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Importing Netscape Bookmarks into Safari

The initial beta releases of Apple’s Safari Web browser could import bookmarks you had created in Internet Explorer; they appeared as an Imported IE Favorites collection in Safari. This happened the first time you launched Safari; the interface offered no way of importing at a later time.

However, by the time Safari 1.0 shipped at the Worldwide Developer Conference a few weeks ago, Apple had quietly added the capability to import bookmarks from Netscape and Mozilla as well. Again, this happened only the first time Safari was launched after the upgrade. However, for many people, the import process for Netscape and Mozilla bookmarks didn’t work due to the technique that Apple uses for finding the location of those bookmarks. This should improve in the future, but if you have bookmarks stored in Netscape or Mozilla and Safari didn’t import them into an Imported Netscape/Mozilla Favorites collection, you can use the following technique to bring them into Safari.

Note that there are a wide variety of other techniques for working around this problem, ranging from a simple drag of bookmarks from Netscape or Mozilla into Safari’s bookmark view to using a full-fledged bookmark utility like Alco Blom’s URL Manager Pro, which can maintain a list of bookmarks that are then accessible to multiple Web browsers (see "Tools We Use: URL Manager Pro" in TidBITS-635 for more details). You can also find utilities that enable Safari’s Debug menu and initiate imports from there. But for now, I’m focusing only on showing you how to make Safari’s built-in import functionality work.



The Problem — Netscape and Mozilla both allow you to have profiles that enable multiple users to maintain different account settings, different preferences, and different sets of bookmarks. These profiles are stored in the ~/Library/Mozilla/profiles directory; each profile has its own folder. It turns out that Safari can find bookmarks for profiles stored only in the default profile folder, which must be named "default". If you’ve named your profile in any other way, Safari will fail quietly. It’s not clear how common it is to have profiles with other names; the entire issue arose because the profiles I’d created had names like "Adam’s Default Profile" and "Default User", neither of which worked.

The Solution — If you find yourself in this boat, follow these steps to convince Safari to import your Netscape or Mozilla bookmarks (they’re the same, since Netscape is based on the Mozilla code).

  1. Quit Safari and Netscape or Mozilla, if they’re running.

  2. Locate your profile folder in ~/Library/Mozilla/profiles (the profiles folder inside the Mozilla folder in your user’s Library folder). Rename that folder from whatever it is to "default" (no quotes, all lowercase). Remember the original name for later.

  3. In ~/Library/Preferences, open the file in a text editor like BBEdit, or, if you have it installed, in Apple’s Property List Editor utility.

  4. Search for "Netscape" and in the line following: <key>NetscapeAndMozillaFavoritesWereImported</key>, change "true" to "false". Save and quit.

  5. Launch Safari, and from the Bookmarks menu, choose Show All Bookmarks. If everything has worked, you should have an Imported Netscape/Mozilla Favorites collection.

  6. Back in the Finder, rename your Netscape/Mozilla profile folder back to what it was originally (this step may not be absolutely necessary, but it’s best to avoid confusing Netscape or Mozilla).

Soon to Be Unnecessary — Apple is undoubtedly working to resolve this issue, so a future version of Safari should make these steps unnecessary for those people who have Netscape or Mozilla profiles that don’t use the name default. In the meantime, this simple process will help you avoid the tedium of moving bookmarks over manually.

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