30 September 2010 - 15:29Instant Preview of Location Bar Suggestions

I’ve received a number of requests for getting Instant-like Search, so I’ve packaged it up for people to download. Part of the reason why I didn’t release earlier is that this restartless add-on requires the upcoming Firefox 4 Beta 7, so I was hoping to make it available when the beta was ready.

If you’re already on the bleeding edge running a Firefox nightly build [nightly.mozilla.org], you can install Instant Preview.

With this add-on, Firefox will start loading pages highlighted in the location bar suggestions in place of the current tab. This means you can type a letter and press Down to start viewing that page. From there you can press Return to make the preview turn into a persistent tab. Alternatively, you can press Esc to get rid of the preview if you just needed to glance at the page. So if you do end up selecting the page, it might already be done loading and ready for you to use! 🙂

This works even better if you install Speak Words, so that when you type a single letter, not only will the rest of the word get filled in, it’ll automatically highlight the first entry resulting in the page being loaded immediately. For now you’ll need to install both these restartless add-ons separately, but I’m working on a way to simplify this so you just need to install one to automatically get these new features.

Don’t forget to check out my Video Preview of Instant-like Search and install it!

23 Comments | Tags: Add-on, AwesomeBar, Labs, Mozilla, Search


  1. While the idea is certainly nice (*), I think it is a terrible waste of ressources (**) to load a lot of pages that the user won’t look at anyways. Too bad you’re even making publicly it available now, since all these little costs for each user will sum up to somthing considerable now.

    Regards, Mic

    (*) Saying it with words from a fantasy book: great harm can come from the best intentions.
    (**) Resources like server load/traffic and the less obvious costs like increased energy consumption for them.

  2. @Mic: For sites that you frequent, you were going to load that page anyway, so you just get it even faster, and the load is the same for the server. If you’re referring to the smart keyword bookmark demo doing searches as you type, at least for now it’s a pretty advanced feature. But even then, if a site has high response latency, some smarts could be added to not overlap multiple requests if the user is typing quickly.

  3. Jonathan says: 01 Oct 2010 - 0:41

    This is really nice, although one thing I’d like to see is the first result in the location bar dropdown automatically selected as you type. The “Down” arrow step feels a bit unnatural to me since I have to move my hand to press it anyway?

  4. @Jonathan: Yeah, the “Down” step is pretty cumbersome, but if you install Speak Words, the first result will automatically be highlighted and previewed:


  5. Well, this is pretty cool, but I’m interested as to why you chose to still have a user press return. Why not make simply clicking on the page work? (or is that not possible?)

  6. @Christo27: Interacting with the page could be one of the ways to activate it instead of only allowing “Return”.

    It’s not impossible to do, but the current technical explanation of why clicking the page doesn’t work now is that a page click will cause the list of suggestions to be dismissed, and that causes the preview to go away.

  7. Të says: 02 Oct 2010 - 7:37

    You could make it so that there’s a delay, depending on the query length, before the preview is updated.

  8. Not good, going to a site with this creates a completely new history stack for the tab.

    Any successful previews are added to the main history stack but I guess that is intended behaviour? Still, it should probably be skipped for keyword searches if applicable.

  9. You probably know, but this slightly messes up the progress-bar. I.e. pages never finish loading. This is on OSX using the latest minefield nightly.

  10. @Bh: I’ve only noticed the pages not finishing loading sometimes, but I have an idea why it’s spinning forever even though the page finishes loading. I filed the following issue:


  11. tinybutstrong says: 04 Nov 2010 - 14:29

    it’s not compatible with auth pages (HTTP authentication password popup), I can’t to access my router admin page anymore 😛

    Any possible fix soon?

  12. @tinybutstrong: Perhaps the add-on is being too aggressive about canceling the preview if focus is moving to the HTTP auth. I’ve run into this as well for some sites, and the current workaround without the fix is to paste in the url/domain/ip address without highlighting the result.


  13. This is really cool, I love the possibility to quickly check a website for updates (say facebook) without opening a new tab, or previewing keyword searches.

    At leas for keyword searches, I also find it a bit distracting that the page in the background changes with every key stroke. I think it is a really good idea to implement a time delay before a preview-page is loaded. Even something short like 200-300 ms would reduce the flickering during text input without significantly reducing the usability.

    In any case, your add-ons are great, thanks for providing them!

  14. tinybutstrong says: 13 Nov 2010 - 9:13

    Broken in Firefox 4 beta 7 and last nightly

  15. @tinybutstrong: What version of the add-on are you using? I’ve tried Instant Preview on a clean profile, and it’s working for me on beta 7 as well as nightlies. I’ll be releasing v2 of Instant Preview soon officially as part of Mozilla Labs Prospector.

  16. There seems to be a bug in the instant preview/speak words addon combination: every time I quickly type a search query into the Awesome Bar (e.g. “g weather” – g is my keyword for google) and then hit enter, the site that comes up lacks the last letters of my query (e.g. as if I had typed “g we”).

    I think the problem is that upon hitting enter, the browser goes to the last page that has been loaded by the instant preview addon, even if more letters were typed in the mean time.

  17. @Matt: You’ll need to update to version 2 of speak words. This was fixed by issue 35:

    You can get v2 here:

  18. cabotine says: 14 Nov 2010 - 23:13

    it doesnt work for me with locations that are open in other tabs. Beside that I really like it a lot.

  19. tinybutstrong says: 24 Nov 2010 - 5:35

    You are right Ed, tried with a clean profile and worked fine. Probably its a conflict with some extension, thanks anyway.

  20. tinybutstrong says: 24 Nov 2010 - 12:08

    Sorry for spamming your blog, I would like to post a last issue in my environment test (nightly). All Mozilla Labs Prospector extensions is working fine, but I need to re-enable every time Minefield startup (addons > disable/enable) to extension like Speak Word back to work.


  21. Rodrigo says: 27 Nov 2010 - 10:31

    This works very nicely, even on my not so fast connection (2mpbs).

    I hope you can find a way where we don’t lose the tab history, though. Losing the history whenever you change web pages through the awesome bar doesn’t feel like the optimal behavior.


  22. @Rodrigo: Thanks for noting that odd history behavior. I’ve filed an issue for you:

  23. Rodrigo says: 09 Dec 2010 - 9:36

    Just to let know I’ve been using the latest version and the history fix seems to be perfect.


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