Don’t you love it when software designers listen to their customers? Gives me a warm feeling all over. So kudos to the authors of the incredibly useful Firefox bookmark synchronization add-on Foxmarks. After the demise of Google’s great browser synching tool back in June, I turned to Foxmarks to keep everything in tune on my various Macs. But unlike Google, Foxmarks only synced bookmarks, not passwords, cookies or browsing history. Of the three missing features, syncing passwords was easily the most useful. So I’m happy to report that Foxmarks new version 2.5 adds a solid password syncing capability.
The implementation is straightforward and easy to use. Password syncing is off by default so you must first go to Foxmarks’ preferences and activate it. The first sync requires that you create a password for password syncing and obviously you should create a long, twisty, turny one. The first sync was pretty darn quick. Then on other computers, you simply activate the feature and input the password.
I’m not a computer security expert but it does appear that Foxmarks has taken good care with the new feature. Transfers between browsers and the Foxmarks server are encrypted. And if you don’t trust Foxmarks, you can name your own server. If you ever want to erase all the passwords, there’s a handy button in Foxmarks’ preferences called “Delete Passwords From Server.” Furthermore, I would never trust Firefox to save passwords for critical web sites like my bank in the first place, so Foxmarks’ security is less than a critical need for me.
I do have one problem or issue with the new password sync feature. If Foxmark encounters a conflict — you have different passwords for the same web address — it presents a conflict resolution dialogue box. It shows both passwords blotted out. But just hit the giant, how-did-I-miss-it-earlier button labeled “Show Passwords” to see exactly what’s been saved on each. But the two conflicting passwords are both blanked out with dots so how are you supposed to know which one is correct? And there’s no option to simply type in the current password for that web site. Needs improvement here.
Overall, I highly recommend Foxmarks for keeping browsers on all your computers every-more-completely in sync. And, frankly, there’s not a lot of competition. Firefox’s own Weave project is still stuck at the 0.1 beta point and I haven’t seen any action with Google’s now abandoned but open sourced offering.
Semi-related aside: when Firefox notified me that there was an upgrade available for Foxmarks, it also decided to offer me the chance to install a few other popular add-ons. I decided to see if ColorfulTabs might help me sort through bunches of open pages. The add-on colorizes each tab you have open in Firefox with a different color (see picture below). After about 10 seconds, I decided that the various colors were more distracting than useful. It’s easier to simply read the black text in each tab to see what page it’s on. The clashing colors distracted my brain as I tried to read across the tabs. No thanks.
Google browser sync: I’m not dead yet (July 9, 2008)
Google browser sync is dead. Now what? (June 14, 2008)