Five ways to master bookmarks in Firefox 3

Master Firefox 3's bookmarks and you'll be surfing 100 times faster and better than before.

Besides the face-lift, one of Firefox 3's less flashy, but incredibly useful features, is the new bookmarking system. Yeah, there are still folders and bookmarklets, but joining the party are useful items like tags, smart backup, and a new way to track which sites you're actually visiting to help weed out what's unneeded.

We've put together a small guide to help you take advantage of bookmarking in Firefox 3. If you put these lessons to use, you'll go from having a big, clumsy menu of sites you like to an ever-changing list that can quickly be parsed and prioritized with minimal effort.

Step 1: Master the quickie
On a site you like? Don't bother with keyboard shortcuts (although Ctrl+Shift+L is dead easy); just hit the new star button in the address bar. It'll quick-save it to your bookmarks list the same way the keyboard shortcut does, although it saves a click or two by skipping the "edit this bookmark" dialogue that usually pops up when you try to squirrel a link away.

If you do want to access that dialogue without having to delve into the full-fledged bookmark editor, just click on the star again and you'll get that same drop-down menu with quick fields you can fill in to edit tags or simply remove the link from your bookmarks.

With tags, save typing and a visit to figure out what a site is about. CNET Networks

Step 2: Use tags
Tags are helpful. If you're bookmarking a site you think you're going to keep around, it's worth tagging. The biggest reason is that Firefox will now use tags as shortcuts in the address bar, meaning that if you tag this article "awesome," typing awesome into the bar will automatically pull up this page as one of the top results. It'll also take any tags you've previously added and autofill them for you as you type. This makes it easy to fill in some simple descriptions quickly and efficiently.

To quickly add pre-existing tags without typing anything, just hit the little down arrow in the bookmarking menu. This will list all of the tags you've typed in before, and simply clicking on any one of them will add it as a tag.

Step 3: Use smart bookmarks and folders to discover new content
Are you an iTunes user? If so, you may be familiar with smart playlists, the playlists that will automatically fill with tracks based on what boolean values you set up. Firefox 3 has two similar features called smart bookmarks and smart folders that let you do this using query strings or simple searches. Now as a warning, this isn't as simple to do as it is in iTunes, which has drop-down menus, but the good news is that there a ton of pre-built options you can simply copy and paste.

  • Smart bookmarks: Smart bookmarks are a grouping of links that change based on what values you plug into them. To make your own, click on bookmarks, then "organize bookmarks" (you can also hit Ctrl+Shift+B). Highlight "bookmarks menu" from the source list below, then right-click on it and select "new bookmark." All the magic for making a smart bookmark is in the location field, which is where you'll be dropping in a line of code that does all the heavy lifting. These codes can range from simple queries to a string that will search a domain and give you the latest stories, or simply those related to a keyword. The possibilities are nearly endless. The sad truth is that this method is complicated. MozillaZine has a huge thread on the ins and outs of building your own code strings, as does CyberNet News. Just keep in mind that you'll have to have some basic coding knowledge to build your own from scratch.

  • Saving sites you've been to in a certain genre can be a time saver. Smart bookmark folders let you do this the easy way. CNET Networks

  • Smart folders: Smart folders are similar to smart bookmarks but require far less work. There are a few ways to make smart folders for things like your browser history and browsing habits, but one of my favorite uses is to create little folders of bookmarks based on where you've been.

    To start, just get back to that organize bookmarks menu (Ctrl+Shift+B) and use the search box on the top right. When you type a name it'll search both history and bookmarks. You can pick either of those, or both categories, and save it as a search, which will now reside in your bookmarks toolbar as a smart folder. If you add or visit a site with that word or domain in the name it will automatically show up in that list, saving you from having to re-categorize it. These are incredibly useful if you drop them down into the bookmarklets bar, since they'll act as drop-down menus that will save you crucial screen real estate.

Firefox 3 keeps multiple backups of your bookmarks, but so should you. CNET Networks

Step 4: Import/export and backing up your bookmarks
There's nothing worse than having to try and remember all the things you've bookmarked in case of a hard drive crash or corrupted file. Save yourself the trouble and make backups from time to time.

My way of doing this is to use two of Google's services, Gmail and Google Calendar, to bundle reminders and file storage in one place. Step one is setting up a Google Calendar reminder every month for a backup. Now, every time you get the reminder just go organize bookmarks, then click on "import and backup."

Save the backup JSON file to your desktop and e-mail it to yourself in Gmail. Be sure to set up a bookmarks label and tag every backup with it so you'll save yourself some time searching later on.

Now, what if you lose everything and need to re-import? If you've got a copy of that JSON file laying around you just import it using that same menu you just used to do the backup. Likewise, you can go back to previous versions of your bookmarks by selecting an earlier date from the drop-down list, although I wouldn't recommend doing that unless you've made a mess of the ones you have.

Step 5: Make it social
OK, so you don't want to use Gmail and Google Calendar while saving and uploading files. I really can't blame you. A far simpler solution is tying in your bookmarks with a service like Delicious, Magnolia, or Mister Wong.

Of the three, my personal preference is Delicious, if only for its community and browser plug-in that was recently updated to work in both Firefox 3 and IE7. We've written about Delicious many times before, but the gist is that you can access your bookmarks from anywhere, and when saving a bookmark it'll automatically suggest tags for you based on what other people have saved that same link with. It's a huge time-saver, and if you're seriously into Firefox 3's tagging system, you'll end up saving a lot of time by integrating it with Delicious.

If you don't feel like sharing with anyone else you can also check out Foxmarks, which also has multi-browser bookmark sync and backup.

These were just a few tips on how to manage and master bookmarks in Firefox 3. If you've got any of your own, feel free to share them in the comments.

Related:
Set Web e-mail as default Firefox e-mail
Three useful Firefox 3 'awesome bar' hacks

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Software
About the author

Josh Lowensohn joined CNET in 2006 and now covers Apple. Before that, Josh wrote about everything from new Web start-ups, to remote-controlled robots that watch your house. Prior to joining CNET, Josh covered breaking video game news, as well as reviewing game software. His current console favorite is the Xbox 360.

 

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