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Google Stars Brings Browser Bookmarking Bang Up-to-date

Chrome will soon make saving your favourite websites more stylish and more social

Screen Shot 2014-06-01 at 11.50.39

Google is working on a new bookmarking service for Chrome codenamed ‘Stars’ — but what does it do and why might you want to use it? 

Browser bookmarking has changed very little since it was introduced in the Mosaic web browser back 1993, a time when most webpages were text-heavy and a lack of finessed search engines made finding content much harder.

‘Bookmarking has changed little since it was introduced back 1993′

In the intervening years bookmarking a webpage for reference later has remained a largely consistent experience across web browsers on all platforms: you visit a page, click whatever bookmarking icon or link your browser has, and the page is appended to a menu folder for quick access at a later date.

With my own bookmarks folder now stuffed to the seams with years of random links, imgur photos, YouTube videos and other media, the current title-centric model is showing its age.

Based on what we know of it thus far Google Stars is not looking to reinvent the wheel, rather make bookmarking a more modern, immersive and social activity.

Google Stars Features

Over the weekend an internal testing version of Google Stars briefly appeared on the Chrome Web Store. While it was quickly pulled down, plenty of folks managed to save a copy of the add-on for local installation — including us.

And so, with some time to kill, I took the add-on for a spin to see how it works and evaluate the features Google is hoping will help break the traditional bookmarking mould.

Bookmarking Pages Remains the Same

Bookmarking a webpage in Google Chrome is easy, requiring nothing more than a single click of the ‘star’ icon to the far right of the omnibar.

Google Stars replaces the star icon with its own yellow-boxed icon. Clicking the Stars icon in the URL bar instantly saves a link to the page you’re on into the general bookmarks folder.

But whereas the old method made reference to this through a “Bookmark added” shoutout, you’re now told that the item has been “Starred” — a change in terminology that remains consistent throughout use of it.

New Edit Box and Terminology

New Edit Box and Terminology

Editing options available when adding an item are rather different. You can now select an image and add a description in addition to customising the title and URL.

A drop-down selector lets you choose a folder to add it to. You can select an existing folder by clicking on its titles or create a new one by entering a name for it and clicking ‘create’.

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Bookmarks Dashboard

Browsing your saved links can be done in a number of ways: using the traditional bookmarks app menu, saving items to the bookmarks toolbar or by using the Google Stars bookmark page.

The latter is easy to reach using a button positioned next to the Apps shortcut.

Google Stars Toolbar Item

Clicking on the toolbar button opens up the main dashboard. Visually, it’s a huge improvement over the old manager view. Gone is the spreadsheet-style listings and in comes a Pocket-style grid with item thumbnails, descriptions and filters for sorting.

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Organising and Sorting Bookmarks

The Pinterest/Pocket-styled gridded UI is the starting point for searching, sifting and sorting through saved sites.

On the left is a sidebar with quick links to create and view folders or return to the main ‘All Items’ view.

Starred content can be quickly arranged into folders by dragging and dropping them into the appropriate sidebar folder:

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Auto-Filters

Using the feature when signed into your Google Account enables so-called ‘personalised filters’. These are auto-generated tags based on the type of content of the pages you favourite and should make zeroing in on content spread through several folders a bit easier.

For example, I have several Ubuntu-related webpages starred. Google notices the common theme between them, even though they’re in different folders and adds an ‘Ubuntu’ filter to the sidebar.

Searching

The main dashboard has a search box. Entering a term in this will search the entire page content of starred items and offer up suggestions with autocomplete.

Also on hand are a set of smart lists that are useful for filtering favourites based on their type, specifically webpages, images and videos.

google stars filters

Sharing Folders

One of the truly innovative features Stars brings to the table is the ability to create public bookmark folders so that others can benefit from your natty net saves.

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While the majority of my own are random nonsense from imgur and Reddit (most of which I can’t even recall adding) there is a good chunk that is either informative, insightful or just out-and-out useful — I’m excited by the thought of being able to share collections of my saves publicly.

Example Shared Folder from Google Stars

Stargazing

Google is yet to formally acknowledge the existence of Stars, deferring to their usual blurb about ‘can’t comment on ongoing experiments’ when asked.

Based on what’s been shared so far Stars does a pretty stellar job of bringing rudimentary features bang up to date. There will no doubt be further refinements made before Google gives it the nod for a proper release.

But I’m already willing to give it five stars. 

  • Naum Rusomarov

    omg where were they before? this looks awesome!

  • David

    I would seriously consider ditching Pocket for this if Google can find a way to make Stars work in a similar way with cross-platform support and sync, as per the normal expectations. I really hope an officially released version makes its way outside of Google’s walls.

  • http://lukelarris.com/ Luke Larris

    I am so freaking ready to ditch Pocket for this.

  • Zactu

    About time. The bookmarking feature has been totally ignored for so long.

  • Mathspy

    I am wondering if PCs are the only ones that will get the cake this time (Good as a change after Google Now which took about a year to get to Chrome with low functionality too) or will they wait until all the other Chromes have the feature too?

