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Managing your browsing history in Firefox

There are three ways to manage your browsing history with Firefox: Long-term permanent, long-term temporary or session only.

The first two are built-in to Firefox using Bookmarks and History. The latter can be achieved with the CoolPreviews add-on. In addition, long term browsing can be enhanced with the Foxmarks add-on.

Firefox History Function

Every web page that you visit is logged by Firefox. This is what constitutes your browsing history. If you click on the History text link at the top of the browser you will open a drop-down list of your most recent page visits. You can click on any of those links to return to a page you have recently viewed.

In the same drop-down is an option to “Show in Sidebar”. If you click this link you will open a sidebar on the left of the browser window. This sidebar will group your history for today, yesterday, two days ago an so on. You can expand these groups to see all pages visited in that time frame and then click on any page link to bring up that page in the browser.

By using the “View” button within the sidebar you can also sort and group your History by date within site, site, most visited and last visited.

Sorting by “date and site” is better than “date” alone because it’s easier to see which site you visited on a particular day. The default “by date” option sorts alphabetically within day.

Sorting “by site” is more useful if you just want to see all the pages you have visited for a particular site regardless of when. Both these options are sorted alphabetically by site. However, if you just sort “by site” there is no grouping, just a single list. The “most visited” sort option may give you an idea of which sites are your most popular, but otherwise its usefulness is limited.

The “last visited” option is similar to the default “by date” option except this too is just a long list with the most recent site visited first and then going back in time.
You can also search for content using the search field and button. This will actually search for text within the pages, so can be used when you want to find something but have forgotten which website you found it on.

You can remove your entire search history by using Options/Remove Private Data and checking the Browsing History checkbox and then submitting.

You can set the time span for saved History links using the Options/Privacy/Remember Visited Pages for the Last n Days” where “n” is a number of days you can set. If the checkbox against this item is not checked then your history will not be saved at all.

Bookmarks

If you want a more permanent record of your browsing history you can permanently save pages or websites you have visited using the bookmark option. This is the same function as favorites in Internet Explorer.

When you are browsing you can quickly bookmark a page either by right clicking and using the “Bookmark This Page” option or, if you have the Bookmark toolbar open, you can right click on the toolbar and add a bookmark this way. Finally, there is the Bookmark text link right at the top of the browser which opens up all options and also shows your bookmarks in a dropdown list.

With these extended options you can not only add and remove bookmarks, but you can also edit them. Creating bookmark folders is a useful feature of Firefox. This becomes important when you begin to have a large number of bookmarks. There is an option to Organize your bookmarks which includes the ability to add, edit or remove folders.

You can sort all your bookmarks using right click over the dropdown list or using the Organize option and then clicking on the Name heading. The Organize window gives an extensive set of utilities for managing your bookmarks. You can also drag bookmarks in the dropdown list to any position or drag them over a folder to move them inside that folder.

Boomarks are an essential way of organizing the sites you frequently visit, or for saving sites which you want to go back to in the future. You should have regular clear-outs to keep it all tidy and manageable.

CoolPreviews

CoolPreviews is a Firefox add-on which performs a number of very cool functions, but the function pertinent to this discussion is the ability for short-term saving of browsed pages.

In CoolPreviews there is an option to save a page to the “Stack”. When you do this a rectangular icon is attached to the right margin of your browser page. When you click that icon it opens up a thumbnail preview of all the pages you have added to the Stack. This is invaluable when you are doing some research, for example and you want to quickly store the location of visited pages that are of interest to that research.

Pages are added to the stack by right clicking any page and choosing the menu option. You are also treated to an animation of a thumbnail of your page sweeping across the browser window and disappearing behind the Stack icon.

A drawback of CoolPreviews is that the Stack is lost as soon as you close the browser. But you can easily create a Bookmark folder and place your Stack items in there before you close the browser. The beauty of the Stack over the Bookmark folder is that the icon is there, visible, on the desktop and easily accessible. It’s a matter of taste and browsing habits, of course.

Foxmarks/Xmarks

Foxmarks, which is now known as Xmarks, is another add-on which allows you to save all your Bookmarks to the Xmark server. The advantages are:

You can never lose your bookmarks.
You can restore bookmarks you have accidentally removed.
You can share bookmarks across more than one PC.
Because the bookmarks are stored centrally, you can access them from anywhere. All you do is log in and download them or upload them. In addition, you can synchronize your bookmarks across several PCs and laptops because the bookmarks you save on one machine can be downloaded to another by the synchronize process. This is, indeed, long term browsing history management.

So there you have it; many different ways of assuring that you can remember what you want to remember and save what you want to save. Bookmarking may seem to be a very low benefit function, but used properly it can seriously increase your browsing efficiency and create for you your own on-line library of websites.

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