Replacing Chrome’s Omnibox with Fauxbar

I like Google’s Chrome browser. I honestly do. It’s snappy fast, looks nice, and has a very cool app store. There are obviously things I do not like about the browser such as the inability for the Adblock Plus addon to block advertisements in videos. However, the biggest and most offending feature that drives me (along with what I’m sure to be a whole lot of other users) insane is the crappy thing Chrome calls the Omnibox. The Omnibox is Chrome’s address/search bar. I had no idea in the beginning how a browser’s implementation of an address bar can drive me nuts but indeed it has. I have gotten used to Firefox’s address bar, which is also very similar in features to the Omnibox, and loved how it works. When I started using Chrome, I couldn’t believe how some of the smartest software engineers on planet Earth can screw up something so simple. It’s just mind blowing and after many user complaints in Google’s own forum boards complaining of Omnibox issues, Google still refuses to fix the issues. Well luckily for now, I can say screw Google because a brilliant addon called Fauxbar has been released that aims to help users ditch Omnibox in favor for one that acts and behaves similar to that of Firefox.

The Problems with Omnibox

There are many things wrong with Omnibox and I will just go over briefly some of those issues.

Number of Returned Results

This has got to be one of the more infuriating issues in my personal opinion. You see, Google likes to predict what you will be searching for or what you meant to type after only seeing a few characters. However, Google doesn’t like to think it can be wrong. Therefore, it returns to us only a few result entries within Omnibox. Oh wait, those two or three results were not what you were looking for? Well, too bad. Either be more definitive in your search terms or just skip the Omnibox altogether and click on the damn bookmark itself in your bookmark library.

Trust me, I have a lot more Youtube bookmarks than what the picture below depicts yet Google only wants to show me a maximum of three:

Low Results for Chrome

Odd Searching Behavior

Another quite irritating behavior of the Omnibox is that you often get mixed results for the search terms you have entered. For example, I have two bookmarks with the word “face” in both the actual URL and on the title description. If I type the search term inside Omnibox, I am presented with two bookmarks but one of them is completely unrelated. Where is my other one? I have no idea how the search algorithm works but I am not happy with it at all. Coupled with the problem I mentioned above about the limited search results returned, the Omnibox is a pain to use. This problem can be fixed if you get a little more granular in your search terms. However, this can be a problem if you have a huge collection of bookmarks and can only remember a word or two of a specific bookmark.

Search Results

Weird Display

Maybe I can contribute this next issue due to me having used Firefox for so long but the results displayed by Omnibox just doesn’t feel right on the eyes. In Firefox, each bookmark returned will have the website description or title at the top while the URL right beneath it. In Chrome’s Omnibox, the bookmark is displayed as one row with the URL displayed first and the site’s description after it. This feels really weird on the eyes because most users will almost always look at the URL first as this is what they see first. However, when searching for bookmarks, I noticed that I don’t care about the URL because that is not what makes me recognize the site or not. It is the website or post title description that helps me.  This might be considered nitpicking but I’m sure many of you will agree with me. Luckily, many blogs and websites have URLs that indicate what the page/post is about. However, URLs like Youtube give you no indication whatsoever about the video itself.

I don’t know about how your eyes work but for me, Firefox’s bookmark display in the address bar is much more helpful than Chrome’s Omnibox:

 Bookmark DisplaySearch and Browsing History

Now I don’t know if the Omnibox or Chrome itself is to blame for this but why the heck won’t Google allow me to not store my search and browsing history data? Sure, they got Incognito Mode where these types of data are not stored but I find it sort of ridiculous to have to use Incognito Mode just to accomplish this feat. The worst part is, Omnibox wants to provide my search and browsing history as results! The only way to prevent that from happening is by clearing the data by pressing Ctrl+Shift+Del.

History Results

The Solution

So you’re probably thinking I’m just a Chrome hater and that there’s nothing that Google can do to change my opinion. Well, that’s not necessarily true. Like I said earlier, I really like Chrome as a web browser. The reason why I’m writing this article is due to Firefox crashing on me so frequently that I’m considering using Chrome more often but then remembered why I was put off with it in the first place. Well, things are about to get a whole lot better due to an awesome addon for Chrome that helps to migrate the awesome Firefox address bar over to Chrome, sort of.

Fauxbar

You can download Fauxbar by visiting the Chrome Web Store here.

Fauxbar is a free download for Chrome that aims to solve all the problems of Omnibox I mentioned above (I’m sure there’s more) by creating a new way for users to search for their bookmarks. Fauxbar does not entirely replace the default Omnibox within Chrome. Instead, it presents itself whenever you open a new tab or by pressing the Alt+D shortcut. Once installed, you will notice a new address and search bar (similar to Firefox) whenever you open a new tab. This address bar works surprisingly similar to how the address bar in Firefox works. The picture below is Fauxbar in action. At first glance, one may think I am using Firefox instead of Chrome.

