Why Safari Sucks: 2. The URL Bar

Don’t get me wrong. I like Safari. I use it almost every day. But some things about it just irritate me again and again and again…

Next, the URL bar.

(Part 1 was The Back Button)

On the face of it, Safari’s URL bar looks perfectly ordinary and acceptable. I type in a URL, I press RETURN and the page is loaded. Fine. How can that go wrong?

Well, Apple have tried to make it a little more helpful than that. When I start typing the name of a web-site, Safari tries to guess which URL I’m trying to type in. So for example, if I type www.k it guesses that I want to go to www.kuro5hin.org. It fills in the uro5hin.org part for me. If I notice that it’s guessed correctly, I can stop typing and simply press RETURN to accept the suggestion. That’s a great feature. It’s even one key-press better than Firefox’s version, which requires me to press TAB+RETURN, instead of just RETURN.

The problem comes when I mis-type the URL. Let’s say I don’t actually want to go to Kuro5hin, but actually want to go to Metafilter. I’ve mistakenly hit k instead of m because they are right next to each other on the keyboard. Instinctively I correct this mistake by hitting BACKSPACE to delete the k, and then continuing to type the correct word. But this simple combination doesn’t work on Safari. What actually happens is this:

I type in www.k, and Safari has filled in the uro5hin.org bit for me and selected it. Next I press the BACKSPACE key. Safari deletes the selected bit that it wrote, but doesn’t bother to delete the k that I actually want to remove. I then carry on typing, and end up with www.kmetafilter.com. Surprise surprise, that URL doesn’t go anywhere.

I have to back up all the way to the start, and edit it so that it’s correct.

How can Apple’s engineers have managed to break the simplest of typing conventions? BACKSPACE should delete the character I just typed, not some extra stuff you’ve just invented yourself! Are you hearing me Apple??

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  1. Michael said,

    10 August, 2006 @ 01:07

    You need to look at it a bit more for the Apple reason behind this. Say you go to a site fairly often, http://www.somedomain.com. While typing, there may be numerous links that start with the domain in there from previous sessions. If Safari worked the way you’d like it to, then when you finished typing http://www.sounddomain.com (and it auto-completed something like http://www.somedomain.com/media/something.html) and hit the backspace, the m in com would be deleted. That would force you to retype the m again, and cause a loop of the same issue to occur.

    Simple fix: just remember to hit backspace twice if you mistype.

  2. Tomis said,

    13 February, 2007 @ 06:03

    I agree that safari’s auto-complete can be a pain. Especially if you want to go to the root domain, sometimes it auto-completes to a sub-directory.

    This means that to go to Amazon.com for example I have to type “Ama” then left arrow, then option-right arrow two times to get the cursor to just after the “.com”, then shift-down arrow to select all the text to the right, then delete, and finally return.

    It’s almost more worthwhile just to type Amazon.com, hit delete and then return!

  3. marcelo said,

    3 October, 2008 @ 21:42

    You’re just a boring fella

  4. abiye said,

    13 December, 2008 @ 21:37

    maxthon is the best browser i think. drag and drop is very good

  5. Emery said,

    29 December, 2009 @ 02:45

    Often UI comes down to tradeoffs, and the decision has to be made based on the most frequent use case, and in perfect land, an override configuration.

    In this case it seems that the tradeoff is between the chance of the suggestion being incorrect, and the likelyhood of the user mistyping. Firefox takes the former, requiring two keypresses to engage the suggestions, and one to revert a character, Safari takes the latter, requiring one keypress to engage, and two in order to revert a character correcting a mistake.

    When you identify the tradeoff Safari’s behavior is probably the best default, assuming that people are more likely to use a suggestion than they are to mistype in the long run.

    There is however another factor that I find is constantly overlooked by UI designers, and that is the inherent dichotomy between intelligence and consistency. And it seems that is where your gripe tends to lie, as it often does with me. You have trouble changing your muscle memory’s understanding of what a backspace keystroke does, and it trips you up causing a mistype’s productivity impact to feedback into itself and ultimately waste more time in the long run than the UI assertion Safari made initially accounted for.

    ….

    Anyway, while we’re on the topic, I find the URL suggestions to have one huge problem in my usage, which is that the suggestions are not sorted chronologically, and all of my developing websites are stored at offset port addresses on a local apache server. So often I’ll be switching between http://localhost:8003 and http://localhost:8004, but even though I have been vising 8004 all day, every time 8003 is the same suggestion. I believe this is just an Apple oversight.

    Anyway my solution is that I have to make the virtual hosts match unique local domains that I just add to my etc/hosts file.

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