A Lament for the Firefox Quick Find Key

For as long as I’ve been a Firefox user—almost 20 years at this point—it has featured a “quick find” bound to the venerable / (forward slash) key.

Following a pattern established by other software like less, man, and vi the slash key was simple: it finds stuff in the current page.

Common patterns like this are great. It’s why everyone has agreed on what Ctrl-C and Ctrl-V (or very similar) should do across all operating systems. The / key used to be like this, but not any more.

Web designers, in their infinite wisdom, have taken it upon themselves to hijack the / key from users. They have decided that / shall not mean “find in page” but rather “find across the entire website” or, in other words: not at all what that key is supposed to do.

At first it was just hip new sites jumping on a trend like everyone is jumping on dark mode right now (yes, I know I’ve jumped on that one too). But then websites I actually use day in, day out started to do it. The latest offender, and what finally prompted this post, is the Python documentation. 1

What’s annoying is they could have picked any other key, but they picked / because they know this is already established for search. But “find in page” and “jump up to my search bar and find in site using whatever custom search page I have implemented” are not even close to the same thing.

So now I’m scared to try the / key and I’ve had to teach myself Ctrl-F instead which is more awkward, less universal and doesn’t behave in exactly the same way (notably, Enter or clicking away doesn’t close the search).

I don’t expect anything to change now, hence this lament.

  1. Oddly, at around the same time, the Django docs happily disabled their / key hijacking. You win some, you lose some, I suppose. ↩︎