21 July 2005

A bookmarks dream come true

I have three browsers on each of my systems - Internet Explorer (IE), Firefox and Opera. All of them have strengths in particular circumstances. One of them has to be the system default, though; and one would always be the primary information environment, where important bookmarks (or favourites) were stored.

Some time ago, I switched from IE to Firefox as my primary and default browser. I used it happily for some months. Then, in May of this year, my friend Geoff remarked casually in passing that “I lost all my web addresses ( Mozilla does this now and again! )” To which my reply was “It does? Not to me, it hasn't!” I went on using Firefox. But a month ago, in mid-June, it happened to me.

I rooted around to find out where Firefox keeps its bookmarks, so that I could restore the last backup. Uh-oh ... it's in the program folder, which is not backed up as often as my documents. Not the end of the world, on this occasion ... but it could have been disastrous. And that wonderfully convenient Firefox bookmark bar was one of my reasons for switching to Firefox, too... I stopped using Firefox as my primary default immediately ... which was a shame, because apart from slow startup it's a FAR better browser than IE ... but, however good it is, it's no use to me if it loses information. I rely on that bookmarked information to make my living.

I've now found a solution, and have gone back to Firefox. The solution is called Onfolio and it's amazing, wonderful, beautiful. It actually does much, much more than just manage bookmarks. In fact, the good folk who created it will probably tear their hair and bang their heads against the wall to hear me referring to it in this restricted context. But I will be reviewing it extensively in print in the near future, and will deal with its many other features at that time. For now, bookmarking is my particular concern and Onfolio would be a «must have’, worth every cent of its purchase price, just for the bookmark management alone.

It's as good and convenient and flexible as Firefox's built in bookmark bar. Even more so, in fact. You can divide your bookmarks or favourites into ‘collections’ if you wish; each collection is a single discrete file stored in a ‘My collections’ disk folder or directory . Within each collection, subdivide them into folders which can be nested at multiple levels exactly like those on a disk. Drag folders about and drop them in new places. Drag links in and out of folders to your heart's content. Save your current browser page to any folder in any collection with a mouse click or a press of the F9 key, and it will import existing favourites and bookmarks from your browser(s).

It can be opened as a separate window (either floating or 'docked' at one edge of the screen, even hidden from view until you run the mouse off the edge of the screen to call it up), in which case it will use your default browser. Or, you can install it as an integrated toolbar within each browser and it will operate as if it were the built in favourites/bookmarks tool of that browser when open. Or do both ... I have it within IE and also within Firefox, but also lurking just out of sight at the left edge of my screen as well, so it's always ready to hand.

It also keeps its files in a folder within ‘My Documents’, so they are automatically backed up with the rest of my work. I've never had a problem with losing them yet but, if I ever do, I can just restore them from a backup generation never more than an hour old. (If your backups are not that frequent, let me pass on recommendation of another must-have utility: FileSync, recommended to me in turn by lighting designer Steven Hawkins.)

The program comes in two ‘weights’: Personal and Professional. Check them both out. The professional version is a pure bargain if you have a use for its extra facilities; but the personal version will do everything I'm eulogising here.

It really is too sweet to be true. And at a whisker under US$30, it's a snip as well.

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