What's the difference between the browser address bar and the search field?

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

The company's homepage is usually installed as the default homepage for's customers. It will open in your preferred browser's window.

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 search field.

And this is where the problem occurs: A user has the URL of a website they wish to visit (e.g., 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 sometimes work for you, it is NOT the best 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.

Read on for the most efficient method that we save time lots of time and frustration!

Look for the Address Bar near the top of your browser window. Sometimes it will be labeled "Address", but you will find it at the top of your browser's window, whether that browser is Internet Explorer, Safari, Opera, Firefox, or whatever your choice may be. 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!

You may be asking: What is the Search For Then? The search field is for when you don't know the web address of the place you want to visit, or if you want to visit a number of websites with a similar topic. For example, if you want to learn about using a new brand of cat food, and you have been told to visit, simply enter this address into the address bar. However if you don't know the exact web address or if you'd like to find some other sites with the same type of content, you could type "best cat food" into the search field. This will give you a list of possible websites which match your search query.

You now know the difference between the search field and the browser address bar, and when to use each one to its advantage. Use the browser Address bar when you know the URL you want to go to, and use the search field when you are looking for sites with content that match your query.

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