Dale Dietrich
friedman: always supply your comparative advantage
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Synchronize Firefox 3 Bookmarks with foxmarks

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foxmarks logo

[July 7, 2008 Update: I discuss the foxmarks beta version below. Foxmarks is now out of beta and available as a normal add-on for Firefox 3.  You can download it here.]

[May 2009 Update: Foxmarks is now named xmarks and can be downloaded here.]

Last year I became an enthusiastic user of Google Browser Sync (GBS). It effortlessly synced my Firefox bookmarks, passwords, browsing history and cookies across my several desktop and laptop computers.

When I tested Firefox 3, beta 4 in April I was saddened to discover that GBS didn’t work with Firefox 3. Mozilla has completely changed how the bookmarking system works in Firefox. As far as I can tell, Google has not announced plans to update GBS despite numerous bloggers and forum participants beseeching Google to do so (see for example here and here).
[July 7 Update: Google announced several weeks ago that it will no longer provide GBS for Firefox.]

Weave Didn’t Work for Me

So I downloaded Mozilla’s newest beta software, Weave, that promised to synchronize my bookmarks (latest version 0.1.28 available here – ars technica setup instructions here – poorly reviewed here – but working for this guy and this blogger). Despite hours of frustration I couldn’t get it to work – at all.

Lastly, I looked to foxmarks but, at the time, the Firefox 3 version was in private beta only.

So, without a means to synchronize my bookmarks and given the Firefox 3 ‘Open in Tabs’ Overwrite Bug that I previously wrote about, I fell back (tail between my legs) to using Firefox 2 – memory leaks and all.

Firefox 3 logo With the release of Firefox 3, RC1 I couldn’t wait any longer. I installed it expecting to use Firefox, for a time, without synchronized bookmarks – quite dispiriting given how I’ve become reliant on it for cross-system synchronization.

foxmarks for Firefox 3 Now Available in Public Beta

After installing Firefox 3, RC1 [Update: download current version here] I was happy to discover that a public beta for the Firefox 3 version of foxmarks was now underway. I installed it on my computers and it worked. It continues to work without incident across all of my Visa x64 and XP PCs.

Assuming you have installed Firefox 3 on each of your computers, all you need to do is sign up for a free foxmarks account here, login, download and install the foxmarks extension (available here – after sign up) into Firefox 3 on each of your computers.

Once installed you will need to configure it. There are only a few configuration steps. You’ll be asked whether you want to discard bookmarks from any of your  computers before your first sync or if you want to merge them all. Since my bookmarks were already synced with GBS it didn’t really matter which option I chose – I chose the merging option. Also, for test purposes, I added a couple bookmarks and deleted a few on various computers to see if the sync would work. The sync was perfect and has been perfect ever since.

Given that this is beta software, I strongly urge you to backup your Firefox bookmarks (as I did) before synching for the first time.

It takes less than a minute for the first synchronization (much faster than GBS was – but this could be because the bookmarks were already in sync – the heavy lifting had been previously done with GBS) and thereafter foxmarks keeps your Firefox 3 browsers’ bookmarks synced behind the scenes with no effort or further involvement. It just works.

Foxmarks does not synchronize passwords and history like GBS did but, as I understand it, plans are in the works to add these in future versions of the software.

Looking Forward

I may very well return to GBS in the future. I have standardized on several Google solutions including Google Apps (as my email and calendar host), synchronizing Gmail with Outlook 2007 using iMap and Google Calendar Sync to keep my Outlook 2007 calendar synched with Google Calendar. When the iPhone is finally available in Canada I’m hoping to sync my Firefox bookmarks with the iPhone browser. Given Google’s commitment to iPhone apps I wouldn’t be surprised if they are the first to make this possible.

In the meantime foxmarks the spot! :)

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