[Note: I use a Mac, so all screenshots and descriptions are of the Mac UI. Things are likely different for other platforms. Also, you can click on all the pictures below to view other sizes.]
I’ve never been a huge fan of traditional bookmarks — I tend to bookmark lots of things and my bookmarking system always degraded to the point of uselessness pretty quickly. Bookmarks became a bit of a junk drawer for me — I’d throw things in there and they’d end up forgotten, or lost, or just never pulled out and looked at again. I never had the patience to create a nice clean folder hierarchy and file things neatly away. I am clearly not a student of the “everything has a place, and everything in its place” school of thought.
Firefox 3 introduces a few new features to bookmarks that I think make them much, much easier to use, more useful in general, and much more useful in particular for catastrophically disorganized folk like me. The three main features being introduced are: Bookmark Stars, Bookmark Tags, and Smart Bookmark Folders.
Bookmark Stars are a quick and easy way to bookmark a page with a single click. At the right end of the Location bar there is now a star icon that is hollow if a page is not bookmarked, and solid if it is.
To bookmark a page using the star, you simply click it once. Like so:
That’s it. Firefox 3 introduces one-click bookmarking — the quickest and easiest way to add a Location to your personal bookmark list. You don’t have to do anything else beyond this, but you can if you want to.
If you click the star again, it opens the Bookmark dialog, where you can edit the bookmark title, add tags to the bookmark, file the bookmark in a folder, or delete the bookmark. Naturally, you can still open the Bookmark dialog with cmd-D (or ctrl-D if you’re not using a Mac).
The Bookmark dialog has other surprises, too. The drop arrows beside the Folder and Tags fields expand the dialog so you can add new folders, browse through your existing folder tree, or select pre-existing tags with a checklist.
Of course, if you want to delete the bookmark, you can do that here as well, using the “Remove Bookmark” button.
Tags are a way to add flexible “extra” information to a bookmark. Where Folders let you organize bookmarks in a way, they’re limited in that you can only put each bookmark in a single folder. Not so with tags — you can add as many tags to a bookmark as you want. For example, I could put my “French Onion Soup” recipe into a “Recipes” folder (or even a “Soup” subfolder under “Recipes”), but I couldn’t put that bookmark into both the “Vegetable” and “Soup” subfolders at the same time. On the other hand, I can tag that single bookmark with “recipes”, “soup”, “french”, “onion”, “vegetable”, and anything else I want.
So how is this flexible information useful? The two most obvious ways are through the Bookmark Organizer and the “AwesomeBar” (that I discuss in an earlier post).
The Firefox 3 Bookmark Organizer (now called the “Library”) can be accessed through the “Bookmarks” menu, and looks like this:
As in Firefox 2 you can browse around your bookmark folders here, if you have any:
What’s new is the ability to list bookmarks by tag. By expanding my “Tags” folder and clicking on “soup”, for example, I can get a list of all the bookmarks I have that have the “soup” tag. If a bookmark has a “soup” tag and also has a “recipes” tag, it will also show up in the “recipes” tag list:
Tags allow you to very quickly file a single bookmark in a bunch of different places, rather than having to create an exhaustive hierarchy of folders and file each bookmark carefully within that organizational structure. I find that this saves a ton of time and effort in the long-run, and makes it much easier for me to find my bookmarks later.
As I mentioned, tags are one of the things searched when you type words in the Location bar, like so:
If you want to read more about the new Location bar features (affectionately dubbed the “AwesomeBar”), check out my other post all about it.
Smart Bookmark Folders
Finally, there are Smart Bookmark Folders. These are basically “saved searches” that automatically update when you add new items matching that search to your bookmarks. So, if I create a “Soup recipes” Smart Bookmark Folder, any time I add a bookmark that has “soup” and “recipes” in the title or tag, it will automatically be added to my “Soup recipes” folder.
Creating a Smart Bookmark Folder is easy. First, do a search in the Bookmark Organizer, then click the “Save” button at the right hand side below the search bar:
That will prompt you to name your Smart Bookmark Folder, which I’m calling “Soup recipes”:
This adds a Smart Bookmark Folder called “Soup recipes” to my list of folders, with a nice purple folder icon indicating that it’s not just a regular folder. Now I can find all the results for a “soup recipes” search just by clicking on that folder, and new items will be included as they are added over time:
These new Bookmark features — Stars, Tags, and Smart Folders — in combination with the “AwesomeBar” have completely changed how I use and think about Bookmarks. Where once Bookmarks were my junk drawer, they’re now flexible and powerful enough to make a significant difference in how I use the Web every day.