Can you imagine if you had to start all over again each time you bought a new filing cabinet? You'd have to start filing your hair away because you'd be tearing it out by the handful. Luckily, Firefox provides an easy Import Wizard that migrates your bookmarks from your former browser. You can import your bookmarks when you first launch Firefox or at any time thereafter. Firefox stores the bookmarks in one of two locations depending on when you import them, as I discuss in the following sections.
Firefox also allows you to export your bookmarks to a file on your computer for use in other browsers or for your own personal backup.
When you launch Firefox for the first time, the Import Wizard opens. If you choose to import bookmarks at this point, Firefox imports the bookmarks directly into your bookmarks list. In other words, when you open your Bookmarks menu, you see all your existing bookmarks just as they were in your previous browser.
Chapter 3 provides instructions for importing bookmarks and other data the first time you start Firefox.
Importing favorites works fine if you're launching Firefox for the first time, but what happens if you have used it for a couple of months — and built up a new bookmarks collection — before deciding to import? In this case, rather than mixing your old bookmarks with your new collection, Firefox places all your old bookmarks in a new folder named From Previous Browser. For example, if you're importing Internet Explorer Favorites, the folder is called From Internet Explorer. The imported bookmarks are still organized into the same folders (if any) as they were in your previous browser, but they will be contained entirely within this new folder.
To import from another browser, select the name of the browser.
Firefox supports importing bookmarks from Internet Explorer, Apple Safari, Opera, Netscape 4.0 through 8.0, Camino, iCab, earlier versions of Firefox, and OmniWeb. Only the browsers that are installed on your computer are displayed.
Click Next to import the bookmarks and then click Finish to close the wizard.
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Firefox allows you to import bookmarks from a file located on your computer. The file must be in the Firefox bookmarks/HTML format. Choose From File, in the Import Wizard, click Next, and then locate the file that contains the bookmarks you want to import.
If you need to get bookmarks out of Firefox instead of into it, Firefox can help you with that, too. Firefox can export your bookmarks — that is, store them in standard HTML format on your computer — for backup purposes or so that other browsers are able to retrieve them. This feature is generally useful only for advanced users. Here's how:
Navigate to the directory in which you would like to store the exported bookmarks and enter the name of the file to create, and then press Enter.
By default, Firefox uses the filename bookmarks.html.
Now that your bookmarks exist in an HTML file on your computer, you can import them into any browser that understands the HTML bookmarks format. If you're using the file as a backup, you can import your bookmarks back into Firefox later by using the Import Wizard, as I discuss at the end of the preceding section.
A new phenomenon is taking the Internet world by storm — the concept of social bookmarking. The pioneers behind social bookmarking argue that if people will just share their bookmarks with the world, everyone can enjoy a bookmarking experience that is exponentially better than the one that exists now. Why is that?
By aggregating millions of individual bookmark collections, computer algorithms can begin to identify trends that would otherwise be difficult to chart. For example, computers could notice that a certain Web site has been bookmarked by 500,000 people. Because people tend to bookmark pages that they find interesting or informative, you could reasonable conclude that this Web site is extremely interesting or informative. You can publish a list of such Web sites, but more importantly, you can incorporate this knowledge into search engines and use it to bump these Web sites higher in the rankings. Think of it as the world's bookmarks.
In many cases, social bookmarking algorithms confirm what is already known from Web sites statistics about the top Internet destinations. Sites like CNN and Yahoo! rule the Web (no surprises there). Where social bookmarking really starts to get interesting is when it exposes diamonds in the rough — valuable Web sites that are being passed around fervently on small word-of-mouth networks but aren't yet known to the world at large. Social bookmarking can find local stars — Web sites that are circulating among certain communities — and turn them into worldwide hits overnight.
One of the earliest and most popular social bookmarking sites to arise was http://del.icio.us (think delicious). Using Delicious is about as easy as using the built-in Firefox bookmarking feature. The difference is that instead of accessing your bookmarks through Firefox, you access your bookmarks through your personal page on the Delicious Web site. By using Delicious, you contribute to the social body of knowledge. Other people can see what you found interesting on the Web, and better yet, you can find new and interesting Web sites you've never seen before. Delicious has clear, step-by-step instructions for getting started.
One additional benefit of social bookmarking is that you can also access your bookmarks from any computer around the world. The downside, of course, is that your bookmarks are publicly viewable by anyone. But although some people consider this a privacy violation, others find it a valuable way to leverage the expertise of others. You probably know of people who are experts in their field, whether it's computers, knitting, or biology. When you're looking for information about their subjects of expertise, wouldn't it be great if you could "get inside their minds" and know what they find important?