When a user types a search term in the Firefox location bar (address bar, awesome bar) it is determined if the entered term is an actual web address or a search term.
If Firefox determines that the entered string is a search term, a search using the default search engine is performed. If the browser determines that it is a web address, the web address is loaded directly.
There is one additional aspect to this that need further explanation. How does Firefox distinguish between addresses and search terms. When is what you enter seen as a web address, and when is it seen as a search?
Firefox assumes that all phrases that make use of at least one period are web addresses and will try to load them even if that does not make sense at all, for instance if they do not use a valid domain extension.
This can be quite frustrating if you want to look up a file name in a search engine for example, as you will get a not found error when you enter it directly since Firefox attempts to load the string as a web address.
You can test that yourself by entering svchost.exe in the address bar and hit enter afterwards. Firefox will try to load the website svchost.exe even though the .exe domain extension does not exist and you get a not found error (or a provider specific error depending on how that is configured on your end).
There is no Firefox setting or add-on that can restrict strings you enter to known domain extensions and run searches for anything else.
There is another way, however, to directly search for terms with periods (and any other term, e.g. a full web address, that would initiate a search) in Firefox using the location bar.
All that needs to be done is to place a "?" before the search term. While a search for svchost.exe results in a page not found error in Firefox, a search for ?svchost.exe performs the search using the default search engine so that results are displayed right away in the browser. The same is true for the search ?http://www.ghacks.net/ which would search for the URL in the default search engine.
Please note that this works regardless of search engine that you have selected in the browser. Check out our full guide to Firefox's address bar for additional tips and information.Advertisement
Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.