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Web Geek's Guide to Google Chrome: The Omnibox (Plus Some)

Chrome is very different from any other browser available today. The Omnibox is one of the most useful and most interesting differences from an interface standpoint.
This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book


  • If It Is Everything, You Should Use It for Everything
  • And Then There Are Page Controls
  • More Customization and Controls

When Chrome first became available, it was heralded as being “different.” And indeed, it is different. As you’ve already seen, Chrome was designed from the ground up to be something more than other web browsers. But is there more than just what’s under the hood?

Of course there is. You’ve already seen how the interface is different in some ways, for example, keeping your most accessed websites a single click away. But there’s more. Remember in Chapter 3, “Getting Started with Google Chrome,” when we talked about the Omnibox? Well, let’s take a closer look at that little piece of programming ingenuity.

If It Is Everything, You Should Use It for Everything

In other web browsers, you find an address bar that runs across the top of the browser. You can type any web address there, and the browser loads that website. Chrome has that same address bar, but it has some additional functionality.

The Usual Address Bar Duties

In Chrome, the address bar is called the Omnibox. And in addition to its “usual” duties, the Omnibox doubles as a search box (for the Google search engine by default, of course). It even performs much like the Google search engine interface you’re accustomed to by suggesting search terms, as shown in Figure 4.1.

Figure 4.1

Figure 4.1 The Omnibox finds a site for you if you’re having difficulties.

Instead of entering a website address, you can enter search criteria, and Chrome displays the search engine results for that particular item. For example, if you want to find the Washington Post online and really have no idea what on earth the website could possibly be, just type “Washington Post” in the Omnibox, and it points you in the right direction.

Now, if Google isn’t your preferred search engine, you’re not stuck using it. To search using a different search engine just begin typing the name of that search engine into the Omnibox. As soon as it recognizes search functionality on a site, a Tab icon appears in the Omnibox as shown in Figure 4.2. That means to access that search engine, just press the Tab key. A command opens in the Omnibox for a search of that search engine. Just enter your search phrase and press Enter. The search is performed in your preferred search engine, and the results are returned in Chrome.

Figure 4.2

Figure 4.2 A Tab icon appears in the Omnibox when a website has search capabilities.

Security Indicators

Improved search functionality is not where the power of the Omnibox ends, however. It’s also a tool to help you know that you’re surfing on safe websites. For example, if you enter a website that is secured using SSL security, you’ll notice that the “https” that indicates a secure website appears in green. If there’s a problem with the security, you’ll see the “https” in red with a slash through it, as shown in Figure 4.3.

Figure 4.3

Figure 4.3 Chrome’s Omnibox alerts you when secure websites are not performing properly.

Because it might be easy for you to miss the shading of the https portion of the web address for the site that you’re visiting, Google also includes an icon at the far right side of the Omnibox to alert you to the status of the web page. A lock icon indicates that security is in place and active for the site. The color of the Omnibox also changes to a yellow-gold if security is in place. If there’s a problem with the site’s security, a caution icon appears in that spot and the Omnibox maintains a white background color.

A Few Other Functions

Another neat feature of the Omnibox is its capability to remember web addresses. This is especially handy if you want to move to a favorite site without opening a new tab to click one of your top nine sites. As you begin typing a web address for a site that you access regularly, the site address will auto-fill.

You don’t even have to type in the “www” part of the address. Just type the first few letters of what follows the “www,” and as soon as the address is highlighted in the auto-fill you can press Enter on your keyboard to load the website.

Chrome loads web pages with lightning speed, and sometimes that makes it hard to stop a page from loading. But if you find yourself in a situation where you want to stop a page before it loads completely, you have that option. While a page is loading, the arrow on the right end of the Omnibox turns to an X. Just click the X to stop the page from loading. You can always restart (or refresh) the page by clicking the Refresh button, shown in Figure 4.4.

Figure 4.4

Figure 4.4 Control how your web page loads using the buttons on either end of the Omnibox.

When you first start using Chrome, the Omnibox is going to feel a little strange. It will take a few uses for you to become accustomed to the way the Omnibox works, and it might even take a little longer than that for you to change your habits to take full advantage of it.

Once you are used to it and use all the features of the Omnibox, however, you’ll find that going back to some other browser is just...uncomfortable.

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