Organizing Bookmarks with the Bookmarks Manager


With the bookmark techniques you've seen so far, you can handle about 80% of the organizational tasks for bookmarks, but you can't deal with everything. For example, you can't drag and drop bookmark folders to a more convenient location on the bookmark list, nor can you delete separators. You can move only one bookmark at a time, so if you've got a lot of bookmarks that you want to drop into a new folder, it can take a little while. For this, you need a better tool: the Bookmarks Manager.

In my opinion, the many great features of the Firefox Bookmarks Manager provide ample reason to use Firefox even if there were no other advantages. The Bookmarks Manager gives you complete control over your bookmarks, folders, and separators. To start the Bookmarks Manager, shown in Figure 5-16, go to Bookmarks | Manage Bookmarks.

Figure 5-16. The Bookmarks Manager.


The left area of the Bookmarks Manager gives you a tree view of the bookmarks and folders. The default when you open the Bookmarks Manager is to display the entire bookmark list, which is maintained in the root folder called Bookmarks. (You can't change the properties for this folder.) You can focus on the information in a specific folder by double-clicking the folder to display the folder's contents in the right panel.

TOOL KIT: Adding Live Bookmarks for XML Feeds

Some websites have news feeds that show XML icons but don't show the RSS icon. If you click these, you frequently may see a page of XML code and a notice that says "This XML file does not appear to have any style information associated with it." You can still create a live bookmark from these, but you need to manually create the live bookmark, as follows:

  1. Click the XML icon and copy the link information from the address field.

  2. Open the Bookmarks Manager and then highlight the location you'd like to add the live bookmark to.

  3. Go to File | New Live Bookmark. The New Live Bookmark Properties screen (shown in Figure 5-17) appears.

    Figure 5-17. The Properties for "New Live Bookmark" screen.

    After the bookmark is created, you can move it to a different location or folder if you like.


  4. Name the bookmark and paste the copied link into Feed Location, and then click OK to save the bookmark. The new live bookmark appears at the highlighted location in the bookmark list with the usual live bookmark folder icon. If you're connected to the Internet, Firefox automatically updates the live bookmark's links so you can see the latest information.


Moving Bookmarks and Folders

The first thing you'll probably want to do with the Bookmarks Manager is to move bookmarks and folders. You can still drag and drop individual bookmarks, but the Bookmarks Manager lets you do this with folders as well. You can even move groups of bookmarks and/or folders: select a group of bookmarks and/or folders by holding down Ctrl while you click the entries. When you have the group of items selected, drag and drop the whole group into an existing folder as usual, or you can go to Edit | Move Bookmarks, which displays the Choose Folder screen, shown in Figure 5-18.

Figure 5-18. The Choose Folder screen.


The Choose Folder screen is pretty straightforward. Choose the folder you want to move the items to or click New Folder to display the New Folder screen (shown earlier, in Figure 5-7) so that you can create a new folder to move the items to. When you've selected a folder, click OK. The group of items is moved to the folder.

TOOL KIT: Your Safety Net

Anything you do in the Bookmarks Manager can be undone with Edit | Undo or by pressing Ctrl+Z. While it's occasionally easier to tweak things in the bookmark list on-the-fly, having the insurance of being able to undo your last action can be really helpful.


Adding Separators

You saw how to add separators earlier, but the Bookmarks Manager lets you do a few more things with them. First, you can add a separator at the highlighted location in the bookmark list by clicking New Separatorno muss, no fuss! You can drag and drop a separator to a new location, or you can right-click the separator and cut or copy it and paste it to a new location. You can also delete the separator by selecting Delete from the context menu or by clicking Delete on the Bookmarks Manager toolbar. A really slicko thing to do is to assign a name to a separator by selecting Properties from the context menu or by clicking Properties or Rename (they both do the same thing) on the Bookmarks Manager toolbar. Although this name won't be visible on the bookmark list, it does appear in the Bookmarks Manager, where it can identify what a group of folders or bookmarks is. Figure 5-19 shows an example of this.

Figure 5-19. Named separators in the Bookmarks Manager.


Cool Tricks with the Bookmarks Toolbar

Okay, here's an incredibly cool thing about Firefox: not only can you add bookmarks to the Bookmarks toolbar (a feature that every other browser has in some form or other), but you can also add folders of bookmarks. Why is this so cool? Because the folder of bookmarks is visible on the toolbar for quick reference. All you need to do is move a folder into the Bookmarks Toolbar Folder from within the Bookmarks Manager. As you can see in Figure 5-20, when you click a folder in the Bookmarks toolbar, the folder's bookmarks drop down, and you can then select from one of the bookmarks in the folder.