Fauxbar

Gone are the limited search results. Gone is the weird display of bookmark URL and site description all in one row. Gone is the weird search behavior. Basically speaking, it would seem as if Fauxbar magically imported over Firefox’s address bar over to Chrome! This is a godsend for users like me who just despise the Omnibox. With that being said, it does take a while to get use to the change. We are so used to just typing in search terms and for our bookmarks by heading into the address bar of a browser. However if we do that here, we will not be taking advantage of Fauxbar because Fauxbar only works when you open a new tab. There is still some good news here to be had:

  1. On any given website, you can usually call upon the Fauxbar by pressing the keyboard shortcut combination of Alt+D. Doing so will allow you to see the new tab page (where Fauxbar is located). Whatever site you were currently on will be taken over. This does take time getting used to because rather than just heading over to the address bar at the top, you now have to remember to press Alt+D first. It’s a slight inconvenience but I’ll gladly accept it if it means no more Omnibox. Of course, you can also press the traditional Ctrl+T combination to open a separate new blank tab.
  2. By default, opening a new tab (or when you press Alt+D) will automatically put the focus on Fauxbar. This allows you to quickly open a new tab and begin typing right away rather than having to first move the mouse cursor over Fauxbar.
  3. Technically, Fauxbar can take over Omnibox. This can be done by typing in the letter ‘f’ followed by a space in Omnibox. You can then enter in whatever search terms desired but Fauxbar would return the results, not Omnibox. The bad news about using this method is that you are once again limited in the quantity of the search results. It seems as if the Chrome developers don’t want users seeing so many search results being returned and so they limited other third party apps (such as Fauxbar) from doing the same as well.Fauxbar Takeover
  4. Fauxbar has a lot of options for you to customize it to your liking. For example, you can set how many results Fauxbar to display before you have to scroll for more.Fauxbar Options

My New Love for Chrome

I feel like what Adblock Plus did for me in switching over to Firefox is what Fauxbar is doing for me in switching over to Chrome. It’s surprising how a single addon can have such a major impact on a browser. Recently, Firefox and Thunderbird has been getting on my nerves for pushing so many updates out to its user base. However, it hasn’t reached the point of getting overwhelming, yet. I feel now is another good time to try and make something out of Chrome. Some might call it silly for dismissing a browser just because of the address bar but these people have to understand that everyone is different. Everyone works differently. Everyone can have something they hate while others love and vice-versa. To me, I hate the Omnibox with a passion. Fauxbar fixes everything. I would have liked for Fauxbar to entirely take over Omnibox but I honestly don’t think that’s possible.

My only wish now is that the developers of Chrome take into consideration some of the issues I have written about in this post. Again, I’m not the only one experiencing these so called issues and so I’m definitely not making them up. Google is trying very hard to predict what a user is thinking of but honestly speaking, I would rather for them to allow me to make the damn choice myself! Some would say that the Omnibox will be much more useful the more you use it. It gets to learn your typing patterns and what sites you go to the most. That definitely sounds very nice and all but once again, Google cannot 100% predict what a user wants. I just want to be able to search my bookmarks and nothing else. I don’t need to search over months and months of the previous searches I have made. Remember folks, sometimes it’s best to just keep it simple!

Please help spread the word around about Fauxbar, especially to other Chrome users you know of that hates the Omnibox!
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Replacing Chrome's Omnibox with Fauxbar, 5.0 out of 5 based on 14 ratings

Comments

  1. Brandon M. Sergent says:

    4000 years later omnibox still sucks, and you still can’t make fauxbar your address bar because control freak chromelords.

    Why can’t I just replace the omnibox with fauxbar? Because pouting coder ego that’s why. “But but but then my code baby won’t be allowed to spit up all over your work flowwwwww! /pout pout pout pout” ~Google Coders

    So tired of this war of the egos between browser devs. Everyone wants to be the hip starbucks “innovator” with their collection of lumpy wheels. No one wants to just use what works and give credit where due or admit they can’t improve on something.

    Ironically if fauxbar was a firefox plugin I could easily drag and drop the awesome bar out and put the fauxbar in it’s place.

    Can’t wait till the AIs get here and code stops being the purview of egomaniacal specialists.

  2. I just switched to Chrome after a long hiatus because it sucked compared to FF. FF has started to crash so consistently I have to try Chrome again. After using Chrome for 2 days I find the omnibox just totally sucks and I wish I could make it go away. It is a stupid design. If I can’t get rid of it I’m going to be back to FF by Saturday. What a piece of shit.

    • Yeah it’s pretty horrible but I just can’t bear to use Firefox anymore. It was awesome back in the days but in my opinion, not anymore. I still don’t like the Omnibox even after making Chrome my default browser but I’ve gotten a little use to it. I’m just going to accept the fact that people like me are in the minority and that Google will never change it because of us.

      • Well I did go back to FF and am happy with it. They put out a couple of updates that for the moment seems to have fixed the constant crashing. Ver 25.0.1
        No Chrome for me. I have some habits like putting search terms in the search box, opening a page, opening another tab and using the same search terms and so on and just could not make that happen in an acceptable way in Chrome with that stupid omnibox. I guess I’ll wait another couple years and see if they decide to repair it, I consider Chrome broken. If so I will try it again.
        I’m happy you found what works for you! I doubt you and I are in the minority though. I think most just accept poor design when it exists and live with it. Often times because they just don’t really know any different. You and I do and that makes it painful to either use Chrome or in my case accept that I cannot use it.

