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Inline AutoComplete for Address Bar removed in IE8 (FYI)


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Old 11-15-2009
PA Bear [MS MVP]

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Inline AutoComplete for Address Bar removed in IE8 (FYI)
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.

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