How to Sync Your Firefox Bookmarks to Your iPad

Yes, you read that right.

I use Firefox. I think it’s the best browser around — mostly because of its wide support for plugins and its frequent updates.

But I also have an iPad. And iPad includes and supports the Apple Safari Web browser.

One of my first challenges was to get my Firefox bookmarks into my iPad’s Safari browser — and to keep them synced. Here’s what I did.

Step 1: Set Up Firefox Bookmark Synchronization

I use two computers regularly (an iMac on my desktop and a 13″ MacBook Pro) and occasionally use two others (a 15″ MacBook Pro and a Dell Laptop). It was natural to want my bookmarks synchronized between these computers. So years ago, I began using a Firefox plugin that handled synchronization for me. That plugin has evolved over time and is currently called Xmarks Bookmark and Password Sync.

Xmarks StatusXmarks works with a free account on the Xmarks.com Web site. (If you are a more experienced user and have your own server, you can sync to your own server instead.) You set up an account on Xmarks.com, install the plugin in Firefox on all your computers, and configure the plugin to point to your Xmarks.com account. You then synchronize. The first synchronization gives you options to overwrite or merge booksmarks; do whatever you think is right for your situation. From that point forward, Xmarks will automatically synchronize bookmarks when you open and quit Firefox.

Although I’ve been doing this for years now, this became my first step to syncing my bookmarks with Safari on my iPad. If you don’t already use Xmarks, set it up as your first step.

One note here: Xmarks has other synchronization features. For example, as the name implies, it also synchronizes passwords. You can use this feature, too, if you like. And it displays search results with ratings and other features. Explore this on your own.

Step 2: Set Up Safari Bookmark Synchronization

The next step is to get your Firefox bookmarks on Safari. You can do this with Xmarks for Mac OS X 10.6.

Xmarks For SafariDownload the installer, run it, and follow the instructions in the Installation Wizard to set it up on your computer. Be sure to point it to the same Xmarks account you use for Firefox. When you perform that first sync, tell it whether you want to merge or overwrite bookmarks. When the sync is complete, your Safari bookmarks should match your Firefox bookmarks.

MobileMe SyncOne thing to keep in mind here: if you have multiple Macs and use a MobileMe account to synchronize various Mac OS items — including Safari Bookmarks — you don’t need to install Xmarks for Mac OS X 10.6 on all of your computers. Just install on one and let MobileMe do the rest of the synchronization for you.

Step 3: Set Up iPad Bookmark Synchronization

At this point, it should be pretty easy to figure out how to synchronize your Mac’s Safari bookmarks with your iPad’s Safari bookmarks. There are actually two ways to do this:

If you have a MobileMe account:

  1. Make sure Bookmarks synchronization is turned on on your Mac in the MobileMe preferences pane (see previous screenshot) and sync.
  2. Make sure your MobileMe account has been set up on your iPad.
  3. On your iPad, tap Settings and then tap Mail, Contacts, Calendars. This should take you to the Mail, Contacts, Calendars screen.
  4. E-Mail OptionsTap the e-mail address for your MobileMe account. This will display its options, shown here.
  5. Tap to turn on the Bookmarks option.
  6. Tap Done.

Bookmarks will now be synced through MobileMe.

If you don’t have a MobileMe account:

  1. Use your USB cable to connect your iPad to the computer you use to synchronize data and install music and apps. Ideally, this computer should have Foxmarks for Mac OS X 10.6 installed on it.
  2. On your Mac, open iTunes (if it has not opened automatically) and select your iPad in the Source list under Devices.
  3. Click the Info tab near the top of the iTunes window.
  4. Scroll down to the Other section.
    Other Options
  5. Turn on the check box labeled Sync Safari Bookmarks. (This check box only appears if you are not using MobileMe to sync bookmarks.)
  6. Click Sync. If prompted to merge or overwrite bookmarks, choose the appropriate option for your situation.

Bookmarks will now be synced through iTunes.

Works for Me

This is my solution. Is it the only one? Probably not. If you have a different (or even better!) solution, don’t hesitate to share it with us in Comments on this post.

Twit This

A service that makes it easy to post links on Twitter.

I recently found Twit This, a Web site that enables you to post any URL to Twitter as a tweet.

Here’s How It Works

Twit ThisWhen you browse to a Web page you want to share with your Twitter followers, you invoke Twit This. (I’ll explain how to do that in a moment.) The first time you use this feature (or if you have not set up your browser to remember your password) you’ll be prompted for your Twitter User ID and Password to log in. You’ll see a form like the one here. Choose an option from the pop-up menu to indicate the text you want to appear before the link and, if desired, add some additional text in the box beside it. Then click the Twit This Page button. The link and your text will be sent to Twitter as a tweet. A confirmation page with a link to the tweet appears so you can view it.

