Sunday, May 27, 2007

Syncing Firefox Bookmarks

Back in a earlier post this month, I outlined how I was attempting to keep my Firefox bookmark file sync'ed between our two laptops and desktop system. This was especially important as I keep my "to blog" links in a Firefox bookmark folder. And having it handy at any given machine makes it more convenient for me to blog.

Manual Firefox Bookmark Syncing...what a pain

Basically I had worked out the following plan:

  1. I wrote a batch file to copy the Firefox bookmarks.html file up to my desktop.
  2. I then "mailed" that file to my web-mail account after making any changes to my bookmarks.
  3. Then on a new system I would log into my web-mail account and bring that file back down to my desktop.
  4. Then I would run another batch file to copy it from the desktop back into its location.

Not elegant. But it worked as long as I remembered to "copy up."

Enter Foxmarks

So I was viewing my RSS feeds last week and came across this intriguing post over at DownloadSquad: Keep your bookmark folders synced with Foxmarks.

The post solution sounded quite interesting. It syncs your Firefox bookmarks between more than one computer using a web-based solution. You just download the extension, set your (free) account up and each time you shut down (or sync now), a sync'ed copy is sent up to the Web store location. Next Firefox location you log into that has the same extension gets synced up as well.

As an added bonus, you can access your bookmarks "on-line" without even needing to "sync" them which could be useful when accessing them on a guest computer...say at a relative, friend's or public pc location.

It sounded promising so I checked out the website, proper: Foxmarks.

I dug around in the Foxmarks F.A.Q. to get a feel on how this works. While nothing spectacular, the thought of tossing my bookmarks up on just anyone's server made me a bit uncomfortable. I keep quite a few financial bookmarks and they could provide a neat profile for anyone who got control of them...even if they didn't have my account information.

The deal-breaker for me was that the bookmarks are not currently encrypted on the Foxcloud server. Even though they are passworded for protection, a lack of encryption concerns me.

However, the Foxmarks team must be a pretty standup group, because a bit lower in the FAQ they discuss future development of Foxmarks and that they plan to continue despite the high-bar Google set with it's Google Browser Sync tool.

Heck. They even bravely offered a link to it!

I find that honorable and classy.

Hello Google Browser Sync

So I jumped over to check out this Google Browser Sync tool for Firefox I hadn't heard of before.

Pretty straightforward little tool.

It will sync various Firefox elements between Firefox browsers located on separate pc's: bookmarks, history, persistent cookies, saved passwords, and even open tabs and windows.

Hmmm. This could be so useful it's downright creepy.

Yep. Let's check out their Google Browser Sync FAQ, shall we?

Interesting points:

  • I can select which sync' able items to sync or not. Flexibility is good. Bookmarks I want...the rest isn't needed but nice to see it can handle. I have choices.

  • I need a PIN as the data that is stored on Google's servers is encrypted; both during transmission to and from their servers as well as on the servers themselves. Very nice.

  • Being logged into Google Browser Sync doesn't log me into any of my other Google Accounts. Nice.

Drawbacks:

I tipped a co-worker about Google Browser Sync who is also a fellow Firefox fan and was surprised to discover he had been using it happily for several months. He uses it between his work pc and his home to sync technical and other websites and articles he finds interesting he comes across during the day and then can read at his leisure at home later. Nice solution.

I keep my work and home bookmarks separate...two separate worlds.

The encryption feature sold me, so I installed it on the Vista laptop (that I have kind of adopted as a 2nd home) and the desktop system at home which I use for "production" blogging work.

Installation was a breeze and the account setup went quickly. I selected my PIN (password/paraphrase/whatever you want to use) and made the setting changes to only store my bookmarks as well as encrypt them.

Then I did the same on the 2nd system, this one my XP Home. I had a tiny bit of housecleaning to do as it duplicated a few the first time, but I haven't seen any duplication errors since the first day.

Syncing is done behind the scenes and is seamless. I log onto one pc and my bookmarks from the other machine are there in Firefox. I add and remove them. Shut down and move to the other system and there they are, just like I changed them.

Awesome! I'm really loving it! And it has made using Firefox between dual (or more) machines of ours a real treat now!

I just can't believe I didn't discover or hear about this Google Firefox tool sooner.

Who knew?

Bonus: New Mozilla Themes

Found these two new themes for Mozilla today.

mGANT :: Firefox Add-ons - This Firefox theme is really growing on me. It is simple and almost Gnomish. The spacing on the bookmarks and dropdowns is dead-on. The colors are simple and zenlike. And while the icons are a bit hard to "decode" at first, they do the job well. I'm really liking this over the Outlook 2003 Blue theme I had been using since forever.

Vista Mail :: Thunderbird Add-ons - This is a new Thunderbird theme. It integrates quite well with the Microsoft Zune theme I still am using for XP. It is a pretty dark black theme with highly saturated color icons. The only drawbacks I see is the extreme white-to-black gradient and the folder icons. The gradient seems a bit too strong and instead of the lighter gray, I would have used a darker shade of gray. The yellow folder icons are not outlined clearly and don't stand out well from a white background field they are displayed on. However, those minor points aside I like it quite well. I'm going to try it for a while and see what I think.

Enjoy!

--Claus

3 comments:

Jim said...

"Who knew?"

I sure didn't, although I've been looking for something like this. Found an extension that will sorta-kinda sync bookmarks with del.icio.us, but it's a process that requires manually syncing the bookmarks. I wanted something that seamlessly and automatically shared bookmarks between the various systems I use. Sounds like this is just the thing. Thanks.

sbt said...

i think you can userchrome important to override that vista theme for tb. (ou wrote that you don't like the b-w gradient)

Claus said...

sbt,

that's a good suggestion.

I do like the theme. I'll have to play around with it a bit more to see if I can "tweak" it just a touch.

thanks for the tip.