Some thoughts on bookmark management

For my work I have to read a lot and stay up-to-date. I have to read books to improve my (technical and non-technical) writing. And I have to read many online resources to improve my technical writing and my skills when I translate a book or article or a whole website. And then there is a lot of stuff I simply enjoy reading. Therefore one application I always keep open on my Mac is the browser. The two browsers of choice on all my systems are Safari and Camino, although I have also installed others, like Firefox, Opera, OmniWeb, Shiira, Sunrise, not to mention Lynx. I like to try many browsers because I think that limiting the surfing experience to just one, no matter how good it may be, is simply not enough. And when it comes to bookmarks and bookmark management, it definitely isn’t.

Generally speaking, bookmark management on the major browsers for the Mac is — with the possible exception of OmniWeb — remarkably insufficient. Considering the huge amount of bookmarked websites I have amassed so far, I wish my browser(s) could be a little more helpful with the organisation and, well, the browsing of said multitude of bookmarks. All browsers have a separate window for managing bookmarks, usually divided in two areas. On the left there’s a sidebar with bookmark folders hierarchy and other useful groupings (like History, Bookmarks Menu, Bookmarks Bar, RSS Feeds etc.). In the main window there’s the actual bookmark listing, with columns for title, address, and so on. In this regard, I’m surprised by the lack of options provided by Safari. The only things you can do in Safari’s bookmarks window is adding a folder and searching the bookmarks repository with the search field in the upper right corner.

What I’d love to find in a browser, especially in Safari:

  • More sorting options. Safari doesn’t really have sorting options. At least Camino provides arrangement by Location (ascending/descending) and by Title (ascending/descending), which is fine. What about arranging by number of visits? I could have an instant overview of my browsing habits, and take notice of sites I haven’t visited in a while, for instance. Thus, I could pay a visit to those neglected sites and decide whether I’m still interested in keeping them or not.
  • A more flexible Bookmark Bar. I think it would be interesting and useful to be able to change sorting options directly in the Bookmark Bar, by adding those options to the contextual menu that appears by Option-clicking the various bookmark groupings added in the bar. In Safari’s Bookmark Bar I have an item named “Interesting readings” and its contents have been growing and growing, reaching more than 100 links. I have manually arranged this list so that I have the most frequented blogs on top, but this way I tend to neglect many others. I imagine a contextual menu with sorting options like “Alphabetically (A to Z)”, “Alphabetically (Z to A)”, “Most visited first”, “Less visited first” and “Custom” — the latter allowing me to revert to my manual order.
  • Borrowing the playlist metaphor.Safari’s bookmark management window is quite similar to iTunes’ interface. Why not extend the playlist metaphor to bookmarks? Consider this part of iTunes’ left panel:

     

    iTunes playlists.png

     

    Why not have a similar portion in Safari’s bookmark window, with folders such as “My top rated”, “Recently Added”, “Recently visited” and “Top 25 most visited”? That could be useful when searching and accessing bookmarks, especially sites I recently added but perhaps misfiled. Camino sports at least a Top Ten List in its bookmark management window.

  • Smart bookmark folders. This would be a real plus when searching and organising the bookmark archive, especially a huge one like mine. If it were possible to add information to each bookmarked site (like in other browsers such as Firefox, Camino and OmniWeb) and have a sort of “Spotlight comments” or “Keywords” field, then it would be easy to create smart bookmark folders according to specified search criteria (all poetry-oriented sites, all design-oriented sites, all Newton-related sites, all online newspapers, and so on).
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    These are the first suggestions coming to mind. I know there are some third-party applications for bookmark organisation and synchronisation, but it would be nice if these features were built in the browser. I don’t understand why bookmark management is so overlooked and underdeveloped. Not only should a browser help in finding and reading information, but also in managing and fine-tuning all the information one decides to retain. Some of these suggestions have been sent to Apple via its Mac OS X feedback page. I’m not holding my breath, of course, but I thought it was worth a try.

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    About Riccardo Mori

    Writer. Translator. Mac consultant. Enthusiast photographer. • If you like what I write, please consider supporting my writing by purchasing my short stories, Minigrooves or by making a donation. Thank you!