Xmarks Beta is a fantastic little piece of software. I started using this when it was called Foxmarks. Back then it only worked with the Firefox internet browser. Now it has been renamed Xmarks and it works with Internet Explorer and Apple's Safari, as well as maintaining the Firefox compatibility.
The software is so simple in its function, but the purpose it serves it faultless. Basically, you install Xmarks (which is free by the way). Then you set to surfing the internet. We all know the power of bookmarks. You find an interesting website or page and you bookmark it for later use. At a set interval, Xmarks sends your bookmark data up to your account in the cloud. Then when you jump onto your laptop, you want to have access to all those useful bookmarks from your desktop computer. Well, Xmarks synchronises all your bookmarks and downloads them to your laptop. This is fantastic.
So, with this software you can have easy access to all your bookmarked websites. Whether you are using a desktop or laptop, Windows based PC or Apple Mac, Xmarks does a stunning job. Throughout my time using it, I have never experienced any errors. Installing is simple. You really couldn't ask for more.
One of the biggest annoyances with my very frequent use of use Internet Explorer favourites and Firefox bookmarks is the backing up and synchronizing of these items. Just in case you are totally new to web browsers I will quickly explain what these are - when you visit a site that you want to keep a record of you add them to our favourites/bookmarks depending on which web browser you use. I own a couple of computers at home and use a couple of computers at work and on these I have both Internet Explorer and Firefox. Until I came across Xmarks it was always a case of eight (one on each web browser remember) very different lists of my favourite sites and ones I wanted to remember to visit in the future.
Not only did I have a problem with all these different lists, each time I replaced my computers or had a full system crash I had nearly always forgotten to back these up. Sometimes I actually remembered to use the File, Import Export option in Internet Explorer but again it didn't take long to have a mix of different versions.
I tried using "Delicious" for some time and maybe this is worth a review sometime but basically I didn't get along with it (although for reference you can import "Delicious" saved bookmarks). I then stumbled across an add-in for Firefox called "Foxmarks". At the time this synchronization tool was only available for Firefox but was re-launched this year as "Xmarks" with added support for Internet Explorer and Safari on the Mac. Millions of people have now downloaded and used this tool.
As I have said the main point of Xmarks is to be able to synchronize your bookmarks (or favourites in Internet Explorer) between multiple computers and web browsers. An added feature of Xmarks in Firefox (but not in IE and Safari) is the synchronization of stored user name and passwords. Also included is "Site Suggestions" and "Smarter Search" Again I will cover this in the review.
Firstly one of the key differences with Xmarks for Firefox and Internet Explorer is the feel of the utility. Xmarks for Internet Explorer looks and feels more like a Windows service. Anytime you access Xmarks from within Firefox you are doing it from within the browser. The Internet Explorer icon however is accessed from the system tray within Windows itself. But either way it works just as well.
So let's take a look at how this works when installed. The first thing to do is synchronize one of your browsers to the Xmarks server on the Internet. A point here is that you can actually host your own internal Xmarks server. This may be useful to companies who want to sync browsers without connecting to or trusting the Internet. You then have a choice of whether you want to sync to the server, from the server or merge the two together. Eventually after running this process on each of your computers or web browser you will get a fully synched version of your bookmarks on each machine. If you may want to organize your bookmarks you can also do this centrally via a web browser by logging into the Xmarks site. So you can still get to your bookmarks even if you are on somebody else's computer or in an Internet Cafe for instance.
One useful feature is also to create profiles with your bookmarks as a subset. For instance you may not want all of your work and home bookmarks to be mixed and available on all computers and browsers. Xmarks comes with predefined "Work" and "Home" profiles so you just choose which sites you want in these and only sync this part to the computer. Another predefined profile "mobile.foxmarks.com" is used and optimised for mobile phones.
You can actually share your bookmarks by posting them to a web page. Again this can be done through the Xmarks web site.
So really that's its for the synchronization. It really is quite simple. If that wasn't good enough already though Xmarks does include some extra features. Firstly there is "Smarter Search" - this allows you to get some basic information about a site before opening it. For instance when you do a Google search an you get an icon next to the result for each site that when clicked shows you a basic screen shot from the site, reviews of the site and where it is ranked in different categories.
A couple of other features seem to be included in the Firefox version only at the moment.
When you open a site in Firefox with Xmarks installed you also have an option to "Get Site Info". This gives you a basic description of the site and also gives you its top 5 suggestions for similar sites - for instance going on Facebook suggested Twitter, MySpace etc. This is actually really useful for discovering new sites.
The final and perhaps most useful extra tool and again only available in Firefox is the synchronization of passwords. I should add actually that the Internet Explorer version of Xmarks has this as "coming soon". If you use Firefox you will know that when you log into a web site that requires a username and password you get an option to save this information. If you look in Tools, Options, Security, Save Passwords.. you will see this information. What Xmarks can do is synchronize this between your different computers. To keep this secure you not only need to log into Xmarks but create a PIN to upload/download the passwords. This is then 256 bit encrypted for security. Again I find this a really useful tool and look forward to it working within Internet Explorer too.
So that's it really. I have to say Xmarks does exactly what it promises and a little bit more and has certainly made my multiple computer/browser life much easier.