  • Serra Behymer

    Do want!

  • Danny Collinge

    If you want to give this a go download this file: https://cloudup.com/cxeMQmWCuq9
    Then drag and drop it in to your extensions: chrome://extensions

    • jdsmelts

      You, sir, are brilliant! I was really hoping someone would post a link to the file. Many thanks!

    • Bunny Bubbles

      DEAR GOD! Thank you!!!

    • Graham Carroll

      Thank you Danny!

  • dourscot

    This might be an advance but the worry is Google itself – the firm’s record on usability isn’t stellar. Its products are often sightly clunky. Hopefully this will be better.

    • Heimen Stoffels

      You mean the firm’s record on keeping products alive. Many of their products/services launched (or remained alive after taking over) and got swept under the carpet eventually. Even if immensely popular (like their RSS service, for example).

  • Jason X Bånd

    Sounds a lot like http://www.BooDoRi.com – Bookmarks Done Right

    • Rob Roberts

      Ugh, I tried that damned thing. It renamed each of my 1,700+ bookmarks with a #bdm# and a bunch of gibberish behind each bookmark name. Now it will take until the second coming for me to edit them all back to the way they were.

      • Jason X Bånd

        each bookmark is linked to a Drive file, which is where you store any notes, tags on each bookmark. The #bdm# gibberish is a link to the drive file, which you can simply choose to ignore.

    • Rob Roberts

      Ugh, I tried that damned thing. It renamed each of my 1700+ bookmarks with a #bdm# and a bunch of gibberish behind each bookmark name. Now it will take me until the second coming to change them all back.

  • view2share

    If it is an additional choice, then fine. If it replaces regular bookmarks and their folders, like the Google Mail having no folders, then forget it – terrible idea.

  • Graham Carroll

    Had a play with this, it looks pretty but it’s still a lot quicker for me to access my bookmarks on the bookmarks bar which is split into folders.

  • http://www.live-craft.com/ Jonathan Alfonso

    Looking fancy.

  • http://www.yellowbag.com Yellowbag.com

    To bad delicious.com stopped innovating!

    • Ian

      At least Diigo didn’t.

  • Nitin Jadhav

    I really don’t see much of a point in this app. Bookmarks bar serves me well.

  • Ian

    This is essentially Google Bookmarks from 2005 but rebranded. And Google Stars was another service which integrated Bookmarks with search results. Nothing innovative.

  • http://vicente-de-pierola.tumblr.com/ Vicente de Piérola

    Wow, this seems huge. So far, I’ve been using Evernote Web Clipper for articles, YouTube playlists for videos, Google Drive for images, and the regular Chrome Bookmarks for collecting websites, cause right now I think this is the most fitting and organised solution. However, Google Stars looks like a replacement for all of them… This would even stop me from saving tons of funny gifs into my Drive.

    I think Keep integration would be the tipping point for this service, and a big punch in Evernote’s face. Anyhow, while there’s no iPhone version of Keep, I will have to stay loyal to Evernote’s crazy ecosystem.

    They should also create some sort of coherence between their current platforms and ‘Stars’. For example, if you create a Folder in Google Stars with a set of Youtube videos called “The Best Of Glastonbury”, a playlist in your YouTube account with the same name and content appears. Or if you “Star” a PDF link in Chrome, it saves in your Drive. All of these controlled by the user, of course, he allows and denies permissions for these integration between Stars and its “brother apps”. In my case, I would only avoid the syncing of all my funny gifs from Stars to Drive, so I don’t waste Drive space that I’ll need for actual documents.

    Now, THIS would be pretty freaking fantastic.

  • http://vicente-de-pierola.tumblr.com/ Vicente de Piérola

    Done properly, this can replace SO much services…

  • Reeve D’Cunha

    Whenever I install this on my c720 chromebook, the google stars icon and the normal bookmarks icon both show up in the omnibox. I dont think it used to be like this before. Ive powerwashed several times but it still stays the same. Help?

  • Heimen Stoffels

    It looks nice, but traditional bookmarking is more consistent. I want to be able to use my bookmarks on more than one browser and they’re not all gonna implement this (I’m 100% sure of that). So thanks, but no thanks.

  • http://www.freewebs.com/compuaid/index.htm Ather

    Chrome needs an update bookmark URL option. Say you’re doing research. You bookmark a site, come back to it the next day. Copy what you need. Find a new site and save it for later. Now, Chrome wants you to make a brand new bookmark, and delete the old one. An Update (which Firefox, Maxthon, etc allow) let’s you quickly update the existing bookmark’s URL to the new page. 3 clicks. Click your folder, right click bookmark, click update. 2 clicks if you have it on the main bookmark bar. Chrome wants you to either make anew bookmark, or use edit. That requires 7 steps. Highlight URL, rightclick, copy, click on fodler, right click bookmark, click edit, paste URL. For a browser that’s all about the spped, seems weird they wnat you to waste time editing bookmarks, or making new ones and deleting older ones for the same thing. Ditto if you’re in a huge picture gallery on multi pages (like you family’s Facebook albums).