Bookmarks, bookmarks and bookmarks!?

Firstly sorry to anyone who was expecting more frequent posts following the re-launch of my blog.

At the moment I am having some refurbishments done to my flat (flat = apartment, for the Americans out there) and hence my home life is quite hectic. I have no kitchen (which also means no oven) and perhaps worse, no hot water. My small family (my wife, my daughter and myself) are living out of just two small rooms. To make matters worse my daughter has had a fever for the last few days.

Anyway, back on topic. I had planned for my next post to be another Extensions Highlight. Perhaps about extensions that replace the Bookmark Manager but before I do that I really need to talk about Bookmarking and Opera 15+ more generally. So here we go…

Three types of Bookmarks

You may have heard that the new Opera doesn't support bookmarks but that doesn't tell the whole story and isn't completely true. In fact, we have three different features that allow you to save the locations of sites and pages (essentially the purpose of Bookmarking). Those features are:

  • Speed Dial
  • Stash
  • Legacy Bookmarking (Bar and Extension API)

Why three? Because each serves a slightly different purpose, relating to the different ways in which people use and store the location of useful pages.

Ruarí’s Thoughts, not Opera’s!

Before I delve into the different uses, just a word of warning. This is my own personal take. I am not party to all the planning and decisions we make with regards to feature development.

Speed Dial

Most people only visit a handful of sites regularly and Speed Dial was designed to accomodate this. As these sites are well known to the user, their position on the Speed Dial and their thumbnail are typically all that is needed to quickly locate any save site.

Personally, I think that having only a few favourite sites stored is where the concept works best but it can be used to store a lot more, hence the search support and ability to catagorise via folders.

Tip:

Before we move on, it seems that not everyone is aware that you can focus Speed Dial search via Ctrl+F (or +F on Mac) to quickly locate a particular Speed Dial by title or URL. This is pretty handy if you really do have a lot stored here, and this shortcut also works on the Stash page.

Stash

Unlike Speed Dial, which typically represents a user's favourite websites, Stash is more like a resource for noteworthy pages. Most likely things that you believe could be useful to read again in the future but do not need on a daily basis.

You are likely to load these less regularly and typically they will link to specific page or section (rather than the main site entry point). Therefore a little more help is needed to locate a specific stashed item. To reflect this the interface is quite different from Speed Dial.

The default view for stashed pages has much more of the title text visable and a very large thumbnail with readable content shown. Two news articles from the same source can easily be distinguished on Stash, whereas on Speed Dial they can often appear to be identical.

The search also works differently. Speed Dial search matches only titles and URLs but Stash also stores a fairly significant chunk of text from the page itself and this can also be searched.

Consider if I added all my recent blog posts to Stash. Now suppose I wanted to find the post where I talked about an extension that was able to force pop-ups into a tab. A quick search for the keyword extension would return all my Extensions Highlight articles and perhaps look like this:

Note: I have disabled thumbnail view as it works better for this example.

The results are pretty much the same as if I had added each of these to Speed Dial (or traditional bookmarks) and then searched through them. As you can see, it isn't obvious which one is actually the article I was looking for. In fact, given the above results I may begin to question if I had even saved the article in the first place.

Now let's try searching for the keyword pop-up.

Here you see that the article has now been located. From the title it might not be immediately obvious why but if look at my previous post, you will find that I have written the following in the text of the article itself (minus the bolding).

Tab Position Options lets you stop Pop-ups from opening an entirely new window…

Stash shows its true strength when trying to find pages that you only vagely remember, since it gives better visual clues and allows for a more comprehensive search.

For my own part I tend stash a lot of pages from our internal bug tracker, thus making it very easy for me to quickly locate bug reports I have examined previously. Of course we have a dedicated search engine but it is slower than I would like and would return results from new bugs or things outside of my coverage areas. Searching Speed Dial and traditional bookmarks entries wouldn't be as useful, since I could not search for words (or phrases) in the description or comments.

I also use Stash to cut down the number of tabs I keep open, since I know I can quickly find them again. Fewer tabs results in better performance and less clutter.

If you have avoided Stash thus far because you didn't get it (I have noticed several comments along these lines on the Desktop Team blog), then I would encourage you to have another look. It is also a feature that we would like to develop further, so if you have good ideas you would like to share feel free to pass them on.

Legacy Bookmarking features

Traditionally Bookmarks have served both of the above roles. They allowed a user to store his or her favourite sites and worked as a reference archive of interesting pages. Rather boldly we did not include traditional Bookmark support in Opera 15 because these two common use cases were already covered by Speed Dial and Stash.

We started adding back support (initially via an Extensions API and later via the Bookmarks Bar) following feedback from our community. We understood that people have established workflows using nested folder organisation that they find hard to change, or simply prefer.

Additionally, a couple more use cases are not covered by Speed Dial and Stash in their current forms:

Established Extensions

There are a number of nice Chrome extensions out there that work with or manipulate bookmarks. Without support for the bookmarks model and the bookmarks extension API, Opera users would miss out on them.

I do plan to write another Extensions Highlight blog post in the future, where I will give some examples of what I consider to be cool extensions that make use of the bookmarks extension API.

One-click access

The Bookmarks Bar can be handy for those who are willing to give up a little screen real estate to enable single click access to a favoured site or page (without having to open a new tab).

Summary

At the beginning of this blog post I listed the three bookmark-like features by name. Here is that list again, this time with my personal, suggested usage:

Speed Dial
Favourite/Frequently accessed sites
Stash
Individual pages you might want to locate again
Long term tab storage
Legacy
Single-click access (via the Bookmarks Bar)
Traditional workflow and nested folder organisation
To use with established Extensions

If you are open to trying something new, Speed Dials and Stash may be able provide you with a more efficient workflow for accesing previously found sites and pages. However, if you have an established workflow that already works nicely, our support for bookmarks via the Bookmarks Bar and extension API can serve your needs instead.

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