In my Firefox series last week, I overlooked one of the browser's most powerful search functions: An "always on" find as you type feature.
Firefox supports the standard Windows find on a page feature, opening a search form when you type CTRL-F. As I noted, this feature improves on Windows find, opening as a search form on the bottom of the browser rather than as a popup window that obscures the page.
Astute reader Reg Aubry chided me over neglecting to mention an even more powerful find on a page feature—but I admit I wasn't aware of it until Reg pointed it out. He writes:
"While what you wrote is absolutely true, I feel it completely obscures the TRULY cool thing that Firefox does with find. After all, there's nothing really neat or new about the implementation you described—the find feature on practically every Microsoft application works pretty much the same way, right down to the CTRL+F keyboard shortcut.
"What Firefox does that is maybe one of the top three usability advantages of the product is the Find As You Type feature. Why waste time with CTRL+F when you can just begin typing your search string and the characters automatically are highlighted on the page?
"For example, you could search for each instance of Firefox [on a page” simply by typing "Firefox." As you enter each letter in the string, the word highlights on the page. To find the next instance, simply press the F3 key, repeating to find the next instance, and the next, etc. You don't need to "turn on" the find feature, and then leave it up or shut it off with the red X, because it is ALWAYS available!"
The find as you type feature is enabled through the options menu. To turn it on, select Tools> Options > Advanced > Accessibility and tick the "Use Find As You Type" radio button. When you want to cancel a search string or start over, just press the ESC key.
There's also a good discussion of other useful Firefox extensions going on in the Search Engine Watch forums.
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