Whether you're compiling research from around the web, saving your favorite sites for quick access or curating links that your friends, family and followers will enjoy, bookmarks are an integral part of any web browser, and a crucial tool for navigating the internet. And as our needs as web users change, so do the ways in which we create and use bookmarks.
This tutorial will show you the best bookmarking tools around, and teach you how to best use them to chronicle our journey across cyberspace.
The current state of bookmarks
There are two ways to save bookmarks: using your favorite browser, and using a web-based service. Most users tend to stick with browser-based bookmarking since it's already baked in, and has a dedicated button and keyboard shortcut for the task. With the latest versions of popular browsers like Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox, you can also sign in and have your bookmarks synced across your desktops and mobile devices using the corresponding apps.
Using Browser bookmarks
One of the benefits of using browser-based bookmarks is that is that it's an extremely simple system to use and make a habit of. Whether you're using Internet Explorer, Chrome, Firefox or Safari, you can save your active web page as a bookmark by hitting Ctrl/Cmd + D on your keyboard, or by clicking the bookmark button on the browser toolbar—usually a star, or in the case of Safari, a + symbol.
Organizing your bookmarks is a simple affair too—you can save your bookmarks into folders to make it easy to find them later, by choosing a folder in the bookmark dialog pop-up. To do so, open your Bookmark Manager (Ctrl/Cmd + Shift + O in Chrome, Ctrl/Cmd + Shift + B in Firefox), then right-click and select Add Folder/New Folder. Give your folder a name, and this folder will become available as a location to store your bookmark in, the next time you save a page.
Get around quickly with the Bookmarks Toolbar
Saving bookmarks to your browser also means that you can access them very quickly, thanks to the Bookmarks toolbar available in most browsers. This toolbar sits just below the address bar in your browser, and allows you to organize any bookmarks that you'd like 1-click access to at any time. Enable it in Chrome by hitting Ctrl/Cmd + Shift + B, and in Firefox, right-click the area around the address bar and select Bookmarks Toolbar. Save bookmarks you want to access quickly into the Bookmarks Toolbar folder and they'll appear here.
Supercharge your browser with Bookmarklets
You can also use the Bookmarks Toolbar to store bookmarklets , which are essentially bookmarks that can launch useful actions right from your browser, such as emailing the active page to a friend, showing the site's ranking on Alexa, grabbing a screenshot of the visible portion of the page and more. Here's a comprehensive list of some of the most useful bookmarklets from around the web.
Importing and exporting bookmarks
If you're moving to a new PC or browser, need a backup of your bookmarks before you reinstall your browser, or want to share all your bookmarks with a friend, you can safely export all your bookmarks to an HTML file. To do this, launch your Bookmarks Manager in your preferred browser. In Chrome, click Organize > Export bookmarks to HTML file, and in Firefox, click Import and Backup > Export bookmarks to HTML. Next, simply save your file to a location on your hard drive and you're done.
You can then email this file to anyone, save it to your backup hard drive or cloud storage, and even use it to import bookmarks into another browser. To do this, first launch your Bookmarks Manager in your browser. In Chrome, click Organize > Import bookmarks from HTML file, and in Firefox, click Import and Backup > Import bookmarks from HTML. Next, locate your file on your hard drive and click Open. You'll now have your bookmarks in your new browser with the same folder structure you created.
Syncing bookmarks across devices with your browser
If you're using a browser on your mobile device, you can take your bookmarks wherever you go. If you're using Google Chrome, Firefox or Safari (on Mac OS X) on your desktop, the easiest way to sync your bookmarks is to have the corresponding mobile browser installed on your mobile device.
Google Chrome (iOS and Android)
Launch Chrome on your desktop, click the hamburger icon at the right corner of your browser to and click Sign in to Chrome..., and log in with your Google account. Next, launch Chrome on your iOS or Android device and sign in to the mobile browser using the same Google account.
Once you're logged in , tap the humburger icon, select Settings from the menu. Next, tap on your email address and then enable Sync on the next screen, making sure Sync and Sync Everything are both toggled on in the options within. Your bookmarks should begin to sync and appear in the Bookmarks tab soon. in the folder Desktop Bookmarks.