It’s quick and easy. The only thing I don’t like is that it doesn’t return you to the original page when it’s done. (But I’m just picky that way.)

Invoking Twit This

There are a number of ways you can invoke Twit This for a URL.

  • Install and use the Twit This bookmarklet. On the Twit This home page, you’ll find a bookmarket that you can drag to your browser’s toolbar. You can then click the resulting button while viewing a page you want to Tweet about to access Twit This’s features.
  • Click a Twit This button or link in the post. Of course, that requires the blogger or Webmaster to include a link like this. (Keep reading.)

Adding a Twit This Link to Your Posts

The Twit This site’s Home page includes code you can insert in your Web pages to add a link that will invoke Twit This. The code, which uses JavaScript, is available with or without a clickable button. You can include the code anywhere you like on a page.

If you’re a WordPress user, you might want to try the Twit This plugin, which will place a link for each post. I downloaded this plugin but I admit that I didn’t install it. I’m very particular about how and where my links appear, so I decided on a do-it-yourself approach.

To manually add a Twit This link to a post, insert the following code anywhere within The Loop in your template file(s):

Twit This

When you save the change, the link will appear for each post. You can see the Twit This links on this site at the bottom of each post. I got fancy and included a tiny Twitter icon so it would match the format of the other bookmarking/social networking sites I listed.

WordPress 2 (Visual QuickStart Guide)[Shameless Plug: If you don’t know what The Loop is or how to edit your WordPress theme files, you need to get a copy of our book, WordPress 2: Visual QuickStart Guide. Chapter 6 will fill you in on what you need to know. You can learn more about this book and get more WordPress tips at the book’s companion Web site, http://www.wpvqs.com/]

Try It!

Obviously, if you’re a Twitter user, the bookmarklet is a great way to share your Web finds with your Twitter followers. But if you’re a blogger or Web designer interested in getting more exposure for your posts or site, including a Twit This link can help spread the word. After all, not everyone will have the Twit This bookmarklet installed. But many Twitter users will be interested in trying out a Twit This link.

After all, that’s how I learned about Twit This myself.

Upgrading WordPress to 2.1: Fixing Link Lists

An unexpected side effect to upgrading.

This afternoon, I did my first WordPress 2.0.4 to WordPress 2.1 upgrade. The site I chose for the upgrade was the companion Web site for the WordPress book I co-authored with Miraz Jordan, WordPress 2: Visual QuickStart Guide.

I followed the official WordPress Upgrading Instructions. (I am not an idiot.) I also followed the instructions I included in the first article of this series, “Upgrading WordPress to 2.1: Dealing with Plugin Compatibility,” to make sure my plugins were compatible and to get updates of plugins that were installed.

The upgrade went pretty smoothly. I updated 3 of the 10 plugins Miraz and I use on the site and inserted some if-then logic to disable plugin-specific code when a plugin isn’t available. Then I backed everything up, turned all the plugins off, and started the upgrade.

When the digital dust settled and I was able to view the site again, I was pleasantly surprised. Most of the site looked just fine. I enabled the plugins one-by-one and tested the site again after each one. I discovered that Rate My Stuff and CG-Feedread, which weren’t listed as plugins that worked with WordPress 2.1 did indeed work. (I added them to the list in the Codex.) The Search Pages plugin didn’t cause an error message, but didn’t seem to work, either. In addition, there appeared to be a slight formatting problem with the form generated by WP-ContactForm; but it may have been like that before the upgrade. And, of course, WP-Cron is no longer necessary, since periodic backup is now built into WordPress 2.1 with WordPress Database Backup 2.0.

There was, however, a relatively serious problem with the links list. This has to do with the way WordPress 2.1 handles link categories and changes made to the tag we used to display them: wp_get_links.

Book CoverIn WordPress 2.1 links are now called bookmarks. And link categories have been merged with post categories, which are just called categories. Sound familiar? It should. That’s the way links and categories have been handled on the WordPress.com site for close to a year now. (Consult pages 69-73 in our book.)

To make this work, the upgrade process renumbers all of the link categories (unless they have the same name as a post category, I suppose). This isn’t a huge deal unless you use tags that refer to link categories by their numbers — as Miraz and I did. As a result, the < ?php wp_get_links(3); ?> tag we had in the sidebar (for example) didn’t display anything because there weren’t any links in post category 3. This problem existed for all of the links we listed by category in the sidebar. All that displayed were the h2 level headings for each group of links.

Our Links ListWhen I discovered the problem, I substituted the new category numbers into the tags. The result was a list of link names and descriptions, formatted without bullets (see illustration). This isn’t the way it appeared before the upgrade.

