Review: Xmarks works in various browsers and OSs to sync your bookmarks
By Jim Norris
At a Glance
Many browsers include sync
Security and privacy worries
Xmarks crosses the browser border to manage bookmark chaos. It works across Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Safari to make sure you never leave that important URL on a computer you can’t reach.
Most people use more than one computer these days. Various modes of transfer make managing documents easy, but what about your browser? The bookmarks you’ve spent years collecting often have to be transferred manually, via export file or email, to the other computer systems that you use, and each browser ecosystem has its own method of accomplishing this. It’s not a particularly elegant solution, and while OS and browser developers are taking steps to remedy this problem, LastPass has an answer for users today: the XMarks browser extension.
Xmarks started life as a product called Foxmarks, which it soared to popularity as one of Firefox’s premier add-ons. Despite the backing of Mitch Kapor and millions of users, Foxmarks had trouble building a sustainable business model based on the free plug-in, even after rebranding the service to its current title and expanding features. LastPass stepped in at the last moment, rescuing Xmarks from extinction as well as extending support to other platforms and adding new features. Future integration with LassPass’s password syncing and form completion software is planned as well.
Xmarks works by cloud-storing your bookmark files and synchronizing them between computers where the extension is installed and signed in. Setup isn’t complicated. The software installs directly into your browser, and the user ID registration doesn’t fish for personal data; the whole process takes 5 minutes. Several setup screens allow you to configure the additional services you want activated, including history synchronization, open tab restoration, enhanced site information and a rating system.
Synchronization options are robust, allowing for full merges or overwrites from the server or any linked workstation, automatic update on shutdown, private self-hosted servers and a built in backup system in case anything goes awry.
Merging bookmarks records is particularly useful for users who split time between desktop and laptop systems; it’s nice to have those research links you found during the weekend available without intervention on your desktop at work the next morning. It’s a convenience that’s easy to appreciate, especially if you use more than one type of browser. LastPass has produced Windows editions of Xmarks for Firefox, Google Chrome, IE, and a one for Safari for Mac OS X, all of which interoperate, so chances are good that your systems are covered.
Firefox performance was flawless, but issues arose with Xmarks on Google Chrome due to conflicts with Googles’s built-in browser synchronization process. Fixing this required disabling Chrome’s built-in syncing features, not an elegant answer but a functional one. Some users have raised privacy concerns about third-party hosting of such data and its possible use for marketing or other purposes. It’s a valid argument, but one that could be leveled at any similar service, and although they aren’t immune to mishap, LastPass has a better reputation than most in regard to customer protection.
Recommendation boils down to platform preference. If you tend to stick to a single ecosystem, using one or two computers and a single browser type, Xmarks doesn’t make a lot of sense. The built-in syncing functions that most major browsers include only work with other installations of the same software, however. If you use both Chrome and Firefox or swap between a PC and Mac, Xmarks starts to shine. Either way, it’s free, so give it a shot if you are curious.
Note: The “Try it for free” button on the Product Information page takes you to the vendor’s site, where you can download the latest version of the software appropriate to your browser and system.
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