It turns out I have 258 bookmarks.
Bookmarks, for me, are as much an ever-growing database of information as they are key-stroke saving conveniences. Find an interesting StackOverflow discussion that’s likely to be useful in the future? Bookmark it. See a restaurant I’d like to try? Bookmark it. Tired of typing google.com/calendar over and over? Bookmark it. Truthfully, there’s only a couple dozen or so sites that I visit regularly. Say, at least once a week. Those are the sites I’m not terribly likely to forget about. For them, bookmarks are simply about the single-click convenience and, perhaps, adding some nifty icon eye-candy to my bookmark bar. But the other 225ish bookmarks are far more valuable. Buried in that mess is a treasure trove of helpful MSDN articles, StackOverflow answers, random restaurant websites, miscellaneous blogs written by relatively unknown coding über-geniuses, recipes for making french toast (I’m not much of a chef), wiki articles I want to read, a link to my favorite ear plug store, a place to seek revenge against those who park in my reserved space, interview tips, code libraries I might want to use, and on and on and on. And I have a funny feeling I’m far from alone in using bookmarks as a collection of internet post-it notes.
The problem is finding a way to tame the chaos. I’m not sure about other browsers, but bookmarks in Chrome still use the ol’ tried-and-true hierarchy-of-folders structure that just doesn’t work all that well when you’ve got literally hundreds of bookmarks. I constantly have to ask myself, “Now which folder would I have likely filed that ONE bookmark…?” Sometimes I find what I’m looking for within the first few guesses, but just as often I’ll end up doing a search in Chrome’s bookmark manager. Which always gets me thinking, wouldn’t it be better if I could assign my bookmarks a bunch of tags instead of trying to find The One True Folder to stick it in? Because I have a real hard time assigning each bookmark one and only one category. Grouping all of them into nice, neat, mutually exclusive folders just ends up being an exercise in futility. Inevitably I find myself stuck with a bunch of folders containing only one or two bookmarks and others with scores of items. And navigating a folder tree with several layers of nested items with a mouse just becomes an annoyance.
I kept thinking the geniuses working on Chrome would develop some nifty solution, but so far nothing has materialized. Well, today when I decided to re-organize the growing mess in my catch-all “other bookmarks” folder, I poked around to see if any 3rd party developers had scraped together an alternative. Turns out Evernote has a handy-dandy Web Clipper extension for Chrome. And, wouldn’t you know it? Evernote allows you to tag anything and everything. Fan-tastic! So what should have been 15 or 20 minutes worth of shuffling around ended up costing me more than three hours because I literally (warning: extreme nerdiness ahead) opened each and every bookmark I had in Chrome, saved it in Evernote via their Web Clipper extension, and tagged it appropriately. :)
A little bit of pain for lot of long term gain. No more complex folder hierarchies to navigate. Just one long list of tags, sorted alphabetically. I can browse through all items tagged with “.NET” or “Career”, or I can just keyword search the entire collection. It’s very satisfying. Evernote’s web app has a very nice UI and the iPhone app is just as good, so I’ve got all my bookmarks synced everywhere I go. Yay! The only bookmarks that remain in Chrome are for those sites I visit most often, all of which fit nicely in my bookmark bar.
So for all those who’ve ever craved a way to organize your bookmarks by tagging them, you now have a viable solution.