Coding Horror

programming and human factors

The Web Browser Address Bar is the New Command Line

Google's Chrome browser passes anything you type into the address bar that isn't an obvious URI on to the default search engine.

chrome address bar onebox

While web browsers should have some built-in smarts, they can never match the collective intelligence of a worldwide search engine. For example:

weather San Francisco
time London
san francisco 49ers
5*9+(sqrt 10)^3=
10.5 cm in inches
population FL
Italian food 02138
movies 94705
homes Los Angeles
150 GBP in USD
Seattle map
Patent 5123123
american airlines 18
510-525-xxxx (I'm hesitant to link a listed personal phone number here, but it does work)

I like to think of the web browser address bar as the new command line.

Oh, you wanted dozens of cryptic, obscure UNIX style command line operators and parameters? No problem!

presidents 1850...1860
"plants vs. zombies" daterange:2454955-2454955 sucks
filetype:pdf programming language poster

Any command line worth its salt has some kind of scripting language built in, too, right? No sweat. Just try entering this in your browser's address bar.

javascript:alert('Hello, world!')

The sky's the limit from there; whatever JavaScript you can fit in the address bar is fair game. These are more commonly known as "bookmarklets".

Apparently we've spent the last 20 years reimplementing the UNIX command line in the browser. Services like yubnub make this process even more social, with collaborative group creation (and ranking!) of new commands. You can find some of the cooler ones on the golden eggs page.

gimf "carrot top"
esv Ezekiel 25:17
2g color colour

Honestly, I was never a big command-line enthusiast; even way back when on my Amiga I'd choose the GUI over the CLI whenever I could. But maybe I bet on the wrong horse. Perhaps the command prompt – or more specifically, the search oriented, crowdsourced, world public command prompt – really is the future.

Written by Jeff Atwood

Indoor enthusiast. Co-founder of Stack Overflow and Discourse. Disclaimer: I have no idea what I'm talking about. Find me here: