Improve Browsers Bookmarks

I’m using the book­marks bar that is sup­plied with any browser for a decade or so, and one of the more use­ful tools in the browser has not changed since the browser started to evolve.

The book­marks on our browsers are lame at best, and at worse cases they are barely usable, and from where I’m stand­ing, a user that is try­ing to get the most out of the browser, there are some changes that are needed to be made.

Bet­ter Book­marks Bar

The book­marks bar is sim­ple yet pow­er­ful tool, allows a user to see his favorites at a glance, with­out open­ing or clos­ing any­thing (like the book­marks man­ager or sidebar).

I use the book­marks bar as my main book­marks direc­tory, every­thing I add to favorites, it goes there. Unfor­tu­nately I have very lit­tle con­trol over what’s going on on my book­marks bar, and I’d like to change that, so here are a few ideas:

  1. Sep­a­ra­tion and Group­ing – Allow the option to cre­ate sep­a­ra­tion with hor­i­zon­tal or ver­ti­cal (depends on the view) bars, and the abil­ity to add Titles to log­i­cally and visu­ally sep­a­rate sim­i­lar con­tent in the same favorites folder.
  2. Change Icons for fold­ers and favorites
  3. Dif­fer­ent Views – Allow of easy change of the viewed book­mark bar – allow­ing cus­tom views, where each view is a dif­fer­ent folder, and will be dis­played as a top folder for the book­mark bar
  4. Tag Folder – A sim­ple “live book­mark” that will dis­play all the tags and under each tag a list of bookmarks

Smarter Book­marks

Our book­marks these days are the same as they were 15 years ago; you have a basic link, a title you assign to the link, maybe some descrip­tion (which I imag­ine no one ever reads), and in some cases tags (which are usu­ally not used by the browsers).

Our book­marks should become smarter, bet­ter, and adapt to our way of using book­marks, so here are a few ideas I have for the book­marks themselves:

  1. Tag = Folder & Sub Fold­ers – By assign­ing a book­mark to a cer­tain folder in your book­marks you usu­ally assign the book­mark to a log­i­cal tag. In my case I have a top folder called “Code”, under that I have lots of fold­ers with names like “CSS”, “Javascript”, “PHP”, “Dru­pal”, you get the ideas.
    When I’m search­ing for a book­mark, the browser never uses the log­i­cal assign­ment of the book­marks, and only searches for titles and the URL of the links.
    Why can’t I search “CSS grid” and one of the links that would popup would be a link from my CSS folder with the word grid in the title/url?
  2. Assign tags for book­marks – I want the abil­ity to give my book­marks some tags, and when I’m search­ing for book­marks (using the awesome-bar of course) these tags will show up on the bottom-right of the book­mark in the results, allow­ing me to bet­ter under­stand what I’m look­ing at
  3. Sym­bolic Links – This is a con­cept from the linux file sys­tem that a lot of you are famil­iar with it, and I guess you curse win­dows every time you need a sym­bolic link and you can’t cre­ate one.
    Sym­bolic Links for the book­marks will allow the user to log­i­cally assign a folder/bookmark to another folder with dupli­cat­ing con­tent, allow­ing me for exam­ple to put “Dru­pal” direc­tory under the “PHP” folder, and under the “Frame­works” folder, and under “Ref­er­ences” folder, and all of those would be auto­mat­i­cally updated with change to any of them.
  4. Use Meta-tags – Meta tags are there, every­body cre­ates them, but no one seems to actu­ally use them, not us, not the browser, and not the search engines (debat­able).
    I want my browser to save the page’s meta-tags (key­words AND descrip­tion) I’m adding to the book­marks, and they will also become searchable

Search­ing Bookmarks

Already men­tioned in the privous lists, I’d still like to make it an offi­cial request.

By search­ing book­marks I mean using the awesome-bar, the address bar which has become extremely pow­er­ful in all the browsers, but when it comes to book­marks, we are still hang­ing on those poor decade-old bookmarks.

My only request is for the browser to con­sider tags, fold­ers, and parent-folders – when search­ing for book­marks the browse should con­sider all of the above, and should use the search term to com­bine them in any way pos­si­ble along with the reg­u­lar title/URL match.

Book­mark Plugins

This is more like a bonus fea­ture – but I think it would be a wel­come fea­ture, and should be seri­ously considered.

The browser should allow an easy way to plug and unplug sets of book­marks – a sim­ple flow can describe the neces­sity of such a plugin:

A new employee is join­ing Com­pany A, lets call that user User B, the com­pany has a long list of links related to the day-to-day work of the employee. What usu­ally is done is that the user is sim­ply given a list of links, and he than man­ages (or usu­ally just refers to that list) these links any way he see fits. Most of the time a lot of use­ful links are not even shared between employ­ees, caus­ing a lot of delay for all of the users and employ­ees of that company.

Instead of cre­at­ing a shared Word doc­u­ment that con­tains a list of links, Com­pany A cre­ates a book­mark plu­gin, which is called Comp-A Book­marks, User B is then sim­ply attaches the plu­gin to his book­marks, and all of the above fea­tures (espe­cially Sym­bolic Links) are than avail­able to the user instantaneously.

When leav­ing Com­pany A, the user sim­ply removes the book­mark plu­gin, and all the related book­marks are no longer avail­able to the user. It’s not that the book­marks are unavail­able to the user, it’s that the user doesn’t have any clut­ter to clean with tens if not hun­dreds of book­marks which are no longer rel­e­vant to him in any way.

This sim­ple yet pow­er­ful tool can allow a smarter way of cre­at­ing and man­ag­ing book­marks and book­mark clubs, allow­ing users to have a very fine con­trol over what exists in his list of book­marks and what does not with a few sim­ple clicks.