Figure 5-20. Bookmarks toolbar with a folder added.


TOOL KIT: Adding Live Bookmarks to the Bookmarks Toolbar

Live bookmarks act like folders, so there's no reason you couldn't have live bookmarks on your Bookmarks toolbar, too. This way, you can start Firefox and run through the live bookmarks to catch the headlines as part of your morning routine. And, just so you know, you can refresh your live bookmarks in the Bookmarks Manager by selecting a live bookmark and going to Edit | Refresh Live Bookmarks.


I tend to keep my Bookmarks toolbar pretty full, but if you've got room on yours, you can use it as a temporary storage place for something you want to look at within the next day or two, after which you can dump it or save it somewhere else.

Something that doesn't seem very useful at first but is absolutely dazzling is the ability in the Bookmarks Manager to set another folder as the Bookmarks Toolbar Folder. All you need to do is highlight a folder and then go to Edit | Set to Bookmarks Toolbar Folder. That's it. There's nothing to indicate the change has been made, no salesman will call, nothing... but now, when you look at the Bookmarks toolbar in Firefox, it's populated with the bookmarks and folders contained in the newly designated folder. Ho-hum, right? Except that this feature lets you set up individual research folders for projects. Suppose that you're currently engaged in the following:

  • Relocatingmoving, fixing up your old house for sale, and buying a new house in a new city

  • Finding a job in your new location

  • Following the folk music scene

  • And, of course, your normal basic general web surfing

Each of these has a set of bookmarks that would be your favorites. There could easily be live bookmarks in the mix and possibly even subfolders for each one.

Digging through the bookmarks list to get to each subsequent link is a bit annoying if you've got zillions of links to pursue. However, with this feature, you can go into the Bookmarks Manager and reset the Bookmarks Toolbar Folder for each round of surfing. That way, all the relevant bookmarks for, say, relocating appear on the Bookmarks Toolbar while you're working on relocating issues. You can then change to the jobs folder and so on, finally coming back to the Bookmarks Toolbar Folder when you're done. (In the middle of doing one thing, if you need to look up a link in another venue, you can always dig it out of the bookmark list like always.)

Changing the Bookmark Display

The bookmark display on the right side of the Bookmarks Manager shows some information about the bookmarks by default: the name of the bookmark, the bookmark's location or address, and the description. You can go to View | Show columns and display other columns of information as well: keyword, bookmark added, last modified, and last visited.

The context menu in the bookmark list lets you sort bookmarks and folders in ascending alphabetical order, which is occasionally useful, but this is nothing compared with the sorting options you have in the Bookmarks Manager. You can view items unsorted (however they are at the moment) or sorted by name, location, keyword, description, date added, date last modified, or date last visited, all of which can be in ascending or descending order.

Be careful! When you sort bookmarks, the Bookmarks Manager sorts all the bookmarks in the current view, so if there are 75 bookmarks and folders in the main bookmark list and you sort them by location, you may destroy lots of manual organizing. This could be one of those times when undoing your last action may be really helpful.

Importing and Exporting Bookmarks

When you installed Firefox, you probably imported bookmarks from your current browser as part of the installation process. You also saw in Chapter 1, "Getting Started," how to import additional sets of bookmarks from other browsers. Importing can be done in the Bookmarks Manager (go to File | Import and you can import bookmarks from Internet Explorer or from a bookmark file), but what's more exciting is that you can export bookmarks to a file, too!

To export your bookmarks, go to File | Export, identify the name of the file you want to save to (the default is bookmark.html), and click OK. Firefox saves the bookmarks as HTML. You can open the file itself (go to File | Open File on the Firefox main menu) and then click any of the links. You may want to go so far as to save your bookmarks to an HTML file with a standard name in some standard location, add a bookmark to the file of bookmarks on your Bookmarks toolbar, and then open this file. Every one of the bookmarks is displayed in a plain but effective nested format that you may find more convenient than the standard bookmark list.

FRIDGE

The normal way of searching for bookmarks in the Bookmarks Manager is to enter the search term in the Bookmarks Manager's Search field. Unfortunately, this only lets you look through the names of the bookmarks. If you've exported the bookmarks into a file, you can open it in a text editor and look for any kind of information you like. It's a bit messy, but it works.

Actually, now that I think of it, the Firefox bookmarks file itself is stored in an HTML file, so you could open that directly in an editor... but I recommend that you not do this. It's all too easy to get distracted, make a few minor edits, and save the file without thinking, whereupon you realize that you've just damaged your bookmark file. It's better to make a copy and play with that.