Mozilla Firefox (Android)
Launch Firefox on your desktop, click the hamburger icon at the right corner of your browser to and click Sign in to Sync, and create an account with your email address, a password and your year of birth. Access your email to verify your new account by clicking the link in the email from Firefox Accounts, and then sign in to Sync in Firefox. Once you're logged in, click Manage and check Bookmarks under the Sync options that pop up.
To access your bookmarks, launch Firefox on your Android device, and sign in with your Sync account details. Tap the hamburger icon and select Settings. Tap Sync on the next screen and ensure that bookmarks are checked. Exit the Settings menu and tap Bookmarks on the empty New Tab screen, and you'll find all your bookmarks in the Desktop Bookmarks folder.
Note: in case you're logged in to Sync on both desktop and mobile and still don't see your bookmarks syncing, uncheck Bookmarks in the Sync menu on your mobile browser and check it again, and then hop back to the Bookmarks screen—it might take a few seconds, depending on how many bookmarks you've got.
Safari (OS X and iOS)
You'll need iCloud for this: on your Mac, launch System Preferences and then click on iCloud. Sign in to your account, and ensure Safari is checked in the list of apps to sync. On your iOS device, tap Settings > iCloud and ensure Safari is turned on here as well. Now, launch Safari on your device and click the bookmarks icon to view your synced bookmarks.
IE, Firefox and Chrome on Windows with Safari on iOS, using iCloud
You can also sync your bookmarks from Internet Explorer, Firefox and Chrome on your Windows desktop to Safari on your iOS device. You'll need iCloud Control Panel for this on your desktop, as well as the iCloud Bookmarks extensions for Firefox, and Chrome.
Download, install and launch iCloud Control Panel, and then sign in using your iCloud account. Next, check the box next to Bookmarks, and select the browsers you want to sync bookmarks with. Click OK, and then click Apply. In a few seconds, you'll have your bookmarks synced from your desktop browsers to Safari on your iOS device—find them by launching Safari and tapping the bookmarks icon.
Note: in case you can't see your bookmarks in Safari on iOS even after waiting a while, double-tap the physical Home button to view your running apps, close Safari by swiping up on its window preview and then launch Safari again. You should be able to see your bookmarks soon.
Web-based bookmarking apps
While browser bookmarks are easy to use, there isn't a whole lot you can do with them. A new crop of web apps allow you to save bookmarks using bookmarklets and extensions, and make them much more useful than when they're saved only in your browser—with features like visual previews for increased context, tags for enhanced sorting, lists for easy sharing and group curation, and more. Here are some of the best web-based bookmarking apps available today:
One of the very first web-based bookmarking apps, Delicious is all about tagging, sharing and discovering great content. With a dead-simple interface, extensions for Chrome and Firefox, as well as apps for iPhone, iPad and Android devices, this is a good choice for anyone looking for a basic, free bookmarking service.
One of the problems with bookmarks is that we often forget why we saved them in the first place. With an interface that's heavy on thumbnails and focused on lists, Kippt gives you a better look at your bookmarks than traditional textual bookmarking apps—helping you remember why you saved your pages in the first place.
Kippt is also great for curating links in groups, thanks to collaborative lists which allow you to invite others to contribute links. You can create both public and private lists, folders for lists, search, tags and engage with a vibrant community of users who share links publicly for you to discover. Kippt also supports importing your bookmarks from a range of browsers and services, and is available in both free and paid flavors, and can be accessed using a wide range of mobile and desktop apps.
Note: As our reader pointed out in the comments below, the Kippt team has moved on to a new project. Kippt will be kept running for the time being, but it might not be the best service to start out with since it's hard to say how long it'll be kept running.
If you'd like to keep your bookmarks to yourself and enjoy them in a fast, ad-free interface, Pinboard might be the service you've been looking for. Available only with a paid subscription (or a basic account for a one-time fee of around $10.39), Pinboard offers advanced features like permanent cache copies of all your bookmarks, full-text search of your saved pages and powerful tools to organize multiple bookmarks at a time. It's not the prettiest app out there, but what it lacks in looks, it makes up for in functionality.
