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Fixing Firefox's Quick Search bug

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Thursday, January 11 2007, 21:34
For some time I thought I may be the only one experiencing problems with Firefox. These were the symptoms:
  • Several keys such as Home, End, Page Up, Page Down and the cursor keys stopped working; i.e. I could not scroll the page using the keyboard,
  • While typing in a text field, pressing ' (single quote) or / (forward slash) would bring up the Quick Search bar,
  • When turning on Type Ahead, inserting any text into a text field at all would bring up the Quick Search bar.
Luckily, I was able to fix it with the help of fellow Firefox users at Adam Messinger's site.

Solution 1: Disable Type Ahead

Type Ahead, also known as Find-As-You-Type, is a feature that allows you to find a bit of text on the page by simply beginning to type. It has been reported, however, that under some circumstances this feature gives problems with symptoms similar to those I mentioned above.
Therefore, you should try disabling it. There are several ways to do this: the easy way and the more certain difficult way.
Disable it via the Options screen
Click the Tools menu and select Options. In the Options screen, select the Advanced panel, under which you'll find a checkbox in the General tab which reads: Search for text when I start typing. Make sure this box is unchecked.
Disable it manually
Several people have reported that although Type Ahead is disabled in the Options screen, it still (partially) remains working. If you are an advanced user and you've made a user.js file, skip this step. If this is gibberish to you, read on.
Open a new tab and type about:config in the address bar, and press Enter. This will bring you to the following screen that is filled with advanced configuration options for Firefox.
Locate the preference called accessibility.typeaheadfind and ensure it's value is set to false. If it isn't, double-click the field to toggle it.
If the problem persists, also make sure the accessibility.typeaheadfind.autostart is set to false.
Disabling it manually in user.js
Advanced users may have created a custom user.js file to configure their Firefox profile. This file should be located in your profile directory, which, under Windows, typically is:
%appdata%\Mozilla\Firefox\Profiles\[profile_name]\
Where [profile_name] is a unique identifier ending with your Firefox profile name (by default default). (%appdata% will bring you directly to the Application Data directory of your Windows account, which usually is C:\Documents and Settings\[user]\Application Data, where [user] is your username.)
Add the following two lines to user.js:
user_pref ("accessibility.typeaheadfind", false);
user_pref ("accessibility.typeaheadfind.autostart", false);

Solution 2: Extensions

If the above solution didn't work for you – like it didn't work for me, but did for many others – it has to do with your extensions.
Firebug & HTML Validator
Firebug (an extremely powerful web developer tool) and HTML Validator (an integrated HTML validation tool) are incompatible. I've notified both authors, and hopefully the issue will be addressed soon. A simple work-around is to disable either one while you're not using it.
Other extensions
The likely culprit is one (or more) of your extensions. I'm afraid there is no easy way of determining which one is causing the problem, so this is what I suggest doing: open the Add-ons screen by selecting Add-ons from the Tools menu and disable each extension one by one. Right-click on an enabled extension (one that isn't grayed out) and select Disable. Close the Add-ons screen and select File, Exit to exit Firefox.
Restart Firefox and check if the problem is solved or not. If not, continue disabling more extensions until the problem disappears.
Once the problem disappears, you've probably found the culprit. Try enabling all other extensions one by one to see if this single extension is indeed causing the problem on its own.

Solution 3: Create a new profile

If nothing has helped, you can create pretty much bring Firefox back to "factory settings" by creating a new profile.
Launch firefox.exe including the ProfileManager parameter. To do so, click Start and select Run. In the Open field, type:
"%programfiles%\Mozilla Firefox\firefox.exe" -ProfileManager
If you installed Firefox elsewhere, specify that path instead.
Press OK and one the Profile Manager pops up, continue to follow the procedure to create a new profile, which is pretty much self-explanatory.

Solution 4: Reinstall

If nothing has helped, I'm afraid there's nothing else you can do but reinstall Firefox.
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