Apart from the value of backing up your bookmarks periodicallya good thing in case of a system crashexporting your bookmarks gives you a convenient way of sharing your bookmark list with other people. For example, you could post a bookmark fileor a portion of oneon a website and let other people download the file and then use the File | Import command to add this to their own bookmarks. The bookmark names, folders, and structure all remain the same; the information is just added to the bottom of the existing bookmark list.

FAQ: What do Opera, Galeon, and Konqueror have in common?

Some browsers, such as Opera, Galeon, and Konqueror, store their bookmarks in formats that don't lend themselves to easy conversion. For example, Galeon and Konqueror use the XBEL format to store their bookmarks. Firefox can't directly import these files, because Firefox bookmarks are stored in HTML, whereas XBEL is XML. However, both Galeon and Konqueror offer the possibility to export your bookmarks to the Mozilla/Netscape format (which is the one used in Firefox).

Fortunately, there are workarounds: third-party bookmark conversion tools can bridge the gap for you. If you're using Windows, you can convert bookmarks with Magnus Brading's Bookmark Converter (http://www.magnusbrading.com/bmc) or Phillip Perkmann's BookmarkPriest (http://homepage.uibk.ac.at/homepage/csab/csab3666). Linux users can use a program called bk_edit (http://freshmeat.net/projects/bk_edit and a zillion other places) to edit and convert bookmarks from Opera 6, Netscape, Mozilla, Firefox, and Galeon. After having exported your bookmarks, you can import them directly into Firefox by going to File | Import. Other bookmark conversion programs can be found at websites such as http://www.shareware.com.

You can copy encrypted Mozilla passwords directly to Firefox by copying the files xxxxxxxx.s and key3.db from your Mozilla profile folder to your Firefox profile folder and renaming xxxxxxxx.s to signons.txt. If you need help locating the Firefox profile folder, check out the support document at http://www.mozilla.org/support/firefox/edit#profile.


Exporting your bookmarks is not a bad idea for another reason. When you open the bookmarks.html file, all the folders are expanded and every bookmark at every level appears, something like the example in Figure 5-21.

Figure 5-21. Exported bookmarks file opened in Firefox.


The descriptions for the folders are included in this example immediately after the folder name. Some of the links shown in Figure 5-21 still have the original default name, such as the entry for BookFinderyou'd never type anything that long for a name yourself. You can click any of the links in this page and go to the referenced website.

If you're like me, you'll discover whole pockets of bookmarks buried two or three levels down that you'd completely forgotten about. Some of them may be worth keeping; more (like the name for BookFinder and the Eugene Register-Guard) are worth editing, but you'll probably find a lot of stuff that's just so many wasted bits of storage. There's a good chance you'll find several folders in different places with the same focus and maybe even a few of the same bookmarks. Periodically pruning and decluttering your bookmark list makes it easier to find the bookmarks you're really interested in.

TOOL KIT: Bookmarklets: the Cocktail Peanuts of Web Applications

For the real HTML hacker, exporting gives you a chance to edit your bookmark list like a manly man in a manly manner. You can open the HTML file in the editor of your choice and make all kinds of changes and then delete the existing bookmarks from Firefox and import the revised file. But because bookmarks are not much more than HTML code, it stands to reason that you can expand their basic capabilities using JavaScript and so on. As a result, you can add a number of little bitty mini-applications called bookmarklets to your bookmark list.

Bookmarklets usually do one small thing: give you the date and time, show you the links on a web page, email the current page's URL to someone, or change font colors or size to something more readable. They look just like bookmarks on your bookmark list, except they actually contain two or three lines of JavaScript code that does whatever it is. Because they're JavaScript, they're platform-independentand browser-independent, for that matter; you can use most bookmarklets in a variety of browsers.

You can do all the usual things with bookmarklets that you can with bookmarks: rename them, put them in folders, give them keywords, add them to the Bookmarks toolbar, and so on. And, like bookmarks, bookmarklets don't do whatever it is they do until you click them.

You can find bookmarklets at many websites, including

  • www.bookmarklets.com

  • www.squarefree.com/bookmarklets

  • www.guyfisher.com/builder/bookmarklets

Here's an example of how to use a bookmarklet. Gmail doesn't let Firefox save passwords using the Password Manager, because it has the autocomplete webform option set to off. The remember password bookmarklet (available at www.squarefree.com/bookmarklets or at http://ostermiller.org/bookmarklets/utilities.html) forces this on again, with the result that the Firefox Password Manager asks if you want it to remember your login information.




    Firefox and Thunderbird Garage (Garage Series)
    Firefox and Thunderbird Garage
    ISBN: 0131870041
    EAN: 2147483647
    Year: 2003
    Pages: 185

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