Manage Your Browser’s Favorites From The Cloud

I use my mobile phone all the time… I also use a personal Notebook, Xmarks1 a work Notebook, a desktop and a few other computers here and there. I probably wouldn’t say anything new if I told you that I use information off the web all the time. Duh! However, one thing that’s been bothering me lately is that something as simple as having all my favorites should be something simple to manage. Well it hasn’t, not until I recently discovered Xmarks (click here)…

When one uses IE and syncs their Windows phone to their Windows PC it’s easy… but add a few more platforms to the mix, a few more (different) browsers per platform, and what was a simple sync task now becomes a major undertaking.

You may ask yourself why on earth would someone have these many different ways to browse the web? Most of the time I have to make sure that what works and looks nice on one device, also does on the next device. The application in question also needs to offer the exact same experience to consumers. Even within the same device, there are so many different browsers people may end up using that I need to make sure that the experience is consistent across most browsers. Currently, what will cover almost all web users is MSIE 6, 7, 8, Firefox 3.x, Opera 9.x, 10, Chrome and Safari in whatever platforms they exist (Windows, Mac, Linux and depending on the application, I also test Windows Mobile, iPhone, Android and Blackberry).

Because of the complexities involved, I even considered the idea of developing a solution myself so that I would be able to have my favorites/bookmarks/links with me at all times. That was until I found Xmarks. This tool has been around for a while, formerly known as FoxMarks (it originally existed only as a Firefox add-on).

This tool exists as an add-on for Firefox, Chrome, Safari and Microsoft Internet Explorer, there’s a web version for the browsers/platforms that are not supported yet and yes, there is a stripped down web version of it for mobile devices. A version for Opera has not been announced yet but what I would like to highlight is that there is a way to use it in any and all mobile devices.

While the add-on version is great when you are using a Windows PC, Mac or Linux, the most important thing about this nifty little tool is that no matter what I am using now, I can still have access to all my favorite links.

The first time you install this tool, you get to create an account, XmarksUI1 provide with some information (user name, password, email address -to verify the account-). This process happens within the wizard itself. Then the tool reads your favorites and syncs them to the web. If you only have your computer and your mobile device that’s about it. If you have like I do, multiple computers that you do your work on, then the process repeats in all computers (and all browsers you want to keep in sync) but you keep using the same credentials you created in the first environment you installed. From that point on, you simply forget that the tool is installed and it just does its job. It works seamlessly and you don’t need to change the way you do your work, you use your links the same way you’ve always used them, and the tool syncs as long as you have a connection to the web. I have used it for a while now and with y links, I have created, deleted, updated, moved from one folder to the other and save for a few minutes lag time, it basically keeps everything in sync.

Whenever I am not using a supported platform, or I am on someone XmarksUI3 else’s computer, I simply use their online version. It simply has the same features I have in all my supported browsers. Plus I know that whatever changes I make to this online version will get synched to all my browsers.

The mobile version is nothing more than simple web pages (almost XmarksUI4 bare HTML) that can be browsed in most browsers, even the simplest WAP versions. Making this site your top favorite in your mobile browser simply makes your favorites available in that platform. This stripped down version, however is a bit too stripped down and only offers you the ability to browse through your folders and links. The ability to add, change, delete links is just not there yet. My guess is that this is so that the most mobile platforms are supported.

In Opera Mobile, I use the mobile version, but in other mobile browsers such as Skyfire, I just use the regular online version, so that I can also add, edit and remove links.

So far the features provided are great and for most regular users XmarksUI2 that would be it, but you can also take advantage of profiles. This is an extra feature that I find particularly convenient. Profiles work so that you decide out of your universe of links, which ones link up to what profiles. You can use the provided profiles for "mobile", "work" and "home" or you can add as many profiles as you want. Maybe you want to keep some of your personal links out of your work computers, or you may want to keep some of your work links out of your personal computers. You can do all this by adding a particular browser to a particular profile so that only the links to the profile in question will be synced to the browser in question.

Finally, there are two "side effect" uses for this tool. You can use Xmarks as a "backup to the cloud" for your favorites and you can use it whenever you are moving from one PC to its replacement, all you need to do is sync it up and you are done.

Overall, Xmarks is a great tool that provides what is being promised while assuring you that your favorites will be safely kept in the cloud for your use whenever you need them most.

About Diego Samuilov

Editor in Chief/Founder Diego Samuilov is an executive, consultant, IT strategist and book, e-book and web published author. Diego has worked in Microsoft’s environments since 1990. Since then, he has successfully filled many positions related to the Software Development lifecycle. Having worked as a developer, analyst, technical lead, project lead, auditor and, since 1996 a project manager, manager, director and VP in the Software Development, Server, Desktop and Mobile environments. Diego is very passionate about the software development process, which has played a great part in his skills development. Since the introduction of the first ever PDA (the Apple Newton MessagePad) in 1994 and Windows CE in 1998 he has pioneered and pushed the envelope in the field of mobile software development. He has developed many solutions used in mobile markets, desktop and server environments. He participates in public and private developer community events. He actively collaborates with the community at support forums and blogs. Diego is the author of "Windows Phone for Everyone" available [HERE].