At first, I thought the wp_get_links tag had been changed. But that wasn’t the case. Instead, WordPress 2.1 changed the information it recorded for links. In previous versions, it enabled you to include “before” and “after” attributes that were used, by default, to display links in a list. Those fields were gone, so “before” and “after” attributes had to be manually included with the wp_get_links tag.

It turns out, I needed to provide some additional attributes. Here’s what the wp_get_links tag needed to look like:

< ?php wp_get_links('category=9&show_description=0&before=

  • &after=
  • '); ?>

    Our Links ListThe resulting list looked like it always did (see image). I modified all of the tags as necessary, saved the modified template file, and was done.

    In researching this problem, I looked into the Codex’s list of link tags. I noticed that there are some new link tags that will only work in WordPress 2.1. Unfortunately, the Codex entries for these tags were not complete when I consulted the Codex today. The one that appeared complete (but is still being edited) is wp_list_bookmarks, which I thought would meet my needs. Unfortunately, I was unable to get the desired results with this tag, even when using the attributes discussed in the Codex. I’m not sure if the information is incorrect or incomplete or I just made some kind of mistake I can’t figure out.

    In any case, be aware of changes to the way links are displayed on your site when you upgrade to WordPress 2.1.

    And stay tuned; I’ll be sharing more tips about completing the upgrade as I continue to upgrade my six WordPress-based sites.

    Adding Del.icio.us and Digg Links to Your WordPress Posts

    Look, Mom! No plugins!

    Although there are WordPress plugins that enable you to add links to bookmarking sites from your posts, if you’re just interested in a few sites and don’t want to deal with plugin overhead (or future compatibility), there is an easier way. Just add the links to your WordPress theme’s template file, inside The Loop.

    The two bookmarking sites I’m interested in are Del.icio.us and Digg. I use Del.icio.us for bookmarking primarily because of its Daily Blog Posting feature, which I wrote about in my “Del.icio.us Links” article. (The terminology for the feature has changed since I wrote the article; it can now be found under Daily Blog Posting in the Settings area for your Del.icio.us account.) This feature displays a list of the posts I bookmark with Del.icio.us each day. You can find examples under This Just In… on my site.

    I don’t regularly use Digg, but I do have an account. Digg got a lot of press a while back, but it appears to have become a popularity contest, with people promoting their own posts and voting for their friends. Still a lot of people use Digg, so it’s good to support it.

    The links I added to my site enable a user to quickly bookmark a post on Del.icio.us or Digg. The visitor clicks one of the links and goes right to the appropriate page for entering the bookmark information. Finishing up on that page brings them back to your site.

    Here are the two links; you can copy and past them into your template file, within The Loop:

    Add to Del.icio.us

    Digg This

    Obviously, the text that appears for the link can be completely customized for your needs. Ditto for the title attribute.

    You can see an example on any post on my site, www.aneclecticmind.com. You’ll find the links at the bottom of each post, along with links for entering comments, printing the post, and a display of the number of times a post has been read:

    Post Links

    If you’re not sure what The Loop is or how to modify a template file, you need our book, WordPress 2: Visual QuickStart Guide.

    Blogroll Links

    I tweak some settings to support more blog links without using up too much sidebar space.

    This site doesn’t include a lot of links to blogs. One of the reasons for that is that I’m extremely particular about the sites I link to. I don’t link indiscriminately. I only link to sites I think are worth visiting.

    And as we all know, there are just too many sites out there that just aren’t worth visiting.

    The other reason I don’t have a lot of blog links is that I just don’t want my Home page sidebar to get too long. It’s already very long — if I wrote shorter entries, it would easily exceed the length of my entries as it often does on wickenburg-az.com.

    So today, in preparation for supporting more blog links, I converted my WebLogs link category to a true blogroll, with a limited number of links. If I have more than the number of links I specified (5), WordPress will randomly choose which links to display each time the Home page is opened.

    Setting this up in WordPress is easy. Here are the instructions for a server installation of WordPress:

    1. Log into WordPress and go to the Dashboard.
    2. Click the Links button to view the Manage Links administration panel.
    3. Click the Link Categories button to view the Link Categories Administration panel.
    4. Click the Edit button for the category you want to limit entries for. You’ll see the Edit Category administration panel for that category.
    5. In the Category Options area, enter a value in the Limit box and choose Random from the Sort Order drop-down list.
      Setting Up a Blogroll
    6. Make other settings as desired in the administration panel.
    7. Click the Save Category Settings button. WordPress saves your settings and brings you back to the Link Categories administration panel.

    From that point forward, the links in the category you modified will be limited to the number you specified, randomly selected and displayed. To display more or fewer links, just repeat these steps and change the value in the Limit box.

    WordPress.com handles links and categories a bit differently. If you need instructions for doing this on a WordPress.com blog, use the Comments link for this post to ask and I’ll whip them up.