A Sin­gle Shared Standard

Stan­dards are non-existing when it comes to book­marks, although there are some gen­eral guide­lines which are shared between browsers, imple­men­ta­tion of the requests above would devi­ate from those guide­lines even fur­ther, espe­cially when every browser will find it’s own and unique way of imple­ment­ing those features.

Up until recently I was heav­ily rely­ing on X-Marks, which has started to make a real mess of my book­marks after mov­ing to Chrome, so these days I’m rely­ing solely on Chrome Sync which con­nects all my Chrome browsers and syncs all the book­marks around.

These tools are great and awe­some, and I love X-Marks for mak­ing it a real­ity, but it does not changes the fact that our book­marks are a mess when it comes to chang­ing a com­puter or a browser.

There aren’t any dif­fer­ences between the book­marks you have on Inter­net Explorer, Fire­fox, or Google Chrome, they are just book­marks – even with the fea­tures above, a sim­ple list of text, URLs, some tags, and we’re done. Why can’t it be shared across all the browsers?

Epi­logue

The fea­ture requests above are eas­ily imple­mented (so are eas­ier than oth­ers), but none of the major browser ven­dors are even think­ing about improv­ing the usabil­ity and user expe­ri­ence of the users book­marks, while cre­at­ing mish­mash of fea­tures that the gen­eral pub­lic rarely uses.

This fea­ture list is not intended to a spe­cific browser ven­dor, and from my point of view all the browser should have such basic fea­tures imple­mented. These are not “nice to have” fea­tures, with the boom of social book­mark­ing in the past half-decade showed us that we do need smarter way to man­age our book­marks, and our book­marks are becom­ing so clut­tered that we are find­ing it frus­trat­ing to even use them, and instead we resort to exter­nal solu­tions which are not ade­quate to say the least.

The use of an exter­nal plu­gin, like deli­cious is nice, but it requires from the user to migrate his book­marks from his browser – where they belong – to an exter­nal web­site. Although this pro­vides extra tools and fea­tures for the user it requires a lot of effort from the user, and basi­cally obso­letes the browser’s own book­marks fea­tures and capabilities.

I write this post as a plea to all browser ven­dors, it’s not some­thing that I hope will be imple­mented, it’s some­thing that needs to be imple­mented. We have a heap of fea­tures that come with any browser these days, and none of those fea­tures are mak­ing our lives eas­ier when it comes to bookmarks.

This has change.

One Comment to “Improve Browsers Bookmarks”

  1. kbrosnan 10 November 2010 at 13:00 #

    Pref­ace: I do work on Fire­fox so my com­ments will be solely lim­ited to it. Hope­fully this form won’t man­gle my response.

    Bet­ter Book­marks Bar
    1. Sep­a­ra­tors are present they will be hor­i­zon­tal or ver­ti­cal depend­ing on where they are placed. book­marks > orga­nize book­marks nav­i­gate to where you want the sep­a­ra­tor right click and choose ‘new sep­a­ra­tor’.
    2. Set fav­i­cons with https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/3176/ not sure if it does fold­ers
    3. I think I grok what you are think­ing. Was sort of a fea­ture of Fire­fox pre v2 back through to Netscape. Though it was not as dynamic as what you are talk­ing about. It seems far too advanced for most, a bar that changes its con­text would be con­fus­ing.
    4. https://support.mozilla.com/en-US/kb/Smart+Bookmarks+folders / http://forums.mozillazine.org/viewtopic.php?p=3260477

    Smarter Book­marks
    1. Tags are not fold­ers, while tags can be kludged into a folder lay­out it is not ideal. Search match­ing on folder is not imple­mented, open bug atm.
    2. Tags are matched and searched on in the Fire­fox loca­tion bar, to search on tags # or + can be used https://support.mozilla.com/en-US/kb/Location+bar+autocomplete#On_the_fly
    3. Use tags and smart book­mark fold­ers should be able to cover your use case.
    4. Meta tags are not rel­e­vant to today’s search engines, web browser should not trust them either. Exam­ple cnn.com home­page sets “Key­words” content=“CNN, CNN news, CNN.com, CNN TV, news, news online, break­ing news, U.S. news, world news, weather, busi­ness, CNN Money, sports, pol­i­tics, law, tech­nol­ogy, enter­tain­ment, edu­ca­tion, travel, health, spe­cial reports, autos, devel­op­ing story, news video, CNN Intl”. 20+ tags cre­ated for a sin­gle book­mark seems quite excessive.

    Search­ing book­marks
    Done short of match­ing on fold­ers (see Smarter book­marks #2)

    Book­mark plu­g­ins
    A good IT depart­ment should have browser pre­con­fig­ured with the rel­e­vant URIs that the user needs or a well designed com­pany intranet home­page. I know the use case you pro­vide is com­mon enough in the work­place. I have doubts that some­thing could be cre­ated that the office assis­tant would use short of HTML via some WYSIWYG edi­tor. Which is what they are doing via Word doc­u­ment or email. See next part for addi­tional info.

    Sin­gle shared stan­dard
    Netscape’s bookmarks.html was the for­mat lin­gua franca for browser book­marks till about 2005, http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/aa753582%28VS.85%29.aspx. While Mozilla kludged some addi­tional fea­tures into it, try­ing to graft tags and other pos­si­ble resources on to bookmarks.html was not the way for­ward. Fire­fox now exports a JSON file http://www.json.org/ with all rel­e­vant book­mark infor­ma­tion. http://mxr.mozilla.org/mozilla/source/toolkit/components/places/src/utils.js#1032 is the best doc­u­men­ta­tion I can find on pars­ing it at this time.


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