O'Malley's Mashup: Synchronise your browsers

Columns & Opinion, O'Malley's Mashup

As you’re reading a tech blog, I’d say that the chances are that you use more than one computer regularly – perhaps you have a desktop and a laptop. Or if you’re me, a desktop, two laptops and access to yet more computers all over the place.

As you probably know, this can be a frustrating experience – if you bookmark something on one computer and you need it on another, do you really want to spend all of the time Googling for it again, or logging into your e-mails on each machine every time? How about having to update all of your saved passwords when you change them? Well the good news is, as luck would have it, there’s a few solutions to these irritating problems, and that’s what I’m going to be talking about in today’s mash-up: how to make your browsers sickeningly consistent.

You do use Mozilla Firefox, right? Of course you do, everyone does these days. But what if the computer you’re using at university or at work doesn’t have Firefox? If you’ve got a USB memory stick or similar, you really have no excuse not to put Portable Firefox on there for use in such nightmare scenarios. It’s just like regular Firefox but instead of burying away all of the data on your hard disk, it stores it all in the same place so that you can run it from the folder on your portable memory. It’s fully functional too and you can install extensions and the like as you would on a normal installation.

If you want to share your bookmarks and your passwords across machines, then why not have a look at the Foxmarks extension? If you install it on all of the computers you want to use, it’ll automatically synchronise bookmarks giving you access to them everywhere – even if you’re not on a machine with Firefox or even a mobile phone because all of your bookmarks are stored online, you can simply head over to the Foxmarks website and access the links from a web page.

I would have preferred to have suggested Google Browser Sync, but in an unusual move for Google, they’ve actually stopped updating it. It did pretty much the same thing as Foxmarks, only had the benefit of syncing passwords and browser history too. You can still get it if you use Firefox 2, but it’s incompatible with everything else so is useless for all intents and purposes.

Of course, an alternative solution to this would be to simply change your habits and bookmark to social bookmarking sites, such as del.icio.us or Digg, but I don’t like these as much as I like to have a bookmarks bar across the top of my browser.

Sharing entire Firefox profiles – extensions and settings and the like – is slightly trickier, though is still possible. Ironically, the best solution I’ve found is owned by Microsoft. FolderShare allows you to synchronise folders across machines, so all you need to do is set up a sync for the folder your Firefox profile is stored in which is usually something like c:documents and settings[your windows username]application datafirefoxprofiles and then the profile has a name that looks like a random string of characters.

If you’re trying to synchronise across your computer which dual boots into two operating systems – say Windows and Ubuntu Linux – there’s no reason to get the internet involved. Impressively, if you can mount your Windows partition or hard drive onto your Ubuntu installation (it’ll probably do this automatically), then it is possible to make Firefox on both share the same everything. In Ubuntu, if you launch Firefox through the terminal by typing “firefox -profilemanager”, you can create a new profile, and if you select as the folder the location of your Windows firefox profile, it’ll essentially share all of the data across. Brilliant. Excellently, these tricks work for the Thunderbird e-mail client too.

So, if you follow these steps, you’ll have the same browsing experience everywhere you go and your life will become marginally more efficient. Have you got any other tips? Share them in the comments section below.

Related Posts: Last week’s Mash-up | The week before

James O’Malley
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  • Opera has Opera Link which works rather well, synchronising all your bookmarks, notes, etc.

    Once setup you can synchronise with any install of Opera on any machine, or simply access your data from the My Opera portal on any internet connected machine from any browser.

    Also, Opera is faaaaast 🙂

  • Now if only I could find a decent solution for Chrome…
    Actually, I’m sure Google will be working on one, cloud computing and all that, but don’t you suspect part of the reason they pulled Browser Sync was that they had their own browser on the horizon?

  • Or get two Macs and a .me account and everything syncs automatically and without problem!

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