Review: HandyFind

Posted October 2nd, 2006 by kyle

Firefox has a cool feature for keyboard users called “Find As You Type.” Internet Explorer doesn’t have this functionality built-in, which can make it tedious to browse the web from the keyboard. Fortunately, Edwin Evans created HandyFind, a free program that adds Find As You Type functionality to Internet Explorer, and it also works with any program that embeds IE or rich edit controls, such as Excel, HTML Help, Ultra Recall, and Word.

Download and install is a very simple process, and HandyFind starts with Windows by default. Pressing a single key (defaulting to Ctrl+Space, but I use Ctrl+’) in any supported window activates HandyFind, which displays a tooltip window with the letters you type next. As you type, the first matching text, link, or text button is focused, hilighted, and the tooltip follows the match (scrolling as needed). Keyboard shortcuts are also available for the next/previous match and repeating the last search.

When the desired match is found, pressing Enter, Shift+Enter (new window), or Ctrl+Enter (new tab) clicks the focused hyperlink or button (HandyFind even finds text in some buttons). This makes navigation to almost any link just a few keystrokes away and is a real boon for keyboard junkies like me. HandyFind also works well for quickly navigating edit controls in applications such as Word and Notepad.

I’ve been using HandyFind for months now and have found it to be very quick and stable and a must-have extension to Windows, and it works well with IE7.

There are a few (IE-specific) alternatives available these days:
* Find As You Type for Internet Explorer: Ctrl+F to activate (not customizable), but sometimes the regular find dialog is displayed instead. Pressing Enter while searching cycles through the matches instead of clicking the matching link (you have to Esc, then Tab or F6 several times to get focus back to the document). Doesn’t work with apps that embed IE.
* Inline Search for Internet Explorer: Most of the same limitations as above. It also requires 3 keystrokes to actually click a link when found (Esc, Tab, Enter) and was slow to display on complex pages.
* Quero Toolbar: This is an address bar/search bar replacement that also provides Find As You Type functionality by typing /, but you have to press Tab (sometimes twice) after the match is found and then Enter to click the link. It also unnecessarily clutters the interface with additional address/search fields.
* Opera: A replacement browser that does have decent keyboard navigation. But it doesn’t support HTML clipboard format at all and apparently won’t any time soon, it forces tabbed mode (IE and Firefox work either way), and just feels more amateurish.

HandyFind is by far the most productive and widely accessible application of this type. It’s Find As You Type for Windows and is one of my essential software applications.

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One Comment on “Review: HandyFind”

  1. Viktor Says:

    Thanks kyle, for reviewing Quero. I want to add that I have done some improvements shortly after you reviewed my tool. In the current version you do not need to press / any more to start find. Instead you can configure it to immediately start finding as soon as you start typing anywhere in the browser.

    Regarding the interface clutter of IE7, Quero is the only toolbar that can replace the standard navigation bar with a custom one which can be resized and moved around (try the option “Hide standard address/navigation bar” in Quero > Options > Appearance).

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