not true– IE8 is no longer using the standard controls that support AutoComplete, and even if was, the “free” AutoComplete behavior wouldn’t work as expected with the matches in the Smart Address Bar’s dropdown.

IE8 has been my default browser for quite a while now, and I’ve largely adjusted to the change. Beyond getting used to the SHIFT+Enter shortcut, I also heavily use SlickRun, a keyboard-lovers’ utility I wrote a long time ago which makes heavy use of command aliasing and offers Inline AutoComplete.

As we build future versions of IE, I encourage you to provide feedback early and often. We’ve already received some great suggestions from the web developers out there, but we’re very interested in UI suggestions as well!

thanks!

-Eric

Comments (13)

  1. Nathaniel says:

    Well then. Where can I register my complaints about this? Some features can be implimented to make systems streamlined or work in alternate methods. This change, however, has replaced a system I used by choice and replaced it with a frustrating setup that lead me to uninstall IE8 and look for ways to erradicate it from my computer.

  2. Keith says:

    Then please restore this damn it in IE9 and give THE USER A CHOICE. Connect is not everything. You should should Google (or Bing) to find out how many users miss Inline AutoComplete.

  3. Keith says:

    And I hope more features are not suddenly dropped because they broke or because MS telemetry data told you users no longer use it. Removing features from software is criminal. MS should have known by now: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_features_removed_in_Windows_7 and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_features_removed_in_Windows_Vista

  4. Maximus says:

    Too bad…now I must migrate to another browser that still has IAC as an option.  Bye bye IE.

  5. BB says:

    Inline Autocomplete has always been a deal making feature what has made me choose Internet Explorer over alternative browsers such as Firefox or Chrome.  I had even contemplated writing my own version of it for Firefox as an extension, because its parallel to the "Smart Addressbar" is, in a word, unusable.  Now you’ve taken Internet Explorer to a new level of dysfunctionality by introducing this misnomer "Smart" Address Bar that neither finds what I want, nor has any "smart" behavior.  For example, if I wanted to jump to a search engine URL, Shift-enter goes to a previous search result rather than the slash-delimited system of the true "smart" address bar that used inline-autocomplete.

    Even if you considered IAC’s default behavior "sub-optimal" I am at a loss as to why you would choose to remove the feature.  If it was provided by the OS in previous incarnations of the OS, why not provide a new version as an addon?  Why not include the new behavior and the old one so that both old users and new can be satisfied?  I never understand why any sane person regards removing functionality as a "feature" when it is not.

    I may just have to switch myself to an alternative browser now that this feature has been unjustifiably removed from IE.  At least if I code my own extension I’ll know I can port it across browser builds if someone happens to have the "smart" idea of removing it.

  6. steve says:

    I totally understand that losing IAC was just a reality in getting to the new smarter address bar in IE8.

    However what I don’t get – and what seriously boggles my mind – is why on earth the favicons were removed from the dropdown list that appears as you type (or press the drop arrow) on the address bar.

    I’ll be honest, I am a huge Firefox, Opera, etc. browser fan – but as a web developer I need to test pages in IE.  Thus whenever I use IE I find the little usability things drive me nuts.

    I loaded up some VM’s for IE6 and IE7 and verified that the favicons did appear before – thus I have to ask, why did they go away?

    Finally, is there some registry setting to turn them back on? (and or have they been restored in the internal IE9 builds?)

    Thanks

  7. EricLaw says:

    @Steve: the UX team removed the favicons because they felt that they introduced too much "visual clutter" in the dropdown.

    (I don’t really look at the ULV much– that’s why IAC matters a lot to me, so I don’t really have an opinion on the "clutter" concern myself).

    Sorry, there is no registry switch or other hack to put the favicons back in the ULV.

  8. Tim says:

    I absolute hate not having the IAC. I have totally stopped using IE8 as a result and will not use it unless I absolutely have to (such as a site not supporting FF or some other browser). This feature saved me a lot of time on a daily basis. Now I am debating going back to IE7. Most of the so called improvements in IE8 were almost of no benefit to me. However the loss of IAC was far more noticeable than any of the benefits from the improvements.

  9. JimConroy says:

    eric,

    Add my voice to those protesting the removal of IAC from IE8. I just moved from IE7 to IE8, and it is driving me crazy. Why should I have to <uparrow> <uparrow> to get to the Favorite shown below? Chrome, here I come.

    jconroy45@gmail.com

  10. John says:

    I did the same thing whenever I upgraded to a newer version of IE…fist thing I did was to enable IAC.  I’ve put off upgrading to IE8 exactly for this reason but just upgraded to Win7 and had to to a clean installation to go from 32bit to 64bit and with that came IE8…UGH!!  I want IAC and I want it now LOL.

    Here’s my issue…I could care less about the smart () address bar…I have become used to knowing how IAC behaves so that I can type as much of the exact URL I want to get to so that it will autocomplete and all I have to do is hit enter.  Now I either have to hit shift enter or scroll down in the smart address bar.  It’s less efficient in my eyes especially when you consider I’ve been conditioned to use it in a particular way for the better part of a decade.

    Microsoft has been on a bit of a path to change many things that users have become comofortable with and make it where we have to learn the applications virtually all over again…al la Office 2007 – don’t even get me started on what a pain it is to use that application suite now that they’ve moved the menus/tools!!

  11. John says:

    I’ve basically stopped using IE because IAC was removed. I am so addicted to that feature that I count on it. Also, I notice the so called "smart address bar" is not so smart and often get’s the wrong address. So then I’ve got to arrow down to the correct one– inefficient!

  12. Jon says:

    IAC is the only reason I am still usint IE6.  Supposedly it is working in FF, but I have yet to see it operational.

    It is the most intuitive way to get to an entry in my Favorites folder, just type the first few letters, (or one letter multiple times, as described in the specific Favorite name), hit ENTER, and bam, I'm there.  

    There is nothing else as quick and painless as IAC.  

  13. EricLaw says:

    Jon: IE6 is badly out-of-date and should not be used. IE7 supports IAC and is slightly less outdated. IE8's address bar supports typing the name of Favorites, and the "type the first letter of the favorite name" trick still works just find when typing with the Favorites menu showing.