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Address Bar

The Address Bar (see Figure 3-1) is a special toolbar with an input field and (optionally) a “Go” button. It appears in Internet Explorer, Windows Explorer, and on the Taskbar. When you type an Internet address, the name of a program, or the path of a folder, and then press Enter, the Address Bar will respond in one of many ways, depending on its location and your system’s settings.

Figure 3-3. The Address Bar, shown here on the Windows Taskbar, allows you to quickly open programs and web sites by typing their filenames and addresses, respectively


The Address Bar is one of my favorite features in Windows. While its main purpose is to make it easy to type in a web address and point your browser to that address, it also can be used to type a command or application to launch, just like Start Run. This means that you can easily choose between point and click and command-line operations—whichever is easier for completing a given task. Because I keep the Address Bar visible in the Taskbar all the time as well as in each open folder window (which makes it easy to jump to any folder without having to hunt for it in the branches), it’s become my primary command-line interface.

One major difference between the Run prompt and the Address Bar is how they treat an unknown address or command. The Address Bar assumes that any unknown text string is a web address. So, for example, typing oreilly in the Address Bar will launch your browser and start looking for http://www.oreilly.com. If you type the same string at the Run prompt, you’ll get the message “Windows cannot find `oreilly’. Make sure you typed the name correctly, and then try again. To search for a file, click the Start button, and then click Search.” The Run prompt’s behavior is the reverse. It will treat a line beginning with http:// or www. as a web address and launch the browser, but will assume that any other string is the name of an application or command.

Like the Run prompt, the Address Bar features a drop-down list containing the history of all recently entered URLs and command lines. Pick an item from the drop-down list to re-execute the command or revisit the specified web site.

Although it is useful for issuing commands, the Address Bar does have one drawback when used in this fashion. When you issue a command, the command is opened in a new window. Once the command has finished, that window closes instantly. If you are issuing a command that does not normally leave the Window open, but that you need to see a response (like ping or dir), you’ll have to have very fast eyes. For these types of commands, you’re better off using the Command Prompt. See the discussion of the Address Bar in Section 6.2 for more details on its use.


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