I posted the other day on how to organize your RSS feeds. The other part of the picture is organizing your internet favorites.
By having both of these organized well, you can save a lot of time and make your online workflow more enjoyable.
Is it Really Worth it to Organize Your Bookmarks?
As with my RSS feeds, I did an experiment about a year ago by not organizing them. I just left them in a long list (at that time in Internet Explorer), testing to see whether that would provide quicker and more direct access.
What I found was that I had to spend a lot of time hunting through that list for the bookmark I wanted.
So I’ve concluded that it is indeed more effective to organize your bookmarks. However, you need to do it right. This is a basic principle in regard to all filing: if you don’t create the categories right, you won’t want to use them.
But if you do create the categories right, you’ll not only find that things are easier, but will probably find that it creates additional insight and creativity. (Strange, but true: It makes you ask: what’s missing?)
Here are three other benefits of organizing your bookmarks:
1. It Makes it Easy to Access Dozens of Sites Very Quickly
For example, if I need to pay my credit card bill, I go to my “financial” category and click on my credit card site. Then I might want to check the latest news, so I just click into “news” and then one of my news sites (yes, even with RSS I still sometimes visit the actual sites). Then I can quickly go over to my “workflow” category and bring up the dashboard for my blog to write a post, then to my “travel” category to hit Expedia and book a trip I have to take, and so forth. It’s all very quick and easy.
2. It’s Fun
I actually find it kind of fun to have all of the bookmarks of my most-used sites right at my fingertips. It’s enjoyable to be able to have them all at immediate access and to quickly jump over from one category of site to another, as needed.
3. It Helps You Remember New Sites You Want to Stay on Top Of
I realize that subscribing to the RSS feed usually is the best way to do this. But there are still some sites that work best by actually visiting them. By having my bookmarks organized, it keeps it on my mind that there are various types of sites that I want to keep visiting, and it does this without cluttering my interface.
For example, I came across the site Innocentive last spring. It is an idea marketplace where “organizations with challenging problems” can connect with “smart people with creative solutions.” It provides a supplement to the traditional R&D approach by utilizing the extend “smart world” to help solve business problems.
Great idea. So I want to keep up with how the site and works and come to understand it a little better. I don’t just want to go look at it once and then forget about it. Having it in one of my bookmark categories ensures that once in a while I’ll remember to go back to the site and take a further look.
What Categories to Have
I mentioned above that a lot of the usefulness of this comes down to using the correct principles of classification in creating your categories. I’ll be doing future posts on setting up files well, so I won’t go into that here. For now, here are the categories that I group my bookmarks into:
- DG [where I work]
- NewCo [a side venture I’m not doing anymore]
- Social Networking
- Social Good
Here are a few notes on the categories:
“Workflow” is where I put the online tools that exist for accomplishing the primary tasks of work and life. For example, it contains my links to: Google Docs, Google Calendar, Google Maps, Google Analytics, my blog, the admin panel for my blog, and a few other things.
“DG” is where I put online documents or websites (Basecamp projects, etc.) pertaining to my job. Now, one might ask why “Google Docs,” for example, is not in “DG,” since I mostly use that for work. The reason is that the stuff in “workflow” is mostly platforms that can be used for work or life. Stuff in my work folder (DG) is stuff that is specific to my work.
The “Projects” category is at the end is for temporary bookmarks that are relevant to a project I’m working on. It’s a good working place to put stuff that I need to access a lot for a project, but which I then can get rid of. Sometimes that stuff might just go well in my work folder; it really depends on how I want to use it and how much I need a certain project’s stuff kept all to itself for ease of use.
The rest of the categories are probably pretty self-explanatory. But there are principles behind these groupings, which will be discussed in future posts on filing in general.
To create the categories, in Firefox go to Bookmarks > Organize Bookmarks. Then create them by creating them as folders within the “Bookmarks Toolbar” folder. In Internet Explorer, go to Favorites > Organize Favorites and you can create the folders there. Once you’ve done this, move your bookmarks into the categories.
(I assume you will probably be creating some new categories as well, and not using some of the ones that I have. But hopefully the ones I’ve listed give you a good idea of how to do the categories.)
Where to Put the Categories
The key to making this work comes down to where you put the categories. You don’t want to have to open up that left sidebar to reveal your favorites.
Instead, you want these folders to be manifest in the bookmarks toolbar, which shows across the top of the page. I use Firefox, but you can do this in IE as well, and I think in Safari too (at least I hope you can if you are a Safari user). Here’s what I mean (I’m really sorry if the image is low quality; I think you can still get the idea):
The bookmarks toolbar is that line across the bottom with the labels “workflow,” “DG,” “family,” etc. When you click on one of those labels, the bookmarks in that folder reveal in a drop-down from there. It’s really handy.
To make the bookmarks toolbar display, in Firefox go to View > Toolbars and highlight “bookmark toolbar.” Now, all the category folders that you created will show up in the bookmarks toolbar across the top of the page.
In Internet Explorer, go to to View > Toolbars and select “links.” Then, make sure to also deselect the “lock toolbars option.” Now, you’ll see the word “links” show up somewhere up top in IE. Take that and drag it where you want it to go. When I look at my IE, it looks like it puts this on the same line as the menu toolbar. Make sure to drag it on to its own line and extend it across. Now make your favorites show on the left side (click the “star” that makes them show) and drag the folders up onto the links bar. Then you can close the favorites side bar and not have to use it.
Alternatively, if you’d rather just use the favorites sidebar in IE instead of the links toolbar, that might work out just as well. In Firefox I found this cumbersome because it treats the side bar a bit differently.
This Connects to Filing in General
So now we see a way to organize online book marks in good categories and how to make those categories quick and easy to access.
As I’ve mentioned above, this is part of the larger question of filing in general. I’ll be doing posts in the future on how to set up your files. (Yes, even in the age of good desktop search, there is still a critical place for good electronic filing, as well as effective filing of paper-based stuff. Good filing is fun and effective!)