Dropmark takes visual bookmarking a step further, adding website screenshots to every page you save, accommodating files you upload from your desktop and even offering playlist-like navigation through lists of bookmarks. This makes it a great choice for curating multimedia content—simply drag and drop audio and video files, add in YouTube videos and you've got a custom playlist that you can share publicly or privately—or use at your next party. Of course, it works with normal web pages too, and even text snippets if you need them, all in a neat grid view.
Dropmark is available for free with basic features, and also with a paid subscription at $5/month or $48/year with 50gb storage, custom domains, search and live comments.
Built with the sole purpose of helping you actually use your bookmarks, Unmark packs a beautiful interface that prompts you to categorize links by activity: read, watch, listen, buy, eat & drink, and do. This way, you don't have to bother with tags and folders—just look up an activity you have the time and energy for, and pick a bookmark that you actually want to check out.
While Unmark is available as a paid web app at just $12/year, it also has a free basic plan and even a free, open-source self-hosted version that you can install and run on your own server or web hosting space. It's perfect for personal use with a sensible feature set that won't get between you and your bookmarks.
Save clips from around the web with Evernote
If you're more interested in the content of a page than the link to it, Evernote's Web Clipper (available for Chrome, Safari, Firefox, Opera and Internet Explorer) is a great tool to grab images, text and screenshots with. You'll need a free or paid Evernote account (which also grants you access to one of the best note-taking tools on the planet, available for desktops, mobile devices and as a web app), and the Web Clipper extension, which shows up as a button on your browser toolbar.
Whenever you come across content you want to save for later on a web page, simply click the Clipper button in your browser toolbar to grab any text or images from that page, or even the entire page. You can even mark up the page with text and shapes before you capture it into Evernote. This way, you'll have a collection of content that you really want, instead of pages to go through just to find important bits of information.
Save articles to read later
If you bookmark pages just for the articles, it's a good idea to use one of the popular read-later services available on the web. These apps let you save pages just like any other web-based bookmarking tool, but strip out the ads and elaborate layouts and background graphics from pages, leaving you with only the article and image/video content you care about. Here are some notable apps to save articles with:
With a sleek interface, gorgeous apps for phones and tablets and an intelligent automatic categorization system, Pocket does it all. Use a bookmarklet or browser extension to save active pages and web videos to check out later—and even grab content from tweets containing links, using Twitter's web interface. Pocket's mobile apps are the real heroes here—they save your articles for reading offline, so you can get through your reading list while you're commuting, relaxing at a coffee shop, or killing time when you don't have an internet connection.
Pocket users get most of its top-notch features and the ability to save unlimited articles for free, but power users interested in advanced search, permanent caching and suggested tags can sign up for the Premium plan at $44.99/year.
Instapaper is a simple, elegant read-later app that offers a bunch of extra features that ardent readers will love: highlighting to save quotes from articles, integration with Kindle and The Feature, a curated collection of the best new articles to read from around the web. For $1/month, users can also enjoy full-text search for articles, unlimited highlights, and an ad-free experience on the Instapaper site.
If you use a bunch of devices and apps to find content, Readability might be the best choice for you—since it's integrated with Reeder for iOS and Mac OS X, Longform for iPad, Flipboard for Android and iOS, iCab Mobile browser for iOS, and a range of Twitter apps for iOS including Tweetbot and Twitterific, you can quickly grab articles to read in a clutter-free environment on your desktop or mobile devices.
Readability also lets you find and recommend articles to read, by sharing with its active community of users. And in case you're better at saving articles for later than actually reading them, don't worry—there's a neat Guilt Purge feature that lets you archive or delete articles older than a specified time frame. All this, for the great price of free.
Want to host your own read-later app? Give wallabag a try. You can install and run this free, open-source self-hosted solution on your own server with all the features you'd expect from a read-later service, and then some. The app itself is responsive and works great on mobile browsers, but you can also access it using third-party apps developed for iOS, Android and Windows Phone. Wallabag also supports a range of European languages and can host multiple users too.
That's a wrap! Hopefully you'll have found your own ideal bookmarking solution somewhere in this guide, whether you're into extensive online research, sharing the latest cat videos, or finding underrated artists for the ultimate listening party. Have a favorite app for saving and sharing what you find on the web? Let us know in the comments!