What’s wrong with the Safari omnibar

… is basically the same thing that’s wrong with Chrome’s omnibar. With Safari 6, Apple changed from separate address and search fields to a single field, which is fine with me. I don’t think it’s the huge improvement many do, but I have no objection to it. What I object to is the behavior of this field—specifically, what happens when you give it focus by clicking on it.

Two years ago, in a post explaining why I preferred Safari to Chrome, I said

Chrome’s address field is a multipurpose entry area. It’s for entering both URLs and Google searches, and it uses some clever algorithm for figuring out which is which. I don’t have strong feelings whether this is better or worse than Safari’s separate fields for addresses and searches, but there’s one thing I really hate about it: it selects the entire address when I click in it.

I know this is common in the Windows world. I know Firefox does it. That doesn’t make it right. Every other editable text field in the browser and every editable text field in every other application puts the blinking cursor where you click the mouse. There’s no reason for the address field to be different.

If I want to select the whole URL so I can type in a new one, I don’t click in the address field, I type ⌘L. But when I want to edit the URL that already there, my habit—built over 25 years of using GUIs that all work the same way—is to click where I want to make the edit and start typing. When the entire field is selected upon clicking, the first bit of typing I do deletes the whole URL. This is a profoundly stupid design decision.

The Safari team has apparently decided that profoundly stupid is the way to go.

The behavior of the address field certainly wasn’t the only thing keeping me a Safari user, but it was one of several little niceties that made Safari comfortable. Now that it’s gone, I’ll have to rethink my choice of everyday browser.

Update 10/13/12
I’d be less annoyed by this selection behavior if Safari didn’t deceive me into thinking that the cursor will be set where I click the mouse. Nearly thirty years of training tells me that that’s what will happen when the pointer changes into an I-beam. But not in the omnibar.

Safari omnibar deception

7 Responses to “What’s wrong with the Safari omnibar”

  1. Mike says:

    Wholeheartedly agree. I was really hoping to read that you had discovered a defaults write hack to reverse the behavior.

  2. Dexter Ang says:

    I hate how it behaves as well but for a different reason: it hides the http(s) part by default even when selected. On the iPad once you click on the address bar, it shows the protocol part, but hides it when it loses focus. On Safari 6, it now never shows the protocol even when it has focus. Makes it a pain when copying. I keep pinging servers with http:// now because of it and must do an extra edit in Terminal.

  3. Jacob says:

    I am a heavy mouse user and 99% of the time I click the URL field, I want to write a completely new URL and not edit a small part of it, so I’m very happy that they changed the behavior in Safari 6.

  4. sudobear says:

    Combine the omni bar with Google instant search if you really want to taste frustration.

  5. Lauri Ranta says:

    Some of the changes made in Safari 5 were much worse. If a page is matched by its title or from the middle of the URL, it’s filled in from the matched part. It looks weird and often makes it impossible to edit the URL. what's wrong doesn’t match this page because the title uses smart quotes. all this safari or leancrew safari doesn’t match it either, because they aren’t exact substrings of the URL or title.

    Safari 6 also made the suggested search phrases too prominent in my opinion. It’s too hard to select the items below them by pressing the arrow keys. The suggestions are rarely what you’re looking for, and even if they were, it would be just as easy to type the rest of the search phrase manually.

  6. David Mackintosh (@xdroop) says:

    I like the default behavior. The reason why is that I’d say 99% of the time when I’m clicking the address bar, I am about to type in an entirely new URL or a search phrase I want to search for. It is very rare that I want to edit an existing URL.

  7. Clark says:

    What bugs me is that if you do a search in the Safari omnibus and get a Google result list quite often you can’t go back to it with the back button. It isn’t consistent though so I assume this is a bug and not a design decision.