Every web browser comes with bookmarking capabilities, and while bookmarking is not as popular as it was ten years ago, it is fair to assume that the majority of computer users make use of bookmarks. What is a bookmark? Standard bookmarks are nothing more than links that point to a web address. Bookmarks are like an address book, only for web properties and not people or businesses.
Advanced bookmarks, so called bookmarklets are another form. They are a mixture of bookmarks and small applets. They usually do not contain any link information but are stored in the bookmarks folder or toolbar of the computer.
So what is the best bookmark manager? Not an easy question as it may seem to be. The answer depends highly on the individual user. A computer user who only works on one computer and with one web browser may need nothing more than the built-in bookmark manager. Users with multiple web browsers on the same computer, multiple computers with the same or different browser, mobile devices, or computer access at locations without rights to install or synchronize bookmarks may all need different products.
Sometimes it may not be possible to sync bookmarks between different devices, and sometimes it may require the use of two programs or a workflow that requires manual steps.
Lets take a look at the built-in syncing capabilities of the five web browsers Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Opera, Internet Explorer and Safari:
All solutions have in common that an account is needed.
Firefox: Firefox users can make use of Firefox Sync to synchronize bookmarks and other data between the same and different Firefox profiles on the same or different computer systems. Firefox Sync is a built-in feature of Firefox 4, and available as an add-on for Firefox 3. Data is stored on a Mozilla server or optionally on a custom server.
Google Chrome: The Chrome browser comes with built-in synchronization of user data. Chrome users need to click on Tools > Options > Personal Stuff > Set up sync to setup the feature. A Google account is required and the data is stored online and synced whenever the user opens the Chrome browser and is signed into the Google account.
Opera: Opera Link is the name of Opera's synchronization service. Opera users enable it in the browser by clicking on Menu > Synchronize Opera. An account needs to be created during the setup, the bookmarks and other information are saved online on Opera servers.
Internet Explorer: Microsoft's Internet Explorer does not offer a built-in sync feature. Microsoft however has added synchronization to the Windows Live Toolbar. A Windows Live account is required to setup synchronization. IE users need to download the Windows Live Toolbar first and click the share button after the installation to setup bookmark synchronization. The data is synced with Windows Live Skydrive.
Safari: There does not seem to be a built-in way to synchronize Safari bookmarks (correct me if I'm wrong). Options are the paid Mobile Me service by Apple, or a third party workaround solution like making use of Dropbox.
Xmarks: One of the most popular bookmark managers thanks to its support for four out of the five browsers listed above. Only Opera is not supported by Xmarks. Users who do not use Opera, but multiple other browsers from the list above may want to use Xmarks to synchronize their bookmarks. The service is free and reliable.
Up until now we have not really looked at ways to synchronize web browser bookmarks with mobile devices like the iPhone, iPad or Android phones. There is unfortunately no standard for this yet. The best solutions are to either install a mobile web browser, for instance Opera Mobile or Firefox Mobile to sync bookmarks with a specific Internet browser, or to install an app like Chromemarks Lite, My Bookmarks App or Firefox Home to synchronize the bookmarks.
The best solution depends largely on the browsers used on the desktop computer and the mobile devices. There is no service that synchronizes all bookmarks.
Two-step syncing: It is sometimes necessary to configure two-step syncing which basically means to synchronize the bookmarks from one computer or device to another application that can then synchronize the data with the target device. Say you want to sync your Internet Explorer favorites or Safari bookmarks with your iPad or iPhone. You cannot do that directly unless you find an app that supports it. You could however configure iTunes to act as a middle-man.
Another option are applications, that are usually only available for a specific operating system. Transmute for Windows PCs can for instance comes as a free version that can convert bookmarks between web browsers and even mobile devices. The paid version adds synchronization so that it is possible to automatically synchronize bookmarks between web browsers and Android devices.
There is no one application fits it all solution. I have created a small Excel table with links and information about the synchronization options between browsers and devices.
The spreadsheet has a lot of blanks and I'm asking for your help to fill them with information. You can download the latest version directly from Ghacks: bookmark manager synchronization.
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