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Google Chrome (and probably other popular browsers) helpfully suggests recently-used strings when you begin typing in a search field. The drop-down suggestion list appears underneath the text box, and allows the user to select one of the items from the list instead of retyping it all over again.

This used to work just as expected, until it was recently decided that the search box should automatically expand its size when the user starts typing in it. Now, since no one has warned the browser that the search box might unpredictably change its size and starting location, the browser dutifully shows the drop-down suggestion list in what it thinks is the correct location, but what is actually the old location of the search box.

To reproduce, simply click in the search box and begin typing—only a single letter is required to automatically invoke the browser functionality. A picture is, as always, worth a thousand words:

     The drop-down suggestion box is shown all the way over to the right, nowhere near the start of the now-ginormous search field

Since it's hard to blame the browser for things like this (how is it supposed to know that you're going to move the box right out from under it?), I'm a bit concerned that the response will be to blame the user.

(I'll admit that this question is quite similar to this one, which observes the same behavior in passing, albeit attached to another bug report related to the same expanding search box. The primary bug that was reported has now been fixed and that question has now been deleted. I assume that'll rapidly become the fate of this humble question, but one can still hold out for that small sliver of hope, right?)

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I can confirm the same behavior with Safari 5.1 on Mac OS X 10.6. – kiamlaluno Aug 12 '11 at 5:14
I just fixed this, but I suspect you are not going to be happy with the change, I disabled the autocomplete stuff for now. I am trying here, but there is only so much I can do, I still am not happy with the expanding ... but can tolerate it as it is. – waffles Aug 12 '11 at 5:17
It seems to work now, on Safari 5.1; the autocomplete drop-down is as width as the search box. – kiamlaluno Aug 12 '11 at 9:04
@waffles: Hmm yeah, that's taking the easy way out. I suppose it's better than nothing, maybe worth putting in a 0.0.1 release but not enough to mark the bug "fixed" in the database. It's kind of a shame the inertia is tending toward marking as "won't fix" instead, because I used to think the SE sites were a shining example of excellent design--elegant and functional all at the same time. I'm quite skeptical of what seems to be a new turn toward gimmicks just for the sake of proving you can. Everyone knows there are amazing devs working on the project; you guys don't have anything to prove. – Cody Gray Aug 13 '11 at 9:34
@Cody, disabling this is a better approach regardless, if you look at amazon, ebay or google you get a much more effective help if the site takes care of rendering the search suggestions, which mean you disable autocomplete and render it yourself. – waffles Aug 13 '11 at 12:36
@waffles: That's not a fair comparison, is it? Google & co disable the autocomplete stuff, but they offer something in exchange. Are you planning something similar? Then it would be OK. But I'm very unhappy with the new behaviour that nothing is offered. – Hendrik Vogt Aug 13 '11 at 12:55
@Hendrik Yes I would like to offer something similar, it would heavily improve the search experience (a feature request would be appreciated) – waffles Aug 13 '11 at 13:04
@waffles: Hmm, my request would probably be to restore the old dropdown immediately and to then take all the time needed to develop some awesome alternative. When Google changed the behaviour, it also took me weeks if not months until I started liking the new version. – Hendrik Vogt Aug 13 '11 at 13:16
@waffles, wouldn't this just be another jQuery thingee which returns the keywords (or even just tags?) as you type? Not incredibly hard is it? [Warning: I know next to nothing about such things.] I'd be happy to ask this as a formal feature-request -- complete with mockup if you like? – M. Tibbits Aug 20 '11 at 5:42
Why are we making my eyes work harder to begin with? I look, push a key, ZIP, oh, we're over there now. – Incognito Aug 24 '11 at 17:47
Nothing much we can do about a browser issue - status-declined. – Oded Aug 7 '13 at 13:36

This has to be a browser problem surely??

It would be Chrome's responsibility to be tracking a moving element, not StackExchange's unless of course it was a StackExchange dropdown (which it is not).

Since it's hard to blame the browser for things like this (how is it supposed to know that you're going to move the box right out from under it?), I'm a bit concerned that the response will be to blame the user.

I think it is entirely reasonable to blame the browser for this sort of thing...

In Chrome for me, the problem isn't quite as bad...most of the time the dropdown aligns perfectly, other times it sort of makes it 80-90% across the screen leaving a small gap. But once hidden and redisplayed is aligned again...

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It worked fine until someone decided to break it. Doesn't sound like a browser problem to me... It also works fine on every other site. And regardless, working within the constraints of the web browser is part of the fun/job of being a web designer. Windows developers have to do the same thing for their applications. – Cody Gray Aug 12 '11 at 4:51
@Cody, except this is an entirely optional "Chrome" thing. Very similar to the "auto" resizable TextArea that Chrome provides... – davidsleeps Aug 12 '11 at 4:52
Auto-complete is optional? How do you figure? What web standard does it violate? How could it possibly cause compatibility problems with compliant and well-designed code? And why do you propose that I should have to do without it? I chose Chrome for a reason--I like the browser and its features. It's a supported browser by the Stack Exchange folks, so it seems like they should support it. This isn't some custom add-on that I've installed. This is an out of the box feature: it should "just work". – Cody Gray Aug 12 '11 at 4:54
@Cody, I say optional in that nowhere is it specified that "as a browser" you must provide a dropdown to an input element...Chrome has added this for convenience (and great convenience, I agree absolutely)...but when it doesn't work right, it is the browser that is at fault... – davidsleeps Aug 12 '11 at 4:59
I don't know what you're talking about. I can't ever get the drop-down to align. This isn't limited to a single computer. I have about 5 of them sitting here, and they all do it consistently every time. Yes, if you hide the drop-down and redisplay it again, everything is fine. Of course it is--this time, the browser knows that the UI element is in a different place. The first time, it doesn't. This is like someone yanking the chair out from underneath you just as you go to sit down. Yes, it's "your fault" because you tried to sit on a chair that wasn't there. But we don't actually blame you. – Cody Gray Aug 12 '11 at 5:03
@Cody, I take back my edit, it does do exactly as your screenshot whenever I open a new tab and press "a"... – davidsleeps Aug 12 '11 at 5:09

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