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Free the Bookmarks! (or "What we should learn from the OSS movement")

By Andrew Pollack on 06/29/2008 at 08:24 PM EDT

Firefox 3.0 has been out for about 1 week. There are more than 280 community created "Themes" -- color and icon sets. There are over 475 add-on tools for it which make managing bookmarks better for people. There are nearly 150 add-on tools just for better handling the tabbed interface.

Why? What's the deal? Do the thousands of contributors to the Mozilla project all just suck at creating user interfaces? No. It means the open source movement recognizes that no matter how good their UI skills are, a huge number of users out there who will want to do things differently. There are so many of them that a thriving community exists around these add-ons for Firefox.

Lotus Notes has bookmarks too. It has bookmarks and it has themes. At one time these things were going to be skinable though the feature was pulled. I think this was in the R5 timeframe.

There are UI teams at Lotus working on the Notes UI and I'm sure they're working hard on making it the "ideal" experience for everyone. They can't win this way, however, unless they get around to opening up the bookmarks data store. Personally, I see no reason why the entire design of bookmarks database can't be completely open. If it were, creating your own bookmarking tools would be easy.

This is what I want from any new UI bookmark management feature in the Notes client.

#1. I want the storage and organization of bookmarks to be fully documented. This could be a stand alone file -- xml, binary, or whatever -- as long as its fully documented. If it is an NSF database, the elements it uses should be documented and no data should be stored in it that isn't managed just the way any Notes designer would. No special database or item types, no hidden script libraries, and no undocumented features.

#2. I want a document created which indicates what conditions must be met for any NSF to be used as a bookmark database. What named indexes are used, what fields and view columns must exist -- all of it.

#3. The new format should include room for bookmark icons which may or may not be the same as the database icons built into the databases. This is a critical idea change. There is no reason why I as a user should be always satisfied with the database icon chosen by a developer when the db was created. I should be able to assign my own icons. These should support common image types (JPG, GIF, PNG) as well as standard platform icon formats (e.g. .ico for windows).

#4. I want to be able to stack replicas, or unstack them. When unstacked, I want to be able to sort them by server, by replica id, by path name, by database name, and by file name.

#5. I want to be able to put my database bookmarks in folders, nest the folders, and view different folders in different ways.

#6. I want to view the bookmarks in a folder as icons, as file names with small icons, or as a details list showing title, filename, servername, unread count, etc.

What am I missing?

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