First look at Firefox's upcoming address bar update
Mozilla plans to release an update for Firefox soon that changes several address bar related features, including the behavior of one-off searches and search aliases.
Called Design Update 2, some of the functionality has now landed in the latest Firefox Nightly version.
One of the main changes of the update changes how Firefox's one-off searches work. Mozilla launched the functionality back in 2016 as a way for Firefox users to quickly use a different search engine for the next search.
Most searches are conducted using the default search provider in Firefox, and any other browser for the matter. Some browsers allow users to set a different search provider for private browsing sessions next to that.
Mozilla's one-off search functionality places search icons in the address bar interface to run a search on the selected search engine. Firefox users may configure the search engines that they want displayed as icons in the address bar by loading about:preferences#search in the browser's address bar.
Firefox users may notice several changes right away after the browser's has been upgraded to a version that features the new version of the address bar.
The footer area that houses the one-off search icons is now displayed all the time, and one of the reasons for that is that users may select a different search engine before they run a search now, and because selecting a search engine may display search suggestions provided by that search engine if supported.
Options to restore the default search engine are included as well. You can hover over the search engine's name and click on the x-icon to return to using the default search engine. Firefox users who prefer to use the keyboard can tap on Backspace (Delete on Mac OS) for the same effect.
Another new keyboard shortcut is the Esc-key when the address bar is active. Tap on Esc once to close the address bar panel, or twice to remove search term and search engine to return to the default prompt or previous URL.
Eagle-eyed users may also notice that Mozilla plans to use two different descriptive terms in the address bar. The text is displayed before user input. "Search the Web" is displayed for major search engines, e.g. Google, Bing or DuckDuckGo, and "Enter search terms" for any other engine or local data such as bookmarks.
The one-off search bar has three new icons for local searches. These replicate search aliases that Firefox supported for a very long time. You may use the icons to search bookmarks, open tabs, or the browsing history.
Keywords is another useful feature of Firefox that is more or less almost forgotten as new users are not really exposed to it anymore. Firefox users may assign keywords to search engines and bookmarks, and may use these keywords in the browser's address bar to interact with the sites. Keywords will use the same styling as other shortcuts in the new release.
The functionality and design changes are a work in progress but work well already in Nightly. The change improves the browser's one-off search functionality thanks to the inclusion of suggestions and the ability to select a different search engine prior to entering any text in the address bar.
The changes could be introduced as early as Firefox 82 which will be released in October 2020.
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