  3. All I want is a box that displays my bookmarks only, and as many as I want. A couple of options added to Chrome’s settings is all that’s needed, Fauxbar will have to do for now though.

    • Well, that makes the two us. I’m sure a Google engineer could add this feature in his sleep but the waiting game continues.

  4. Peter Kasting says:

    Simon, I just want you to know that I’m the lead designer/maintainer of the Chrome omnibox, and I hear you loudly and clearly about wanting better-quality search results for cases like your “face” example. We’ve actually been working on a couple of different tactics to try and do better here for the last year or so and recent versions of Chrome have some improvements (more to come).

    I admit that in many cases, these will still provide better results as you use the omnibox more — and using incognito mode (which saves no data) completely defeats that. So you’d need to not be in the habit of using that. That said, even though at the end of your post you kind of dismissed anything that learns from usage, this is actually one of the things Firefox’ AwesomeBar does as well and is a major reason for its result quality.

    As for many of your other complaints, you are completely right that Chrome’s UI design is not necessarily going to make everyone happy, and if Fauxbar does things like displaying results in a way that’s easier for you to scan, I’m happy you’ve found such a useful extension. While we do have a number of reasons for our existing design decisions, I’ll never claim that they’re always right for everyone.

    Thanks for the feedback. We do listen. :)

    • Thanks for taking the time to actually comment on my article Peter! I do appreciate it. I, among many other users I’m sure, will definitely be checking out future updates of Chrome to see the improvements made to the Omnibar.

    • I have to agree with the post. Awesome Bar trumps Omnibox functionality. Until Omnibox works like Awesome Bar, Fauxbar is a must-have extension. I doubt this is a narrow perspective.

    • I really want to use Chrome. It feels much faster and more lightweight than Firefox, and the dev tools are so much better. Every time I try, though, I persevere for about a month and then get tired of the Omnibox and switch back. For me, the difference is that stark: Chrome is superior in just about every way, but the Omnibox is a total deal-breaker.

      I don’t know the details of how they’re different, but Firefox seems to nearly read my mind in finding sites, whereas Chrome gives me limited hits and tends to direct me toward search. Fauxbar seems to be much better, but it’d be nice to have better results without an extension.

      • Well, that makes you and I both! Firefox is not helping users by releasing so many frequent updates, although it has slowed down recently. But whatever the case may be, it would be awesome one day to see Google actually make improvements to Omnibox.

    • Worlds First Programmer says:

      Okay. Listen to this. Your omnibar sucks. Apple now copied it. Apple’s omnibar sucks. Why don’t you get a real job. Clearly Google has too much time and money. If you can’t fucking understand the difference between search and URLs then how the fuck did you become a software engineer, much less a team leader. The shit you engineering graduates come up with just baffles the mind sometimes. Reminds me of the jerks at Microsoft who thought they should use a backslash instead of a forward slash in pathnames. Probably something some fucking lawyer recommended so they wouldn’t be accused of copying Unix. You’re all a bunch of dumb dicks. Luck for you, the rest of the world is generally way to stupid to realize it.

  5. Thanks for this post. Agreed all around, I wish Chrome would adopt these improvements.

    Fauxbar seems decent, although it’s just slow enough to take over a new tab that if you start searching immediately, you are split between 2 search windows. I guess it’s just something to learn…but slowing down is antithetical to Chrome!

    • Hope you enjoy Fauxbar! Chrome is an excellent browser but Omnibar just pisses me off! Chrome is actually gaining a lot of ground in the browser war. In fact, I think I’ve read somewhere recently that for the first time ever, Internet Explorer dropped below the 50% user mark and Chrome has surpassed Firefox, which was second in place. It’s only a matter of time before we have a new champion.

      Fauxbar has made Chrome a lot more usable for me and although it still needs some tweaking (I experience occasional crashes and the settings not saving itself after browser restarts) but no way am I uninstalling it. Like you said, Chrome is a speed demon and slowing down is unheard of so let us hope Google listens to our suggestions!

      • Worlds First Programmer says:

        Bullshit. It’s all retrograde garbage. Like combining a spoon and a fork to come up with the spork. Now it’s nothing at all. Just useless shit.

        You people would be much better off doing things that make a real difference, instead of fiddling around trying to improve something no one has asked for. Larry, Sergey, Cook, all of them, should be embarrassed to have produced something called the omnibox. It’s omnishit, that’s what it is.

  6. Thanks for the heads up on this! This is a glaring shortcoming of Chrome compared to Firefox, and I’d just about given up finding an extension like this one after looking for a while today.

    • No problem! Fauxbar is absolutely perfect for Firefox users who want to migrate over to Chrome but find the Omnibox oppressing and limiting. There’s still a lot more of things I want Chrome to fix but for now, implementing third-party addon’s is all we can do. Enjoy!

  7. Never realized that address bar could make so much difference. I would surely try this plugin though I personally dont have any issue with default one too.

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