File Under: Browsers

AwesomeBar HD Packs More Awesomeness into Firefox

Firefox’s “Awesome bar” turned the humble URL bar into something more. One part web address, one part bookmark, history and open tab search tool, Mozilla keeps looking for ways to add more features to the Awesome bar.

The latest experiment from Mozilla developer Edward Lee is the AwesomeBar HD add-on which combines ideas from Mozilla Labs’ Home Dash and Prospector projects with the existing Firefox 4 awesome bar. Where Home Dash eliminates the URL complete, AwesomeBar HD just gets rid of the dedicated search box, replacing it with a set of search engine links within the URL bar.

if you’d like to take it for a spin, head over to the Mozilla Add-ons site and install AwesomeBar HD.

If you want to search for, for example, Webmonkey, just type in “Webmonkey” and then click the link “search the web” and Firefox will search Google. Click “books” and Firefox will search Amazon; click food and it will search Yelp.

Other categories include weather, maps, news, people, reference and more. Each category has several search provider options, for example, while the books category defaults to Amazon, hover over the link and you’ll find additional options to search Barnes and Noble or Google Books. AwesomeBar HD also works in reverse — click the category you’d like to search in and then start typing.

AwesomeBar HD does nothing you can’t do with a standard Firefox installation, provided you hunt down search engine plugins (or create your own bookmark shortcuts with keywords) for every site it supports. But finding several dozen search engine plugins is a pain and AwesomeBar HD makes it far easier to switch between them with a simple click.

While AwesomeBar HD is an interesting first effort, there are several things that could be improved. For example, the URL of the website you’re currently on is truncated to make room for the links in the URL bar. If you actually click on the URL, AwesomeBar HD will show the entire URL, but not being able to see it at a glance is annoying and potentially raises phishing concerns. Cutting down on the number of search options would leave more room for the URL.

At this early, experimental stage you won’t find any customization features in AwesomeBar HD. You can’t, for example, add more search engines, nor can you delete unused options. AwesomeBar HD also puts the emphasis on the mouse — you need to click to do anything. If you prefer keyboard shortcuts to the mouse, AwesomeBar HD will leave you wanting. Some have suggested adding an option to tab through search engines, but given the number of search engines AwesomeBar HD supports, that would be a rather slow way to select the one you want.

AwesomeBar HD is in it’s infancy and, in addition to being a little rough around the edges, there are some known bugs (we encountered a problem with unresponsive menus on OS X). If you’ve got ideas on how to improve AwesomeBar HD, be sure to let Mozilla know.

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