Better browsing with bookmarks

The biggest time-saving feature you’ll find in any Web browser is the ability to bookmark sites, providing a quick route back to places you visit frequently. Here are my favorite bookmarking tricks for Apple’s Safari ( ), Mozilla's Firefox ( ), and Google’s Chrome ( ).

Bookmark basics

All three browsers offer multiple ways to create bookmarks. The basic method is to use the Bookmarks -> Add Bookmark (Safari) or Bookmarks -> Bookmark This Page (Chrome and Firefox) command. A quick way is to drag the favicon—the little icon in front of the page’s URL—directly onto the bookmarks bar. Or, try this trick: drag a link on a page directly into the bookmarks bar.

If the bookmarks bar isn’t at the top of your browser window, select View -> Show Bookmarks Bar (Safari), View -> Always Show Bookmarks Bar (Chrome), or View -> Toolbars -> Bookmarks Toolbar (Firefox).

Remember Safari’s bookmark shortcuts

If you select Bookmarks -> Bookmarks Bar in Safari, you’ll see a submenu that lists everything on your bookmarks bar. The most important thing about this menu is that it shows Safari’s keyboard commands for the first nine items (excluding any folders), with the easy-to-remember shortcuts Command-1 through 9.

With a glance at your bookmarks bar, you’ll note the first four items easily and know what keys to press. But beyond that, you might have to stop to wonder “Is that the sixth or the seventh item?” If you have to count, it’s not a shortcut.

Instead, incorporate the number into the name of your bookmark. Go to the Bookmarks window by selecting Bookmarks -> Show All Bookmarks, and then click Bookmarks Bar in the sidebar. Click on one of first nine listed bookmarks to select it, and click again to make its name editable. (Don’t double-click, or the page will open.) Rename the bookmark with a leading number so you’ll know at a glance which keyboard command will trigger it. I like a character between the number and name rather than a space, but the bullet is too overwhelming; try the more subdued “middle dot” character available on Option-Shift-9.

In Mountain Lion’s Safari 6, you can skip the trip to the Bookmarks window and rename the bookmark right in the bar: click-and-hold on the bookmark name to activate it for editing, and then type the new name.

Safari bookmarks
You'll find it easier to remember Safari’s shortcuts to your first nine bookmarks if you incorporate the bookmark’s number into its name.

Access bookmarks with Firefox’s tags

When you start typing in a browsers’ location bar—or, as Mozilla calls it, the “Awesome Bar”—usually the app can save you time by suggesting matches from your browsing history. In other words, type mac and autofills the field. But Firefox takes this timesaver a bit further by also listing results from your tagged bookmarks.

Firefox tags
In Firefox, add or edit a bookmark tag in the popover that appears when you use the Bookmark This Page command or click on the star in the location bar.

A tag is a word or phrase that gets “attached” to an item—in this case, a bookmark—so you can search by the tag word rather than by part of the URL or a bookmark name. Apply the same tag to various pages, and you can list all of them through that tag rather than individually according to their names or content.

Add tags either when you create the bookmark or retroactively. When you use the Bookmark -> Bookmark This Page command, you can name the page, assign it to a bookmark folder, and add tags (separate multiple tag words and phrases with commas). Building a new deck? Bookmark pages about building materials, lighting, and contractors, and then tag them with the words deck and home projects.

To apply tags to existing bookmarks, go to the Bookmarks window, select the bookmark’s parent folder in the sidebar, click the bookmark in the list, and add tags to the Tags field at the bottom of the window.

When you want to review tagged pages, type a tag in the location bar to see a drop-down menu that lists everything associated with that tag. (It also includes anything in your browsing history that contains that word or phrase.)

Or, go to the Bookmarks window (Bookmarks -> Show All Bookmarks) and click on a tag in the sidebar to see the pages with that tag. If you misspelled a tag when you assigned it, here’s where you can edit it: click on the tag and edit the Tags field at the bottom of the window. Any page with the old tag is reassigned the edited version.

Firefox bookmarks tags
Type the keyword “deck” in Firefox's location bar to see a list of possible URLs. These include bookmarks you’ve tagged with that word even if the sites don’t include the term in the URL or anywhere on the page.

Squeeze more into Chrome’s bookmarks bar

If Google Chrome is your browser of choice, take advantage of one of its talents: it can use a page’s favicon (the URL icon) as the title for a bookmark. That allows you to squeeze more of your important items into a crowded bookmarks bar.

It couldn’t be simpler. First, use Chrome’s shortcut for creating a bookmark: when you’re looking at a page, click the Star icon in the location bar. Next, delete the name of the page entirely in the dialog box that appears. With the name gone, there’s nothing left to show except the favicon.

For a bookmark that already exists, use the Bookmarks -> Bookmark Manager command. In this window, click on the name of a bookmark to select it, press Return to activate the name for editing, and then delete the name.

Chrome bookmarks
Shrink a bookmark’s name down to the favicon alone to save room in your bookmarks bar. (How many of the icons that you see here can you identify?)

Mac author Sharon Zardetto would like a Safari-Firefox-Chrome mashup that would provide the special features from each.

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