Delicious is a great web-based bookmark site where you can easily categorize and find a bookmark via tags. It also has a number of social features for sharing and discovery. Or, it used to be.
Delicious was owned by Yahoo! until April 2011. Since then the service has become slower, constantly logs me out, and changes my default sort order to count (even though I repeatedly set it to alpha). For these reasons and the fact I’m not using it for its social aspects, I decided to move away from it.
I know I wrote about it recently, touting its benefits, as part of the Breaking from Google Series here. The writing was recent, I actually did the move some time ago but wanted to present it as an option for migration because it could still be great if they fix a few problems. It’s still a great idea, but I think it’s having tremendous growing pains.
A while after migrating to Delicious, I found myself once again looking for alternatives. I looked at a few different bookmark sites and was not impressed with any of them. None work like I want them to. My main criteria is ease of access, and portability so they can be accessed across multiple devices regardless of platform. I don’t need a lot of bells and whistles and would like them available online and offline.
Since I use Apple products, part of the solution was staring me in the face – iCloud with Bookmark synchronization. It works great to keep an organized (via folder) list synchronized across all my Apple devices. Though there is one trick to setting them up so they are easily traversable under Safari on iOS. More on that in a bit.
This will sync bookmarks across all iOS Safari, OSX Safari, and with Firefox (Chrome or IE) on a Windows device. It uses iCloud to manage the OSX and iOS synchronization. It uses XMarks to manage the synchronization from OSX to Windows.
XMarks is a web-based bookmark synchronization tool. By itself it is nothing special, to me. Its power lies in its browser extensions which allow synchonization not only between browsers, but also between different browsers on different operating systems. This company nearly fell into obscurity but was saved via purchase by LastPass in December 2010.
The data transfer path is as follows:
iOS <-> iCloud <-> OSX <-> XMarks <-> Windows
So if you add/delete/change a bookmark on iOS, you must open Safari on OSX to get the changes to propagate to Windows, and vise-versa. OSX is the go-between where both iCloud and XMarks run. XMarks does have an iOS solution but it is not free.
To get the structure to replicate and where it’s easy to navigate, you have to create it in a certain way. From an OSX desktop running Safari, organize bookmarks so they appear under Bookmarks Menu when you view “Bookmarks > Show All Bookmarks” (should be the 3rd item down). They can be organized into folders and subfolders however you like, but must appear under the “Bookmarks Menu”.
Once organized there, they will appear (as you organized them) under the Bookmarks menu.
When viewing the bookmarks in Safari on an iOS device, you must select the bookmark icon, then “Bookmarks Menu”. Safari will remember this the next time you open bookmarks. You can use the breadcrumb to navigate backward if needed. Safari displays it slightly differently between iPhone/iPod and iPad. Safari uses a drop down on the iPad because there is enough screen real estate.
Awesome! We now have bookmarks synchronized across Apple devices, but we also want to synchronize that list to a Windows PC running Firefox (or IE or Chrome). That’s where XMarks comes in.
On the OSX desktop Mac, install XMarks from http://www.xmarks.com. It should prompt to run the installation wizard. If you don’t have a free account, create one. When prompted, select the option to sync bookmarks from local to server (Safest).
Open Safari and go to http://my.xmarks.com, login if needed. Validate you see your bookmarks. If you don’t, open System Preferences > XMarks > General and click “Synchronize Now”, then refresh the browser page showing my.xmarks.com and validate the bookmarks are there.
On the Windows PC running Firefox (or Chrome or IE), install the appropriate XMarks browser extension or application. Before running through the setup, make sure you don’t have any bookmarks that are already in your synchronized bookmark list. Run through the setup wizard and select Merge data (preserve server).
On the Windows PC, open the browser and validate the bookmarks are present just as you did on the Mac by logging into my.xmarks.com.
This introduces one small annoyance which can easily be ignored. XMarks will pull in a few bookmarks like “Recently Bookmarked”, “Recently Tagged”, and “Bookmarks Toolbar”. They will populate across all the devices. Just ignore them, or use them if they suit you.
Now as you add and remove bookmarks and they will populate across devices!