As we work and play online, it's inevitable that we end up with bookmarks spread across multiple notebooks. Enter Xmarks (formerly known as Foxmarks), a browser add-on that lets you keep your bookmarks (and passwords, for Firefox users) in sync on any computer.
Installation and Setup
We installed Xmarks' 21.6MB application file onto three computers: an Apple MacBook with Safari 4, a Gateway P-7808u FX notebook with Internet Explorer 8, and a Dell desktop with Firefox 3. After installing it on the P-7808u FX, we launched Internet Explorer 8; on the Xmarks site, we were prompted to create an account, and seconds later the site asked us how we'd like to sync our bookmarks. You can choose to send your bookmarks to Xmarks' server so that you can access that particular set on any PC, or choose to merge them with bookmarks from other computers on which you have Xmarks installed to create a unified list. The former option is ideal if you have a dedicated circle of sites that you rarely deviate from; the latter is great if you're a mad bookmarker with a constantly expanding library. We chose the second option.
Bookmark and Password Sync
We also installed Xmarks onto a Dell desktop running Firefox 3. Instead of being a separate application, as it is with BookmarkSync and Internet Explorer 8, Xmarks is a plug-in that lives in the lower-right portion of the browser (Xmarks for Internet Explorer is located in the lower-right portion of the taskbar). Despite the slightly different positioning, both icons perform the same actions when clicked, and one offers no advantage over the other.
Once we signed in, any sites added to one browser appeared almost instantly after we initiated a sync in another browser. Clicking the taskbar icon on the Gateway P-7808u FX let us tinker with options (such as changing the syncing method as described above), but we would've liked the ability to launch favorited sites from there, a function that BookmarkSync can perform.
By visiting my.xmarks.com, we were able to create individual profiles that allowed us to cherry pick which sites to sync to a particular computer. For example, we created a Work category, made it our default profile, and were then able to sync only those profiles to the other computers on which we had Xmarks installed. Xmarks also worked flawlessly when we installed the software onto a Mac mini so that we could sync our Safari 4 favorites. As with BookmarkSync, you can back up and restore bookmarks.
Logging into my.xmarks.com also comes in handy when you want to access your bookmarks from a computer that doesn't have the application installed. It utilizes a very basic blue-and-white interface that displays your favorites folders vertically. Across the top are buttons that let you add, delete, search, and share bookmarks.
The built-in password sync feature allowed us to create a PIN to sync site passwords across our various computers, which can come in handy for those who need to remember a number of different logins. Although this feature is turned off by default, you can easily activate it under the Sync menu. Then you enter a password into a site as you normally would. On your second computer, you must also activate the password sync feature and input your PIN. After those steps are completed, you can log in to any of your frequently visited sites without inputting your password; the fields will be automatically filled in when you arrive. Unfortunately, this feature is only available in Firefox 3.
Unlike the IE version of Xmarks, which is only compatible with Windows XP and Vista, XMarks' for Firefox will work on Linux, Mac, and Windows machines. Although we were pleased with Xmarks' Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Safari compatibility, BookmarkSync actually works with more browsers (Netscape and Opera).
Smarter Search and Web Site Discovery
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Xmarks' Smarter Search feature (compatible with Firefox and IE) takes advantage of crowd-sourcing to add a level of relevance to Google searches. When you perform a search, Xmarks highlights its top Google search results for your query, based on how many Xmarks users favorited a particular site. For example, typing "netbook" into Firefox's built-in Google search engine returned a long list of sites, but an orange icon showed us which were the ones that Xmarks singled out as being the best for our query. Although it wasn't the first of the overall netbook results, the netbook Wikipedia page was the one that Xmarks recommended we check out (though suggested sites change frequently based on user input).
A small Xmarks logo in the far right portion of the address bar provides an excellent way to discover related content. When we were reading headlines at CNN.com, for example, clicking the Xmarks icon opened a drop-down list that recommended we check out ABCNews.com, MSNBC.com, NYTimes.com, and others.
Overall, Xmarks is fast, easy to use, and offers a useful Smarter Search feature that may help you find the information you're looking for faster. We're a little bummed that the Smarter Search feature doesn't work within Safari as it does in Firefox and IE, but Xmarks' password sync (for Firefox 3) and ease of use provide a seamless solution for accessing all your bookmarks across multiple PCs.