Despite all the progress we’ve made with browsers, and despite the variety of choices we have at our disposal in Mac OS X, I still think that bookmark management is their weakest, most overlooked feature. But since things aren’t improving, I thought that maybe I could start rethinking my bookmark organisation on Safari, which is my main browser.
Back in May, I wrote:
The other day I was browsing all the bookmarks I saved in Safari since day one and, despite my repeated attempts to organise them, the whole picture is just a big, sad mess. Drastic times call for drastic measures, and the next move is indeed a bold one: I will erase my Bookmarks file and start anew. Of course, I won’t just throw everything into oblivion’s whirlpool and get rid of more than 6 years of accumulated links. I’m willing to carry out a preliminary step that is probably going to be painful and somewhat time-consuming, but I hope it’ll be worthwhile: sifting.
Then, after isolating a core base of links (mostly shortcuts to places I frequently visit on the Web), I’ll start again with a different approach to prevent this kind of almost uncontrollable growth. The goal is to use Safari’s Bookmarks Bar basically for bookmarklets, and to have there just a couple of bookmark folders: one for the aforementioned core base of links, another as a temporary parking space for bits and pieces I’ll use in future articles.
This post is basically an update on how this operation is proceeding. I still haven’t reached the minimalistic results I hoped for when I was writing that above, but during these past two months I’ve done most of the sifting, which is the hardest part.
This is a rather faithful representation of the Bookmark Bar’s layout when I set up the G4 Cube a couple of years ago and synced the Safari Bookmarks on my MacBook Pro to the Cube via MobileMe (but keep in mind that since then I’ve removed at least three bookmark folders plus another folder containing feeds):
While this is my current Bookmark Bar layout:
Visually, the bar may still appear full of stuff, but note that the first ten items are bookmarklets, 9 of which can be accessed easily and rapidly using the keyboard shortcuts displayed in the figure.
As I said, the goal of having just a couple of bookmark folders: one for the aforementioned core base of links, another as a temporary parking space for bits and pieces I’ll use in future articles is still a bit far, but not that far, and ultimately I may even be satisfied enough by the current layout. I’ve been using this bookmark configuration for a while and I’m noticing it’s quite effective, and a lot more effective than the previous situation.
As you can see, the number of bookmark folders is lower than before (12 against 17+4), but most of all the contents of each folder have been considerably trimmed and therefore now it’s much easier to navigate them (the Reads bookmark folder, for example, used to contain no fewer than 150 items — now they’re down to 25). I could reduce the items on the Bookmark Bar even more by grouping the direct links to Flickr (f), Tumblr, Twitter (T) and the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) into a single folder of most frequently accessed links, but I prefer having a faster access to each one of them and saving a click, rather than create a minimal Bookmark Bar just for visual tidiness, while sacrificing functionality. Also, now that Safari 5.1 comes with the Reading List feature, I’ll probably delete my ‘Ten Items or Less’ (10–) folder, in which I usually put the articles to read at a later date (no more than ten, as the name implies, so as to have things under control and avoid the Read It Later routine I mentioned back in May).
Back to the underlying sifting and cleaning process:
- I realised that I had kept a huge archive of bookmarks in Safari by examining the folders on the left-hand panel of the Show All Bookmarks window. These folders contained, among other things, leftovers from past imports, and a lot of duplicates. By following the principle that if you never use something, you probably don’t need it, I mercilessly deleted all that stuff.
- Then I examined the bookmarks in the Bookmarks Menu. Here again, I deleted never-revisited folders and links and moved in the left-hand panel of the Show All Bookmarks window all the items I rarely access but still want to preserve.
- Similarly, I moved the less frequented folders in the Bookmarks Bar to the Bookmarks Menu, and now the Bookmarks Bar is way cleaner and functional. Also, while before the Bookmarks Menu contained 87 items (subfolders + single bookmarks), now that number is down to 20.
If I had to make an overall estimate, I’d say that the whole number of bookmarks I have now in Safari is more or less 30% of what it was just 2 months ago, which — you’ll agree — is a remarkable improvement. I still have a lot of stuff to go through, but now at least the situation is manageable.