Like other browsers, Internet Explorer 9 dispenses with the traditionally separate address bar and search box, replacing both with a single control that Microsoft calls the One Box. The IE 9 One Box, shown below, provides a single place for getting started, whether that means navigating to a particular site or searching for a site, term, or phrase.

While other browser makers may have beaten Microsoft to market with a single, all-in-one address bar, IE 9 goes further than the competition in many ways. Key among these is keystroke privacy, which is enabled by default. In other browsers, each keystroke you type is sent automatically to the configured search provider. But in IE 9, this is not the case: Keystrokes are not sent to the search provider unless you explicitly enable this functionality. (Doing so provides support for search suggestions, which are described below.)

Here are some of the capabilities of the IE 9 One Box.

Navigate

For the most part, navigation in the IE 9 One Box works as it did with the address bar in older IE versions. That is, you can select the control (ALT + D, or CTRL + L), type in a URL (with or without http://,www, or a site extension) and browse the web normally. According to Microsoft, One Box will evaluate single words to determine if they represent a valid URL ("apple" for www.apple.com, for example, or "microsoft" for www.microsoft.com). If they do, it will load that site.

Inline autocomplete

As you type in the One Box, IE 9 provides inline autocomplete functionality so that you can quickly get to the sites you want after typing only a few letters. IE 9 anticipates your needs by autocompleting with popular web sites, and also with items from your Favorites and history. And if your search provider supports it, you can type in common terms like "news" or "music" to navigate quickly to the site you prefer.

Search

In previous versions of IE, you would need to select the dedicated Search box to search the web from the browser. But now you can do so from the One Box, by typing in a search term instead of a URL. For example, if you want to see a weather report, you could type "Seattle weather" (or whatever; no quotes) and tap ENTER, instead of manually navigating to weather.com or whatever site you might use.

Switch search providers

You can also switch search providers on the fly, and choose between Google, Yahoo!, Bing, and whatever other providers you like. So if you don't see the results you want on one, you can easily try another. Search providers are accessed from the One Box drop down that appears as you type. Or, you can click and drag down on the One Box to display this drop down and select a new provider.

Use search suggestions

If you enable search suggestions, One Box will display search suggestions as you type directly in the drop down that appears. So as you type "Seattle weather" you'll get the forecast inline, without having to display the search results page.

These search suggestions are often very visual as well. So if you search for a product, place, or other thing, you will often see pictures inline in the drop down.

Corporate search

PCs that are connected to a corporate domain can use the IE 9 One Box to quickly find intranet sites using single words with a forward slash. So if you have an internal web site at http://vail, you can get there by typing vail/ in the IE 9 One Box. That's because the single word vail, without the slash, would trigger a search.

Access browsing history and Favorites

To access your recent browsing history and Favorites directly from One Box, just click, hold, and drag down on the One Box control, or click the little down arrow at its far right.

Pin a web site

You can also pin a web site to the Windows 7 taskbar by dragging its web site icon from the One Box to the taskbar. This process is described in my Pinned Web Sites feature focus.