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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Firefox 4 Browser Basics: The Bookmarking Toolbar and Firefox Sync



I've ignored my web browser for a long time - took away every toolbar and just tried to make it lean. That has changed with Firefox 4. My Favorite Feature of Firefox 4 is the Firefox Sync. I've been using it since downloading the beta version weeks a go and have every computer I use AND my ipod Touch syncing bookmarks.

Let's take a look at my start page and close up on my bookmark bar to show how I use this:

Here is my browser start window. It is the same wherever I go. Firefox Sync handles that. the MOST important page for you is your Browser start page. It should be the launchpad into productivity for you. Note that I removed google cal because that is now a desktop gadget on my Windows 7 computer.
Meet Firefox Sync
You can set up your bookmarks / passwords to sync across all platforms where you have signed in. For security reasons the set up on the second computer and your handheld can be cumbersome, but honestly, I like it that way. My low security passwords and userid's are remembered. (I followed these instructions from Mozilla and it worked beautifully the first time.)

The Efficient Bookmark Bar
My productivity gains came from setting up my bookmark bar over time and working to make it efficient for me. I've used Activewords (recommended by Mark Hurst of Bit Literacy) and enjoyed it and the purpose is to quickly launch and handle keystrokes. I've found that doing this in my browser helps me.

Step 1: Find the Sites You Use Most Often by Looking At Your History
Step 1 to find your most frequently Used Sites. Go to Firefox --> History --> Show All History

  • Open History Window: Click Firefox --> History --> Show All History.
  • Look at This Month. Now that your history is open, click "this month" or if it is the beginning of the month, you may want to click last month.
  • Sort by "Visit Count" by clicking Visit count on the column. If the Visit Count column doesn't show go to Views --> Show Column --> Visit Count. You'll now see what websites you are using most. These are your first target.
My blogging, email, and use of Hootsuite (to access all the twitter accounts I manage) are at the top of my usage list.

Step 2: Put the Bookmarks on the Bar
Go to the sites you use most and drag them to your toolbar by clicking on the icon next to the hyperlink on your web browser and dragging it to the toolbar.  (This is called a favicon.)
Favicon for Blogger.

Once I have them there, sometimes I map out on paper which ones go together. As David Allen talks about in Getting Things Done (I use some of his method but definitely not all) it is helpful to have things in context.) So, I've grouped things and separated them with separators.

At some point your bookmarks WILL run off the bar and you may decide to take a break from grabbing those bookmarks that you use to go ahead and organize the bar.

Step 3: Find the Hard to Find Bookmarks that You Will Have to Hunt For If you Can't find them.
IP Addresses (if you are an IT Administrator), webinar rooms, webinar moderator links, anything "weird" and so long you'll have to search in your email to find or open up a manual on your self. These should also be on your bookmark bar - renamed to make it simple, of course. I do this with all the elluminate / Blackboard Collaborate rooms we use.

Step 4: Rename, Shorten Everything!
Rename. You should also rename most things to be 5 characters or less. My longest folder name is Digiteen. Right click and go to properties to rename the button.
Dissecting my Toolbar: You can see the top left of my browser bar and the things I use most. Note that my Google mail for school shows the mail count because that is a new feature in Google labs not of Firefox. Left to Right: Google Cal, Blogger, Disqus, Cool Cat Teacher gmail, Hootsuite, Google Docs, My Bank, and a Folder of Cool Cat Teacher-related websites. Then, I have my Kindle Daily refresh (a hidden feature of the kindle that lets you see your notes and highlights from Kindle books), my favorite Pandora music station, and then begins my school section of the toolbar.

 On the top left of my browser I have those things I use a TON or want to use a TON (like making sure I check my bank balances.) Note that you should also rename things for privacy - I renamed my bank's name to the word "bank" for example.

Step 5: Add Folders and Separators
Add Folders. By right Clicking on the bookmark bar you can add a new folder and you can also put folders inside folders. It is a bit glitchy sometimes as most folders are added ON the toolbar and not within folders, but I still prefer to see this on the screen instead of launching the bookmark editor. Make these short and efficient.
In my IT Support folder I have links to the things I update a lot (google calendar, website), as well as the IP Addresses for every wireless node, router, and printer on campus. I have all the links for PowerSchool administration, the SAT Studyguide I use in my class and a link to the ordering portal for the main company I use to buy hardware. when I'm in "IT Mode" it is all right there for me. I no longer have to get out my IP Address book.

Add Separators. Separate when you have a new context. You can see I have four basic sections. My personal section, Personal Enrichment Section (Kindle, Pandora), School Section, Flat Classroom Project Administration, and a folder for all the meeting rooms. The only bookmarks that are there twice are those for meeting rooms as they can get unwieldly I put them in two places to make them easy to find.

Here you can see that under Flat Classroom I have links to the projects, websites, meeting rooms, and also a link to Julie's unread emails so I can quickly go to her emails in my inbox. To do this, just click search options, type in the email address for the person you want to create the filter for and say "unread messages" or use a tag and add is:unread to it. Then, drag it onto toolbar.
See how I use the separators there to be more efficient as well?

Step 6: Evolve
I tweak this continually and add things I know I will use a lot (like new Elluminate rooms.)

A Word of Warning
We have a family computer and I didn't set it up on that one. This will give the kids access to "my stuff." So, I have a separate userid on that computer for when I want to use Firefox and set it up to sync to that account. Your browser is a bit of a key to your life so be careful about the administrative key as well.

Go Everywhere
Set this up on all your computers and your handheld. I didn't think I'd use it on my handheld but if I have a quick task or website I need to go to - it is just incredibly efficient.

Take a Look at Your Start Page
The Most important webpage is the page that you start with. Firefox 4 does have a problem of taking me to a standard google page and asking me if I want to restore and I have to figure out how to turn that OFF. Starting up to a well-designed igoogle page is important.

These productivity tricks can save lots of time and keystrokes and time saved is time you can spend doing things you really enjoy.

Remember your noble calling and that there is nothing noble about wasting your time. Don't play the martyr - don't work harder - take a good look at your life and routines. Simplify and be more efficient!

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