More Bookmarks than Books, Part II
This article is the second part of my look at bookmark management utilities. In TidBITS-323 last week, I looked at utilities that offer their own interfaces. This week I’m changing gears and investigating bookmark managers that rely on the Finder to organize, categorize, and search through your bookmarks. A few additional programs have straggled in since last week, so look for the third part of this article in the next issue of TidBITS, covering everything I missed in the first two parts.
CyberFinder 2.0 — Aladdin Systems’ $30 CyberFinder control panel (with a 15-day fully functional demo) is completely integrated into the Finder, so your bookmarks appear to be files in Finder windows. CyberFinder can create "libraries" that look like folders in the Finder, and you can store bookmarks for all the common URL schemes in these libraries. Creating new bookmarks is a matter of either grabbing a URL from any application with a user-defined hot key, or pressing Shift and choosing New Bookmark from the Finder’s File menu. Replacing Shift with Control toggles that item to New Library. You launch URLs by double-clicking the bookmarks in the Finder, or by selecting a URL in any application and pressing another user-defined hot key. The actual URL is accessible if you select the bookmark and choose Get Info from the Finder’s File menu.
CyberFinder’s power is undeniable, since it piggybacks on the Finder’s sorting and searching capabilities, and there are some nice touches, such as opening bookmark files from a variety of Web browsers as libraries (which makes moving to CyberFinder easier). CyberFinder’s ease of use is very good, but it also inherits the Finder’s clunkiness. In addition, some utilities, like Now Menus, don’t see CyberFinder libraries as Macintosh folders, although I circumvent that problem by storing bookmarks in true folders rather than libraries, trading the larger file size of individual files in the Finder for the flexibility offered by Now Menus. CyberFinder has two notable problems: its bookmarks aren’t available unless the control panel is loaded (but see URL Clerk below), and it can’t grab the <TITLE> tag from a Web page if you’re snagging a URL from a Web browser. Overall, however, CyberFinder is my pick for the best and most flexible of the bookmark managers.
DropURL — Perhaps the simplest of the bookmark utilities that rely on the Finder for their database work, Peter Marks’s <[email protected]> free DropURL 1.1 uses Internet Config to launch a URL listed in the first line of a text file dropped on DropURL. If you change the creator of the text file to "DURL" (a utility to do this is included), you can double-click the file to launch its URL. Only the first line is used, so any additional lines are available for comments or descriptions. DropURL has no capabilities for easily capturing URLs or creating these text files – that’s all up to you.
Duke of URL — Although it uses the Finder for all database work, the postcardware Duke of URL 1.0 is unique in a number of ways. It works only with Netscape and saves a URL launcher of the current Netscape page as a mini AppleScript application. You must activate Duke of URL manually by launching it for each page you wish to record, and it’s quite slow to work, both in saving URLs and launching them. In part because it relies on the Finder and AppleScript, Duke of URL ends up not being particularly usable in comparison to many other options.
NetSnagger — Rod Morehead’s free NetSnagger 1.1b3 sports only two features. It lets you create Launchers, which are NetSnagger files you can double-click in the Finder in order to launch the URL associated with them. It also lets you create Draggers, which are NetSnagger windows that facilitate retrieval of files stored at Info-Mac and UMich mirror sites. You open a Dragger window to a specific mirror, then drag the partial URL to a file (say, from an Info-Mac Digest) into that window. NetSnagger works with Internet Config to retrieve the file, or, if you’re using a Launcher, to launch the appropriate URL with your preferred Web browser. Creating Launchers and Draggers is a bit clumsy, but using them is relatively easy. All sorting and searching of Launchers relies on the Finder, and although it’s nowhere near as useful or elegant as CyberFinder, NetSnagger is an application and it’s free.
URL Clerk — The freeware URL Clerk 1.1 <[email protected]> offers a few features not found in other Finder-using bookmark launchers. URLs (one per file) are stored in text files URL Clerk can create for you if you drop an appropriate text file or clipping file onto the included Bookmarker application. Another option lets URL Clerk convert text or clipping files automatically to its bookmark format after launching them. It can launch CyberFinder bookmarks, which might be handy if you normally use CyberFinder but don’t have it loaded. Unfortunately, as with many of the Finder-based bookmark managers, there’s no easy way to create URL Clerk bookmark files – you must do it manually in one of a few different ways. Double-clicking any URL Clerk bookmark launches URL Clerk, which in turn launches the URL in the Internet Config-specified helper application. URL Clerk is simple, but ends up being so simple that it’s mostly useful to CyberFinder users.
Web ShortCuts — WhollyMac’s $18 (with a 15-day trial) Web ShortCuts 1.0 relies on the Finder for all of its searching, sorting, and organizing. Its main claim to fame is that it lets you create an icon for the Finder file that holds a URL. Creating the icon is as simple as selecting something onscreen, although the entire process requires copying a URL, switching to Web ShortCuts, choosing New from the File menu, pasting in the URL, clicking the Clip Image button, selecting an image to turn into an icon, clicking the Save As button, and finally naming and saving the file in a Standard File dialog. Launching a URL is far easier – you can either double-click it or, if you’re running Netscape, you can simply drag the icon from the Finder into the Netscape window. Despite the clever icon grabbing feature, Web ShortCuts just doesn’t seem sufficiently easy, nor does it offer much over free programs like NetSnagger.
My Pick — I’m slightly surprised by my final choice of bookmark managers. Despite the fact I feel increasingly hampered by the Finder, after testing all of the bookmark managers I’ve looked at for these articles, I settled on Aladdin’s CyberFinder, although I use it in a specific manner. I created a Web URLs folder, and using Now Menus, gave it an icon in my menubar so it’s available all the time. Within that folder, I created yet more folders, including one called Unfiled URLs, and I set CyberFinder to save all snagged URLs to that folder. When I capture a new URL, I immediately open the Unfiled URLs folder from my iconic Web URLs menu. I then name the file appropriately, and using the feature of Now Menus that lets you drag files into a hierarchical folder that Now Menus has created, move the bookmark into the appropriate folder. I also keep a To Check Out folder toggled open within the Unfiled URLs folder, so if I grab a URL quickly without knowing if it will be worth keeping, I stuff it in the To Check Out folder for later perusal. Even better, since I can use Now Menus to assign keyboard shortcuts to menu items, I can now go to Yahoo or Alta Vista or a couple of other sites with a press of a key, no matter what I’m doing. Although the Finder can be slow and clumsy, CyberFinder turned out to be the best solution for me.
To be complete, I also like Casey Fleser’s ClipFiler FKEY, since it’s a great way to stuff random bits of text into a SimpleText file. I haven’t quite decided if I plan to use ClipFiler or WebArranger for this task, since after Matt Neuburg’s article about WebArranger in TidBITS-313, Tonya and I sat down and figured out more about how WebArranger works (and it’s very cool, if you can get past the massive confusions). Another possibility is a future version of MailKeeper, if it makes it easier to recategorize text and generally improves the interface.
Tune in next week for a grab-bag of the various programs that escaped my notice the first time around, along with a few additional tips and techniques.