Home : Internet : Browsers : Address Bar vs Search Field

The Browser Address Bar

One of the most common mistakes made by beginners on the internet is incorrectly using the search field and address bar. This page explains the difference between the two, and specifically, how to get to a website if you already have the URL (internet address). We have used an example from a particular ISP (Internet Service Provider) and Internet Explorer, but the same principles apply to any ISP and any browser.

The screenshot on the right shows the homepage of a popular ISP called XTRA.

This homepage is usually installed as the default homepage for Xtra's customers. Many people assume that this page is the starting point of the entire internet — a misperception the ISP is unlikely to clarify as it suits them well.


One of the first things you see on this homepage is a place to enter the subject you wish to search for. If, like many people, you don't understand how browsers work then you may assume that whatever you want to do should be entered into this field.

And this is where the problem occurs: A user has the URL of a website they wish to visit (e.g. www.mediacollege.com), so they type this URL into the search field. Most of the time they will be given a list of search results which includes the website in question. The user can then click this link and be taken to the website.

Although this may work for you, it is NOT the correct course of action. At best it is a slow, round-about way of getting where you wanted to be. At worst it will take you to the wrong place or fail to find the website you're looking for.

This is how it should be done:

Look for the Address Bar near the top of your browser window. It may be in the same place as our example or it make look a little different, but it will usually be labeled "Address".

If you know the URL of the website you wish to visit, type it directly into the address bar and click the Go button (or hit your keyboard's Enter key). This bypasses the search altogether and takes you straight to the site you want to visit. Simple as that!

So What is the Search For Then?

The search field is for when you don't know the URL of the website, or if you want to visit a number of websites with a similar topic. For example, if you want to learn about using video cameras and you have been told to visit www.mediacollege.com, simply enter this address into the address bar. However if you don't know the URL or if you'd like to find some other sites with the same type of content, you could type "video camera tutorials" into the search field. This will give you a list of possible websites which match your search query.