My Most Beloved Browser Plugin: Xmarks!

There’s a high probability that a single user nowadays will use more than just one computer. One of the most important piece of data to have synced across browsers is your bookmarks. It can certainly be frustrating to not have access to a website bookmarked from your home PC on your work laptop. Sure, you could just search for that website once more and then bookmark it manually but why do that when you can have them synced? This provides for a better experience and it minimizes user errors when trying to build a consistent bookmark library between two or more computers. While there are many different services to help us accomplish this feat, there’s one that just stands out from the rest. Xmarks. You may or may not have heard about this add-on so if not, you’ll definitely want to check it out.

When dealing with many casual computer users out there, I always find a surprising number of people who do not know there exists services that help syncs their bookmark data! Throughout our time spent browsing on the web, many of us have a vast collection of bookmarks. There certainly isn’t a lack of interesting websites out there so I’m sure that many of us have a big collection of them bookmarked for safe keeping.

Xmarks

Xmarks can sync not only your bookmarks but other data as well such as your opened tabs and history. Xmarks also use to sync your passwords as well but that feature has been removed. However, you can still use it via LastPass, which actually acquired Xmarks.  But our concern here is mainly our bookmarks and in this regard, you’ll be glad to know that it works very well from my experiences. One of the reasons why Xmarks is used by so many is due to its compatibility with other browsers. It doesn’t matter if you use Firefox, Safari, Chrome or Internet Explorer. Your bookmark data will stay the same across any of those browsers!

Before I continue though, you’ll definitely want to at least give these two alternative bookmark syncing services a look:
Firefox Sync – If you’re browser of choice is Firefox and Firefox only, you’ll be glad to know that it has a natively built-in bookmark syncing service. Mozilla included this syncing service natively with Firefox version 4. It works very good from my testings and best of all, it’s very simple to setup. All you do is create an account and well, that’s it! If you use other browsers though, Firefox Sync will not be able to help you here. Also, I don’t believe there is a way for you to access your bookmarks via a web page. This is useful if you are using a public or friend’s computer and need access to your bookmarks without needing to configure Firefox Sync.
Delicious – Dubbed the social bookmarking service, Delicious helps users to not only have access to their bookmarks on whatever computer they use, but also to share their bookmarks will the other thousands and millions of users worldwide as well! This helps you to find new content on the web very easily and effortlessly.

Setting Up

You can download Xmarks here.

Depending on your browser, Xmarks can either be installed as a simple browser add-on or as a stand-alone utility. Therefore, to get going, you’ll want to download the correct version for your current browser from their download page. In my example here, I’ll first install it for the Firefox browser before moving on to Internet Explorer.

  1. After installing the add-on, you’ll be prompted to restart Firefox. Once you’re back in, you’ll be confronted with the Xmarks setup wizard to help get you started. Because this is your first time using Xmarks, you’ll need to create an account first. This account is then used in the future to log back into Xmarks.
  2. All you need to provide is a username, password and email address.
  3. Next, you’ll be asked if you want to sync your opened tabs.
  4. Next will be your browsing history.
  5. Xmarks also has a couple of extra features to help with your browsing experience such as Smarter Search, Site Info and Site Tags. I suggest you leave them enabled for the moment and if later you find them unnecessary, you can then go ahead and disable them.
  6. Once your information has been gathered, Xmarks will then sync your bookmarks for the first time. This information will also be stored on Xmarks servers.
  7. Anytime you want to configure Xmarks, you can head over to Firefox’s Add-On page or click on the tiny Xmarks icon located at the bottom right corner. If you don’t see the icon, make sure you enable the Add-On bar within the Toolbars menu.

Once Xmarks have been configured, you don’t really have to do anything else afterwards. Xmarks will automatically sync your new bookmarks upon exiting your browser (enabled by default). If somehow your bookmark data gets corrupted or you’ve accidentally deleted some, Xmarks can help you easily restore them within the Restore tab.

Other Computers

Now that we’ve created an account with Xmarks and have our bookmarks synced, we next configure it on our other computers. The process is basically the same except that we use our log in information created earlier. The most important step when setting up Xmarks on future computers and devices is to tell Xmarks what to do with the current bookmarks residing on that local computer. There is a big chance that the computer you are working on now have new bookmarks that isn’t synced with Xmarks (obviously since it hasn’t been configured yet). Therefore, if you select the wrong choice, Xmarks could potentially erase your bookmarks. Let’s take a look at what happens when I configure Xmarks in Internet Explorer on a different computer.

  1. Unlike Firefox where we install Xmarks as a browser add-on, for Internet Explorer, it seems as if we are installing Xmarks via a separate program. Once the installation has completed, we will be presented with a similar setup wizard to help guide us.
  2. Because we already have an account with Xmarks, we will choose to log in rather than create a new account.
  3. Once you have been logged in, you’ll then be presented with a dialog window asking how you how you want to sync your bookmarks. This is very important! By default, Xmarks will choose the “Merge” method as this is the less destructive method out of the four. This method will merge the bookmarks installed in Internet Explorer with the bookmarks in your current Xmarks account. In other words, the bookmarks in Internet Explorer will combine with your bookmarks in Firefox. Nothing will be deleted. You can easily change this sync behavior by clicking on the appropriate button. You’ll then have four sync options to choose from so please read them carefully before proceeding! Xmarks is kind enough to give you a warning should you choose an option that will delete your bookmarks.
  4. Once you’ve confirmed your sync method, Xmarks will proceed to perform the synchronization. You can see my before and after pictures of the bookmarks in Internet Explorer.

IE SetupLoginPassword LoginReady to SyncSync SettingsBeforeAfter

Access via the Web

There might be times where you might need access to your bookmarks on a computer that does not belong to you. In these situations, it doesn’t make sense to configure Xmarks and perform a synchronization. I’m sure your friend would be thrilled to know that you have erased all their bookmarks! That is why you can actually log in to your Xmarks account via their website. You use your same username/email and password that you’ve created earlier. Once you’re signed in, you will have access to all of your bookmarks!

Web Login

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Comments

  1. Interesting … did not heard of this . would be useful for syncing my linux with windows bookmarks 

    • You definitely need to check it out! If you have a lot of bookmarks and use more than one computer/operating system, Xmarks can be one of the most useful add-on’s you’ll ever use.

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