Users of multiple computers, whether a second machine, laptop or home/work combination, quickly come to despise the Bookmark Problem. One of the more notable annoyances of multiple boxes is never being able to find exactly the favorite you’re looking for in exactly the place you want it. And heaven forbid you should buy a new computer or have to reinstall an OS. Unless you’ve backed up your system (or at least your bookmarks) regularly and often, you’ll have to go through the hassle of googling all your favorite sites, insult to injury after the annoyance of having to set up the system to begin with. So, even though Chris has decided that he hates Firefox and Mozilla this week, I feel obliged to tell you about one of the most useful extensions for Firefox users since the Google toolbar. That would be Browser Sync, also from Google.

Here’s Google Labs’ explanation, liberally edited. Since it wants you to download its software, I’m sure it won’t mind a little plagiarization. It might even like my version better.

Google Browser Sync for Firefox (only – too bad, Internet Exploder users) is an extension that continuously synchronizes your browser settings – including bookmarks, history, persistent cookies, and saved passwords – across your computers. It also allows you to restore open tabs and windows across different machines and browser sessions, and if you only use one computer it will make continuous backups of your browser settings and restore it after crashes, if you like. Data is stored on Google’s servers. I’ve commented on those alleged “privacy issues” many times, and if you want my opinion in depth (in shallow: they don’t exist, and neither does privacy), you can browse here. Anyway…

After successfully downloading and installing the extension, then restarting your browser, you’ll see a setup wizard. (You’ll need a Google Account to complete the setup process; if you don’t already have one, you can create one now.) The setup wizard will take you through a series of quick and easy steps. You’ll need to choose which browser components you’d like to keep synchronized with your other computers (the standard install includes all possible components), and choose a PIN to protect your sensitive information. Obviously, unless all the machines are secured, you wouldn’t want to share your passwords, and might prefer to keep your history and cookies private as well. I have mine set to do bookmarks only, since I sync with the machine at work, which – while I’m theoretically the only one with access – is not always under my control. BTW, if you use GBS in conjunction with personalized search and desktop, everything fits in seamlessly.

Configuring your second computer is even easier. You only have to download the applet and enter your account name and PIN. The system will then spend a couple of minutes doing an initial synchronization. After that, Google Browser Sync is completely automated. The settings you select at start up are automatically synchronized across each of the computers on which you install Browser Sync. You won’t even need to log in every time you start the browser. You can change which browser components are being synced – or even stop the syncing process entirely – using the settings panel in the upper-right corner of the page. The settings panel also gives you access to your PIN. If you don’t want the real estate used up on the toolbar, the settings panel can be removed or relocated in the same manner as any other Firefox toolbar item.

From Google, verbatim: “Please note: Google Browser Sync must update your browser settings whenever you start Firefox. This will increase the start-up time of Firefox (the time between clicking on the Firefox icon and loading your start page) – please bear with us as we work to decrease this delay.”

Get Google Browser Sync here.

[tags]firefox,extension,google browser sync,google labs,privacy issues,google account[/tags]