If you're anything like me, when you stumble upon an important or cool web site, you click on the Add To Favorites button to save that link so you can go back and check it out later when you have more time. And if you're even more like me, you've realized that you've accumulated gobs of links. Including those that make you say "what the heck was I thinking when I saved THAT one?!?!"
People see me as an organized person. But sometimes when I look at my hard drive, I have to wonder if that vision isn't an illusion. Sheesh, doesn't take long to pile up a ton of files all over the place, does it. Particularly those Favorites links.
But I've come up with a few ways to keep all that mess under control. In this article, I'll show you some ways to help you find what you need a little faster.
By the way, allow me to say that this article was written with Internet Explorer (MSIE) in mind. I don't use Netscape, so I have no idea how to better organize their Bookmarks or markers from other browsers, for that matter. But with any luck, some of these suggestions might also work for those of you using something other than MSIE, too.
First let's look at the MSIE Links Toolbar. I believe I'm called a Type A personality. I thrive on efficiency so I can get the mundane things in life done quickly and painlessly. I cringe when I see people taking forever to get something done that I know can be accomplished in a click or two. I have too much to do to waste my time clicking around a computer. So I try to find the most efficient ways to do things. And, in my opinion, the Links Toolbar is the greatest thing since sliced bread!
The Links Toolbar is a special toolbar in MSIE that allows you to keep many of your favorites very close at hand. As you can see in the image below, I have added many of the sites that I hit several times a day. Some are folders that have yet more links in a specific category, such as my true favorites, my web sites (those I need to check regularly, as I maintain them), Microsoft sites, MVP web sites, and TechTrax pages. Then I have single links to those single sites I access constantly, MouseTrax, my Dictionary, Microsoft, DirectTV (gotta make sure mom has a movie to watch), the MVP FAQ and Weather. There are a few more that are off the screen, but they can quickly be accessed by clicking the double >> marker at the end of the row.
To use the Links toolbar, you may already see it in the far corner of MSIE. But you will need to right click on a vacant area of the top toolbar and click Lock The Toolbar to toggle the toolbars from being locked, as shown below.
Once unlocked, you'll have the freedom to move the bars around to give you more real estate. I would suggest, however, that after you have them placed where you want, you relock the them. Otherwise you might accidentally flip them around with fat finger clicks that can cause a mess.
The luxury of being able to move shortcuts around on the toolbar by simply dragging these favorites around is too cool. Makes life so easy! Just click and hold on to a link you want to reorder and drag it into the position you want. The rest will adjust down the line. If weather is a current issue and you're clicking that link several times a day...move it into a more prominent place to save you a click or two. If you're writing your memoirs, make sure your Dictionary is just a click away.
And if you have a lot of sites that can all fall under a specific category, you can drag them all into one folder that can easily be expanded as its own mini favorites list with just a click. This makes it easy to keep hundreds of important links just a quick click away.
Organize Favorites Dialog Box
However, if clicking, holding and dragging isn't something you do very well...rather than ending up with links dropped all over the bar, you might want to opt to use the favorites organizer dialog. Click Favorites > Organize Favorites.
A dialog box will open that allows you to make all the adjustments you need through the use of command buttons. You'll also find the list of shortcuts from your Links Toolbar here...just scroll down to Links.
Although, again, there are always more direct ways to do things on a computer. So if you get tired of clicking buttons, right click and you'll see a list of frequently used commands on a shortcut menu.
A Better Way to Get Organized
Personally, I find mucking around with the Organize dialog box to be a time waster. And you can forget about clicking Favorites and attempting to work from the side panel that displays. There isn't even a way to force alphabetizing of new links through that list, as best as I can tell. It appears you have to wait until the next time you open your browser...a fact that makes me nuts.
But realize that your favorites list is simply a list of shortcuts in various folders under your Favorites folder that is easily accessible through your Windows Explorer. And for my money, this is the best way to get a real grip on your links. Just dig down to your favorites folder through c:\documents and settings\[your user name]\favorites. There you'll find all those links you've been saving.
You can easily create new categories by just creating a new folder under your Favorites folder. Make sure you have your Favorites folder highlighted in the left panel. Then move your mouse to the right panel. Find a blank space in that area and right click to display the shortcut menu. From there, click New > Folder. A new folder will be created that you can name whatever your little heart desires.
Note that, if you have difficulty getting the shortcut menu to display, you can highlight the Favorites folder and then click File > New > Folder off the main Windows Explorer menu along the top.
Once you've created the new category folder, you can go through the main pile of favorites to get them sorted out. If you're not sure where they lead, click them to find out what the site is about. And you can rename the links if you want by right clicking and choosing Rename.
As you can see in the image below, the web site developer chose to have his bookmark saved as Layer 1 Wireless. But I renamed this link to Layer1Wireless.com. However, when I mouseover the link, it displays the full http://www.layer1wireless.com link. And because this is one of Greg's links (to his partnership where he installs wireless networking into restaurants), I have dragged this into my GregSites category. Now it's very easy to find all the links that Greg passes to me because they're neatly tucked into a Greg folder. And they will display as GregSites in my favorites list.
I need to keep tons of support article links handy. Keeping them organized through my file folders is a lot easier than messing around with the tiny Organize Favorites dialog box. And a lot faster to find through a full screen display versus the small Favorites panel display. Plus, here they're more easily kept in alphabetical order or even date order, if I so choose.
Faster Access to Shortcuts
Even better, I have a shortcut to my Favorites folder on my desktop! To find a link, rather than opening MSIE first and trying to navigate through those favorites lists, I go right to the mother load.
When I need to get to a link, I can click on my Desktop icon on my Quick Launch bar.
There I'll see my Favorites shortcut to take me right to my entire list through the Windows Explorer. Once I find the category folder, I can locate the link and click to have MSIE automatically open to the site I need.
When I'm accessing a lot of support articles, I can also drag out a new shortcut that will take me directly to those articles, saving more time. You can create a shortcut by right clicking your desktop, clicking New > Shortcut and browsing to the link. Or, faster, just right click on the folder to which you want a shortcut and drag it out with your right mouse key to your desktop. When you release the mouse key, you'll be asked whether you want to move or copy the folder to your desktop, or just create a shortcut. Choose Create a Shortcut so you can easily delete it later to clear up your desktop when you no longer need constant access to this folder. You'll recognize that a desktop icon is, indeed, a shortcut by the tiny arrow.
Note that you can also choose to put, not only a direct Address bar on your Taskbar, but also display a quick access link to your Links Toolbar...yet another great reason to use Links!
With my Links Toolbar in place on my Taskbar, I can really speed along! If I need to jump to a site quickly, I can just click the Links button on my Taskbar to display all my most used links and away I go!
As you can see, there are lots of ways to more easily organize and access all those favorite links. In fact, if you find you spend much of your time within Outlook, you can even setup fast access links within Outlook. Granted, newer versions of Outlook make web access easy through a Web Toolbar. But the following article will show you yet another alternative: Looking Out Through Outlook.
The bottom line? If you're clicking a dozen times to get to one web site, you're wasting a lot of time! Now, with all this time you've saved you can...yup, you guessed it...surf for even more cool sites to save!