In a web browser, the address bar (also location bar or URL bar) is a graphical control element that shows the current URL. The user can type a URL into the bar to navigate to a chosen website. In a file browser it serves the same purpose of navigation but through the file-system hierarchy. Many address bars offer features like autocomplete and a list of suggestions while the address is being typed in. This auto-completion feature bases its suggestions on the browser's history. Some browsers have keyboard shortcuts to auto-complete an address. These are generally configured by the user on a case-by-case basis. Address bars have been a feature of web browsers since NCSA Mosaic.
For websites using a favicon (a small icon that represents the website), a small icon will generally be present within the address bar, or somewhere nearby. Favicons are specific to websites, thus a generic icon will be displayed if not specified. The address bar is also used, in some browsers, to show the security status of a web page. Various colors and padlock icons may appear if the page is encrypted, and/or to indicate if intended communication is trustworthy and secure.
Some browsers address bars can be used to detect web feeds that can be used to subscribe to pages. The detection of a feed is normally indicated by the RSS icon "". A variety of other icons may also be present in the address bar if included with a browser extension.
Web browsers often include a feature called Smart Bookmarks. In this feature, the user sets a command that allows for a function (such as searching, editing, or posting) of a website to be expedited. Then, a keyword or term associated with the command is typed into the address bar followed by entering the term afterwards or selecting the command from a list.
Quick searches can also be performed in some browsers by entering a shortcut and search terms in lieu of a URL. For example, by associating the shortcut "w" with Wikipedia, "w cake" can be entered into the address bar to navigate directly to the Wikipedia article for cake. This feature is available in Firefox, Opera and Google Chrome.
In Google Chrome, the address bar (or "Omnibox") doubles as a search plugin bar which pulls incremental returns for typed phrases from Google Suggest's pre-emptive search. An add-on is also available for Firefox that duplicates this functionality, and newer versions have the capability built-in. This "Omnibox" is also capable of, in addition to the quick search function listed above, interpreting any non-URL phrase typed into it as a search on the user's search engine of choice.
The following sections compare address bar widgets for a few well-known web browsers.
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