Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Flock first impressions: problems with bookmarks - and a workaround

I just installed Flock, the new Firefox-based social web browser on my computer and had a moment to take a look what it has to offer. I won't go into details since many others have reviewed it elaborately already. I'll just say that with nicely integrated viewing and posting to Flickr (a Yahoo service), synchronizing favorites (they are not bookmarks as I'll explain below) with del.icio.us (another Yahoo service), and easy blog posting to a set of blog services gives a first impression that Flock would be a nicely designed system that offers a no-hassle set of basic yet important tools for the modern people of the web2 era.

As said I haven't used Flock many hours but it was not needed to run into a major problem. Or at least I though so at first.

The problem, as it seemed to me, was that when Flock imported my (couple of thousand) bookmarks which I've carefully organized into folders and subfolders with all kinds of separators and everything (even the order of the bookmarks is important to me) Flock simply dumped all of the folders into one level thus loosing the fine-tuned hierarchy that I had built over the years.

As if this wasn't enough I soon after realized that even though Flock browser is based on Firefox Flock favorites don't support
1) keywords (which you can use as shortcuts in firefox, which I use probably at least 75% of the time when navigate the web) and
2) just as bad, it seemed that it didn't have quick search strings either.

On top of these two deficiencies Flock also had major problems with the amount of bookmarks I fed it: Opening the favorites manager [*] made Flock unresponsive for minutes. As the favorite manager was useless for deleting the favorites the next easiest way to get rid of them was to remove the Flock favorite file (flock_favorites.rdf) from the Flock profile folder [*] (Flock seems to recreate a new empty favorites file on startup if the file is missing).

Naturally I was a bit surprised and not very happy about this discovery. After all one major issue in Flock was supposed to be the handling of bookmarks/favorites. A little searching at Flock forums proved that I wasn't alone with my problem. Flock has acknowledged users needs (sic!) but there's still no official solution for the bookmark issue(s).

For my needs I came up with a work-around, which might also be useful for other Firefox users (or Opera, or whatever proper browser that has keywords or even quick search capabilities) who would like to try out Flock but who don't want to leave behind their bookmarks. The quick fix builds on the point that even though Flock has built is own (poor) favorite system it still has the Firefox bookmarks integrated. It struck me when jsuplido commented that he had found out the address of the bookmarks manager [*] to manage the the quick searches. So I learned that Flock actually does have quick searches just like Firefox, which makes sense. It just stores them in the bookmarks.html file in stead of the Flock favorites file, since the favorites lack the keyword field.

Now, since Flock has reinvented the bookmarks by naming the bookmarks favorites (like Microsoft has called them for years) and by dumping keywords (i.e. shortcuts)--one of the most useful little innovations in the history of bookmarks, I say--it's no wonder that Flock doesn't tout the possibility to use the PlainOldBookmarks even though they're built in the system.

But jsuplido reveiled that you can bring up the bookmarks manager by just typing chrome://browser/content/bookmarks/bookmarksManager.xul into the address bar (after which you can make it a favorite into the favorite toolbar).

To wrap up the issue I just needed to really import my Firefox bookmarks into Flock -- and not just corruptingly convert them into Flock favorites.

The easiest way to dd this was to simply copy Firefox's bookmarks.html file from Firefox profile folder [*] and paste it over Flock's bookmark.html file in the Flock profile folder [*] (when Flock is not running I suggest). And then run Flock. Now all my Firefox bookmarks are nicely in Flock and I can easily manually add to Flock favorites the ones I want to have online or share with others. AND most importantly I can continue using my bookmark keywords and quick searches as ever before.

Problem solved!

EDIT: Flock's blog posting tool does seem to be in need of at least some recaliberation. That is I'm blaming Flock for the uneven line spacing of the post :)


[i] Flock favorites manager: chrome://browser/content/flock/favorites/favoritesManager.xul
[ii] Flock bookmarks manager: chrome://browser/content/bookmarks/bookmarksManager.xul

The profile folder paths (in my system) are:
[iii]C:\Documents and Settings\[user]\Application Data\Mozilla\Firefox\Profiles\6uoj5qc5.default
[iv] C:\Documents and Settings\[user]\Application Data\Flock\Browser\Profiles\wxz8e1w1.default

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Monday, January 22, 2007

Snap Preview Anywhere is neat

Just bumped into Snap.com, which has a nice link preview system. If you put your mouse cursor over a link on a snap enabled page you'll see a floating preview of the linked page. That is, in most cases, e.g. when the snap search engine (which is pretty neat too) has a preview of the linked page in its system.

Easy to add to Blogger, avaible for other major blog systems, too.