technofile template Put your bookmarks where you can find them

Bookmarks, I realized, are nothing more than fancy shortcuts.
Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously available online since 1983

Bookmark example.
LOOK CAREFULLY at the upper right. You'll see the mouse pointer dragging the address of this Consumer Reports webpage to the Bookmarks folder on the desktop.

Put your bookmarks where you can find them

June 17, 2012

By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2012, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2012, The Post-Standard

I used to hate bookmarks.

Back in the early days of the Web, I found bookmarks confusing and, worse yet, hard to find. When I saved a bookmark, I had no idea where it went. If I ever saw it again, I counted myself lucky.

I even tried "bookmark managers" without success. They just made things worse. For a while I blamed AOL -- yes, I was a charter member of AOL back in the '90s -- because America Online insisted on calling bookmarks "favorites." They certainly weren't MY favorite things.

Then I realized Microsoft was doing the same thing. You didn't have bookmarks in Internet Explorer, you had Favorites, with a capital F.

Bah! Humbug!

But my programming experience saved the day. One day as I was coding a macro for use in the newspaper's editing system, I suddenly felt supremely elated and horribly stupid at the same time -- elated because I finally understood bookmarks, and stupid because I also realized I had been missing the point, the simple point about bookmarks, all this time.

Bookmarks, I realized, are nothing more than fancy shortcuts. They're aliases. Hidden inside the tiny bit of text that makes up a bookmark is an address for a location on the Internet. It works exactly like a shortcut on my computer; hidden in a computer shortcut is an address for something -- a document, maybe, or a folder -- on the computer.

The coolest feature of a computer shortcut is that it's at home anywhere. It doesn't have to stay in one place. You can move a Start Menu item out onto your desktop or into a folder deep inside another folder called "Herby's Shortcuts" that happens to be hidden inside another folder called "Do I Need to Save This Stuff" -- and it will still work. It will still run the program its an alias for.

If you're following this so far, take a leap with me and apply the same logic to bookmarks. Do they seem hard to find in your browser's layers of bookmarks-within-bookmarks? Do they have nonsense names? Do they disappear every time you need to find one of them?

Eureka! Or something like that. Stop sticking bookmarks in your browser! Put them on your desktop or, better yet, in a folder on your desktop. Call it Bookmarks.

And how do you get them into that folder? With a swoosh. Or call it a slide. When you have a page open that you want to bookmark, click your left mouse button on far left part of the page's address (in the browser address line). Make sure the entire address is highlighted. If it's not, perform this step again. Then hold that button down while you drag the address out of your browser and onto your desktop. Practice it a few times.

After a little practice, you'll be able to drag the address right into that folder on your desktop. And once the bookmark is there, you can give it a sensible name. For my website's main page, why name name the bookmark "Al Fasoldt's site"? Don't accept the name that automatically shows up.

How do you rename something? If that's new to you, listen up. In Windows, click once on the item and press the F2 key. Then type a new name and press Enter. On a Mac, click once on the item and press the Return key. Then type a new name and press Return. (Note that there's no mousing around. Don't let your 14-year-old nephew try to tell you to rename by holding down the mouse button until something happens. Send him to the kitchen for a cookie.)

Later this summer, we'll look at another browser mystery -- the three big mistakes people make when they're downloading and how to avoid them.