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Bookmarks - Remembering where you have been.

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For most people, bookmark lists of web sites will be as important as the address books they use in their private life. I remember how I felt when my bookmark file was destroyed in a crash, and I did not have a recent backup. It is worth while sorting out early on what you want to do with your precious bookmarks, and then looking at the best way to organize and protect them.

General Background

The usual start these days is via the bookmark facility in a browser : Bookmarks in Netscape Navigator and Favorites in Microsoft Internet Explorer. These provide a good introduction into organizing the web page URLs into folders and sub folders. This can lead to problems if you change browsers, but this is less of a problem with the newer browser versions. Whilst most people store their bookmarks this way, there is a fundamentally different approach which I will cover later.

If you are using earlier versions of Netscape you can improve the bookmark organization by moving to programs like SmartMarks, or Smart Bookmarks which is produced by the company responsible for SmartMarks. I have not tried the new version 4 browser, but reports suggest that it has improved its bookmark storage.

If you are now using Internet Explorer, you can convert any bookmarks you had in Netscape, into the equivalent set of folders in Favorites, and visa versa. The organization of Favorites in IE 3.0 is quite good, and IE4 is even better. Folders can be created and Favorites can be moved around between them. The big problem for systems with low memory is that Favorites take up far more hard disk space than the equivalent set of bookmarks.

A bookmark system has only one file which includes folders and bookmarks, and it just gets bigger. Favorites has one small file for every bookmark. Lots of tiny files tie up lots of hard disc sectors, losing lots of useful space on the disc. If this becomes a problem, move your Favorites file to a floppy or zip drive.

What I do

I wanted a flexible bookmark program which would work with any browser and I found PowerMarks. It is a small, stable, stand alone program which does its job simply and efficiently, but it needed a change in how I set up each bookmark. When you have a good folder system you don't worry too much about assigning keywords to bookmarks. Search engines go in the Search folder, Rock Music goes in the Music folder. It is simple. The system starts to break down when you have thirty or forty search engines, and you can't remember what is special about them. Then, where do you put that search engine that tells you who sings which song? Search or Music? It is just like the A - Z box file systems which we all use for recipes and addresses.

PowerMarks tackles the problem in a totally different way. It has no folders. It has one bookmark list and a simple, fast, keyword search engine. You can add bookmarks directly from your browser, and launch urls into the browser you nominate. Now I add as many keywords as I can to every bookmark so that I can retrieve it quickly whenever I need it by searching through the keywords.

For all the old surfers like me, this is like the punched cards and knitting needle filing systems which I used at university in the 60's.

PM imported all my Favorites, and Netscape bookmark files, automatically giving them keywords, freeing up valuable disk space. I now have almost 4000 bookmarks in PM, and I only keep a few bookmarks in my browsers. PM automatically copies any new ones from the the browsers when it starts up. The bookmark list is totally independent of the browser, and I can access any bookmark I want in seconds.

The latest version, Powermarks 2.0, has extended Boolean searching options for the text strings in the url, making it easy to find file names, domains, as well as keywords. Bookmarks can be ordered by date, so you can quickly find any you have added recently. It can also handle many separate bookmark files.

Any group of bookmarks can be exported in a range of formats, for easy display as web pages, or printing. This is a very useful function.

PowerMarks 3.0 is about to be released. It has have improved speed which is useful for large bookmark collections like mine, and easier access to all the keywords used in the collection of bookmarks.

In summary

Simple Bookmarks Programs should

  1. Be very stable and preferably have an automatic backup
  2. Allow editing of bookmarks which need updating
  3. Be independent of a browser or other application (for safety)
  4. Launch into any browser
  5. Enter bookmarks directly from the browser, emails or magazines
  6. Find all the bookmarks you have which are relevant to your query
  7. Find a specific bookmark quickly
  8. Back up your precious bookmarks to a floppy
  9. Ensure that your bookmarks can survive any program crash
  10. Share bookmarks with someone else
  11. Incorporate all or some of the bookmarks into documents
  12. Allow bookmarks to be displayed as a links/home page in a browser. (See below)
  13. Check to make sure your bookmarks entries are still valid

Recently lots of new bookmark programs have come out, mainly for 32 bit operating systems, so take a look at the programs which are available, and make your choice according to the factors which are most important to you. I have had no reason to try all of them, but let me know if you find something that you would like to share.

What else can you do with a bookmark program?

  • Save search engine queries by bookmarking the results page
  • Launch web page .htm files stored on your hard disc
  • Provide a filing/retrieval system for any of the files on your hard disc
  • Launch applications filed in your bookmark program

In other words they could help organise your PC files and applications.

List of Bookmark/Organizer Programs and related utilities

Here are some of the programs I have tried, and references to places where you can find even more program of this type. I think I have stopped looking.

MS Bookmark Conversion,
Convert Netscape Bookmarks to Microsoft Favorites. Freeware
Shortcut Assistant 2.0,
Converts Favorites into an HTML document (.htm). Freeware
Smart BookMarks 3.0,
Enhanced folder based bookmark program, which can now check that bookmarks are still valid, and also monitor and download sites to your hard disc.
A similar program contained in the Netscape Power Pack 2.0, along with other programs like virus protection etc. You may still find a copy of the bookmark program at one of the software archives.
QuickLink Explorer,
This program comes in three edition, freeware, Standard and Gold, ranging from a simple folder based system to one with many extra features including searching. It is based on the Explorer style layout. If you still want to use folders there is a lot to try out here.
PowerMarks 2.0,
Efficient, versatile, keyword search bookmark program. Compact, stable and can check that bookmarks are still valid. It is a much smaller download than the folder programs, and takes up less resources. The advanced Boolean search queries make it easy to find your bookmarks, and the many save options allow you to select groups of bookmarks for printing or use as web pages. As I said, I like small specialist programs which do what I want.,
has a large list of bookmark utility shareware programs for Windows95
Dave Central,
A large list of 16 and 32 bit bookmark utility shareware programs
TuCows - UK mirror
Search ZDNet's hotfiles for other bookmark programs

In the last few months, much of the software development has switched to monitoring changes in the pages in your bookmark lists, and downloading copies of them to your hard disk, where you can browse them off line. This is discussed on the Off line Browser and Monitoring page. . Some of these programs also have bookmark files, but this is usually to catalogue the downloaded sites.

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Roger Trobridge, The Internet Gopher, .