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location bar enhancer

URLs are boring, and they’re usually quite long, too. And yet, every modern browser reserves a prime spot of screen real-estate for showing this long, uninteresting string of text – namely, the address bar. Of course, that’s not the address bar’s reason for existing: The address bar is there so you can type into it, not stare at it. But when you stop and think about it for a moment, what the address bar does most of the time is… nothing. I mean, it just sits there, displaying the current tab’s URL in the plainest, most utilitarian way possible.

Is there some way to make the address bar useful even when you’re not typing stuff into it? Location Bar Enhancer for Firefox is an addon that tries to do just that.

Before and After

The easiest way to understand what Location Bar Enhancer does is with a couple of screenshots. Here’s Firefox’s unadorned address bar in its natural state:

location bar enhancer

It’s a bit difficult to make out the text at this size, but that’s actually useful for making the point: It’s a really a plain bit of interface element. Now, here’s what the same URL looks like with Location Bar Enhancer installed:

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location bar enhancer firefox

Much more human readable.  This becomes even more pronounced when there are URL arguments:

location bar enhancer firefox

Suddenly, the arguments mean something. You can understand what your browser is sending to the server, at a glance: The browser is letting the site know you got to this page as a result of a campaign (the excellent MakeUseOf Newsletter Subscribe To MakeUseOf Subscribe To MakeUseOf Read More , in this case), and includes the date for the particular newsletter that included this link. This isn’t just for looks, either: Some websites use URL arguments to change the interface, and clearly seeing the arguments makes it easier for you to change them. YouTube is a good example: There are ways to change your YouTube URLs 10 Youtube URL Tricks You Should Know About 10 Youtube URL Tricks You Should Know About Read More for all sorts of interesting results.

That’s the gist of what Location Bar Enhancer does, but in the fine tradition of  Firefox addons, it’s very configurable.

Tweaks And Options

I won’t run through all four tabs in Location Bar Enhancer’s Options dialog, but let me give you an idea of what you can configure. First, the General Settings tab:

location bar enhancer firefox

The option for removing “Gibberish” from the URL and replacing it with meaningful data is a bit unclear, and I haven’t seen it to work. Accessing a site like Amazon makes this very clear: The URL remains as obfuscated as ever, just made prettier.

Other options are more straightforward: Capitalizing every first letter (i.e, converting the URL to title case) makes a big difference for a URL’s readability. The “identity box” refers to the left-most part of the address bar, shown here:

firefox location bar enhancer

You may have noticed that the breadcrumb style (the arrows) looks different in this screenshot. That’s thanks to the Breadcrumb Styles tab, that offers a selection of four different styles:

firefox location bar enhancer

You can also plug in your own custom style, but unfortunately, Location Bar Enhancer doesn’t let you edit the existing styles as starting points. Fret not: The way to solve this is to delve into the addon’s source code repository on Github, where you can find the CSS files used for the styles.  The files are quite complex, even if you speak fluent CSS: This one, for the DevTools Light theme, is over 150 lines long. The good news is that most of these lines are CSS selectors, which you won’t have to change to tweak the addon. You can easily find the lines denoting background images, font sizes, and other parts you might want to change. Digging into the styles like this is not for the faint of heart, but it’s certainly possible. If you end up with a nice theme, you can always submit it to the developer as a suggestion for including in future versions of Address Bar Enhancer – that’s a nice way to give back.

Clicking, Scrolling, Dragging, Dropping

Neatly segmenting the URL isn’t just for show: Once it’s separated, each of its parts becomes independently useful.

firefox location bar enhancer

Click a URL segment, and Location Bar Enhancer will take you there directly. Hover over a segment and scroll the mouse wheel, and the address bar will change to display “sibling” addresses you’ve previously visited. This is easier to explain with another screenshot:

location bar enhancer

This is what I get when I hover over UIEnhancer and scroll the mouse wheel: The breadcrumbs, which previously showed “Tree > Master > Content”, change color and display “Issues” instead. That’s a “sibling” address to Tree – it’s right next to it on the website.

You can also drag-and-drop individual parts of the URL to bookmark them. Let’s say I’m deep into this Git repository, all the way at https://github.com/scrapmac/UIEnhancer/tree/master/content, and I decide I want to bookmark the author’s Github page (https://github.com/scrapmac/ in this case). Not a problem: I only need to hover over the part that says Scrapmac and drag it onto my bookmarks bar.

It’s Niche, But It’s Good

Not everyone is going to love Location Bar Enhancer, but if you’re a power-user and you feel the URL bar is just a bit of wasted space on your screen, it can certainly add value. It’s more than good enough to make it into our list of Best Firefox Addons. Will you be using it yourself, or is it too technical for your needs? Let me know in the comments!

  1. dru8274
    April 20, 2013 at 11:21 pm

    For those who really think the Location bar is wasted space, I suggest the the Hide Navigation Bar addon - http://jaybaldwin.com/projects/hide-navigation-bar.

  2. Girish
    April 14, 2013 at 1:51 pm

    Thanks for the nice blog covering my add-on. I must say that its concise and still covers almost all of the features of the add-on. Just to add to the "that’s a nice way to give back" part, the theme "Dannah's Light", is actually a given back theme by user Dannah :)

    • Erez Zukerman
      April 17, 2013 at 11:41 am

      Oh, that's cool to hear! Glad you liked the review, too. :)

  3. Louis Wang
    April 14, 2013 at 1:40 am

    I use this, but it really doesn't do anything for me. about:addons-memory says it only takes 557 kb so yeah... I'm not sure how accurate it is though.

    • Girish
      April 14, 2013 at 1:41 pm

      Hi, I am the author of the add-on. Can you open an issue on https://github.com/scrapmac/UIEnhancer/issues regarding your issue, so that it can be sorted out quickly.

    • Louis Wang
      April 15, 2013 at 4:23 am

      Oh, I think you misunderstood me. I meant it doesn't actually add anything really useful for me except look cool :)

  4. Scott M
    April 13, 2013 at 11:47 am

    This doesn't really have any useful purpose for myself.I agree that is for the obsessive addon user.

  5. Nevzat A
    April 13, 2013 at 11:02 am

    mmm another firefox goodie, thanks :)

  6. Gary Volk
    April 13, 2013 at 12:24 am

    Trying it out now. Does kind of clean up the location bar a bit, I like that you can right click and see pages you have visited. May take a bit to get used to.

    • Gary Volk
      April 13, 2013 at 5:21 pm

      Since installing, on the first launch of Firefox, can not type into the location bar. Or at least I can type but I can't see what I type.

    • Erez Zukerman
      April 17, 2013 at 11:41 am

      That's disconcerting... What version of Firefox are you using?

    • Gary Volk
      April 18, 2013 at 1:28 am

      I'm on the latest release 19.0.2 Could be another add-on conflicting, flash has been acting up again too.

    • Erez Zukerman
      April 18, 2013 at 10:16 am

      That sounds frustrating. Might want to try disabling all other addons and see if the problem persists.

  7. Chris Foley
    April 13, 2013 at 12:17 am

    This would be great for the average joe, but would not be able to stand this.

    • dragonmouth
      April 13, 2013 at 10:54 am

      "This would be great for the average joe"

      Not the average joe; the obsessive add-on and extension collector. While it MAY make the address bar look prettier, it is just another add-on that slows down the browser.

    • Chris Marcoe
      April 13, 2013 at 5:06 pm

      That was the first thing I thought about...How much would this slow down the browser. By itself, probably not much, but if you're a collector, then yea, the total is gonna be a bunch. Then again, if you're a collector, it probably doesn't matter to you that your browser is more of a crawler....

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