I’m not brand loyal when it comes to browsers. I like Firefox’s extensive selection of plug-ins and Google Chrome’s omnibox that combines Google search and a URL address bar. So I use both, on two separate Macs. I also use Safari on my iPhone and iPad and the standard Google browser on two Android devices.
Such a setup is a recipe for bookmark chaos, of course. That’s where Xmarks comes in.
Xmarks, by LastPass, is a Web-based service that, when combined with iPhone/iPod touch, Android, or BlackBerry Xmarks apps, does essentially two things:. It syncs bookmarks between multiple browsers, multiple computers, and multiple mobile devices; and it backs up those bookmarks on its servers in the cloud. And Xmarks does these things quite well.
The premise is a simple one, but it makes a big difference. For example, Firefox on my iMac is the browser I use most—the mother ship where all my bookmarks live. Because of Xmarks, those same bookmarks, organized in their same folders, are there when I launch Chrome on my MacBook Air. Xmarks makes living in a multi-device world much easier.
Xmarks’ desktop syncing features are available in its free service. For $12/year, Xmarks Premium adds the ability to sync desktop bookmarks with the free Xmarks iOS, Android (see screen shot below), and BlackBerry apps. Plus, it lets you sync open tabs, so that if you’d been reading a CIO.com article on your desktop, you can easily get back to it using Xmarks on your mobile device. You also need the Premium service to use Xmarks’ Backup & Restore feature.
There are limitations, however. Xmarks doesn’t actually sync your desktop bookmarks with your mobile browser bookmarks. On your mobile, you have to launch the Xmarks app, find the link you want and then click it. The page then opens up in your device’s browser. But the issue isn’t a big deal, all things considered.
Also, Apple has a workaround for this problem. You can sync your Xmarks bookmarks with Safari on your computer and then sync those bookmarks to iCloud and/or to your iPhone, iPod touch or iPad via iTunes. This works, but I’ve found that not all my Safari bookmarks make it onto my iDevice, for whatever reason.
I’ve used Xmarks Premium for several years to organize (as much as possible) my digital life. It’s $12 well spent.
James A. Martin is a seasoned tech journalist and blogger based in San Francisco and winner of the 2014 ASBPE National Gold award for his CIO.com blog. He writes CIO.com's Living the Tech Life blog and is also a content marketing consultant.