It’s November, 2014. Bookmarks look a bit different than yesterday.
“Oh boy”, you might say, “the new Bookmark Manager for Chrome has finally arrived!”
Let’s see what has improved since the “old” version. Clicking the Star (Add to Bookmarks) gives us a new popup:
Ok…let’s navigate into Add to folder. Here’s where things start to get prickly…
…so what happens if we click the little arrow next to the Bookmarks bar folder above?
We get a tiny list of Bookmark folders to scroll through, or a button to View All Bookmarked Items.
Come on Google, still no filter box for quickly finding a folder to add a bookmark to? Still no option to sort all folders including their sub-folders alphabetically?
But good thing I can change the banner to an uglier one:
To Infinity, and Beyond
At a minimum, bookmark managers should grant users the ability to find and manage a massive amount of bookmarks elegantly. Otherwise, what exactly do they manage?
Honestly, all I want from a bookmark manager are these few things:
- Adding a new bookmark to a folder quickly.
- The ability to locate a bookmark or folder quickly.
- Sorting all bookmarks in one step.
Adding a filter box for narrowing down folders/bookmarks by keyword would solve #1 and #2. As for #3…it’s not difficult, just implement that already!
Here’s what I don’t need:
- A Tumblr-like wall for showing off my bookmarks.
- Scrolling through a loooooong list of folders, or page of bookmarks, to find stuff and rediscover older things.
- Several clicks through menus or screens to perform any kind of bookmark operation.
- Manual sorting only. Newly added bookmarks and folders should stay in alphabetical order, if that’s the setting I chose before.
Chrome’s new Bookmark Manager satisfies none of these things. They’ve updated the styling of the UI and the presentation of bookmarks – see card layouts and quicksand animation. Basically they made it prettier without enhancing any functionality.
It’s as if they are re-inventing the wheel by developing a CMS around bookmarks, similar to WordPress or something. If so, why not implement the features which make a CMS useful, such as tagging and frequently used tags, publishing a set of bookmarks, sharing with a set of users, related bookmarks, trends, analytics, etc?
Worse, it’s as if Google is becoming increasingly disconnected with their end-users. In that case, I don’t have a problem publishing a few constructive criticisms. Maybe they don’t get enough feedback? Maybe they don’t care? Maybe the way I use bookmarks is negligible compared to most users? Maybe they want to stick ads in your bookmarks too? Maybe their agenda is even more top secret 🙂 One can only speculate at this point.
Consider the Pin It Button extension for Chrome, which adds a Pin It button to any image on the web that will post it to one of your Pinterest boards. Elegant and straight-forward! It’s what a user experience should be like.
Either way, I hate to see software evolve like this – shinier buttons, fancier animations, and random new features nobody needs (a bookmarks wall, auto-folders, bookmarking notes/images, quicksand). Despite all this shiny chrome, my first impression is lackluster. I get it, one day people will have the ability to bookmark things across the web and share it all, as if it was their WordPress, Tumblr, Instagram or Facebook, but we already have this technology today and it’s not really why I bookmark things in the first place.
We’re seeing the bookmark, the favorite, and the like button being treated as the same idea. They’re not the same, and the result of treating them as such isn’t pretty.
Google already has personalized search, so if that’s turned on, why not show a user’s related bookmarks right next to their Google search results? This would effectively allow users to manipulate their own search results somewhat, simply by bookmarking things. If that gets too confusing for users, split Google Search (for internet) and Google Search (for private user data) into two distinct portals.
What about Google Notebook? At one point I was using that for bookmarks, but they killed it off. Seems they just can’t get bookmarks right.
Is there an alternative?
For what it’s worth, I’ve also tried the popular bookmark extensions for Chrome such as Xmarks and YAGBE. I’ve also tried cloud bookmarking services such as Delicious and Google Notebook. Nope, these don’t fit the bill either.
Bypass the Bookmark Manager for Increased Productivity
It’s no wonder I’ve already resorted to using plain old file-system folders for my bookmarks, paired with Dropbox or Google Drive for syncing them between several computers. With this method I can easily store notes, images and bookmarks along with any other files in whatever folders I want, sort them by any property via a single click, or move/copy them around into various active projects that I’m working on for reference. I can have a bookmark stored in three folders at a time, if it pertains to three different projects I’m working on. It’s nice having this extra flexibility for incorporating bookmarks into my various workflows, which can’t always be said about bookmarks stored in the browser/cloud. I no longer rely on the cloud as a permanent location for this data; it’s all synced (backed up) across multiple computers and stored offline indefinitely, organized into folders for maintaining the bookmark’s original purpose and context.
A tree-view and a search box is what every Bookmark Manager should have for adding and navigating bookmarks.
Finally, it looks like the new Bookmark Manager in Chrome is nearly identical to the Opera 25 Visual Bookmarks feature. Which happens to look a lot like Dewey. Which happens to look a lot like Tumblr, Pinterest, and the number of other visual bookmarking services since 2011. Trends are trends, days become weeks, and eventually we’ll have new ones.
Did the over-abundant usage of “they” come off as biased? No worries, that was intentional, this is a criticism piece after all, opinions and nothing more. Not to outdo what others have already said in the past, I’ll close out this article by quoting StarsOnly from this thread, because history does sometimes repeat itself:
“I just want to pass on, that the new bookmark manager sucks really bad. HTML based really sucks bad. I really hate it bad. I badly hate it so badly that the word bad doesn’t even really begin to cover how bad it is. If you were to change it back to the way it was, that would be a really good thing. It would fill me with a sense of goodness. Where “bad” is the new black. “Good” is the new Ferrari red. Changing it back would fill, not only me, but the world with good.
Would it bring peace to the middle east? Stop the polarization of the country’s politics? Or keep Megan Fox from being in movies? No, probably not. But it would sure make it a lot easier to live with these things.”
What do you think of the new Bookmarks Manager in Chrome? What new features would you rather have? What do you believe to be the important aspects of a bookmark manager in general? I’d love to know, so leave your comments below!
Update December 3rd, 2014 – the new Bookmark Manager is still only available via the beta version of Chrome. The latest stable version of Chrome (39.0.2171.71 m) does not have this feature, and there’s no telling when it will.
Update December 5th, 2014 – I’m finding that it takes up to 8 seconds for the menu to appear after clicking the Star button in the address bar. It’s loading a bunch of meta (site thumbnail, maybe a recursive list of my bookmark folders, etc) before showing the menu. IMO, when a user performs such an action like clicking a button, you show them feedback right away and then start loading the meta, unless the loading takes less than 200ms. I’ve designed a lot of trees, but the method in my TreeView File Browser Component tutorial turns out to be the best I’ve discovered for UX, and in it I explain how to load meta before-hand while caching heavy I/O operations and handling recursion in a dynamic fashion.
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