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So Del.icio.us! Intelligent Tagging for the Mac User

by Giles Turnbull
07/18/2006

Editor's note: In this article, you'll learn about del.icio.us, a glorious, minimalist, tag-tastic bookmarks database. It was designed to be a "large-scale outboard memory," with added sharing smarts. It works like this: you take all your digital stuff--mainly URLs now, but color definitions and audio files have found their own special homes on the site too--and throw it into your del.icio.us account. Thanks to tagging and searching, you can find your stuff easily later. And you can find other people's stuff too. Here's what you need to know.

Try to think back to the early days of the Web. Back when browsers were a new thing. Imagine what a great idea it was when somebody said: "Hey, let's make a system that lets people remember the URLs they've been to; we could call it bookmarks or something."

In those days your bookmarks said a lot about you. People would export their bookmarks as HTML and turn them into a "My Bookmarks" or "My Links" page on their websites.

But bookmarks were also a pain. You had to manage them. Keeping a clean collection was hard work; you always ended up bookmarking stuff that you were never going to visit again. (Remember, this was pre-Google; search wasn't always going to be very helpful then.)

And bookmarks were even more troublesome if you used more than one computer, or more than one browser. Then, storing bookmarks in a file on a computer was no help at all, and synchronizing bookmarks across computers, across networks, even across platforms, was just nothing but hard work.

Then somebody had another great idea: "Hey, let's abandon bookmarks on the computer and store them on the Web. Let's make it incredibly simple for people to get to them from any browser, on any computer."

Joshua Schachter has had several great ideas. He built Memepool, then built a little online bookmarks script and stuck it online at Muxway.com. People kept needling him about it, asking how they could get a Muxway of their own. The result was del.icio.us.

In this article, I'm going to take a look at various del.icio.us helper apps for Mac OS X that have sprung up in the wake of it becoming such a popular service. Some of these apps are designed to make your del.icio.us account available on the desktop; others are intended to make posting new items possible without having to use the web interface.

Posting Made Easy

Pukka is a $5 posting assistant. It lets you log in to del.icio.us with several accounts, and post to each of them from your desktop. It does this one thing and it does it well. It comes with an easy-to-add bookmarklet that automates stuff like including the URL title and putting any selected text into the comments field. When you start adding tags, a drop-down menu of existing tags appears, Google Suggest style, to make it that little bit faster.

Pukka screenshot
Figure 1. Pukka

Pukka's nice, but Cocoalicious is free and offers all of Pukka's features plus a few more.

In Cocoalicious, not only do you get the chance to create new posts, but you also have a backup of your entire del.icio.us "linkstream" (for want of a better word) on your desktop. This is searchable, and all previously stored links are editable via the Info sheet.

This means you can go back to old links and change their descriptions, tags, and titles, even make them private if you wish, without having to use your browser.

After all the gushing good stuff we've said about del.icio.us, why do some avoid it?

Well, the del.icio.us post page can sometimes be slow, especially if you have a very large number of tags for it to display underneath the posting form. Also, people's browsers tend to be busy little apps these days--running a web email client in one window, perhaps playing some audio or video in another. There are lots of times when farming off a task like del.icio.us account management to another app might be a good idea.

Cocoalicious screenshot
Figure 2. Cocoalicious

Cocoalicious also comes with a bookmarklet that does the same job as Pukka's, and has a built-in WebKit browser for instant viewing of any chosen URL. Your stored URLs can be viewed by date as well as description, and it has a neat Ratings feature that turns tags-as-stars (*, **, ***, etc.) into iTunes-style ratings for each link.

The one thing it can't do (but Pukka can) is cope with more than one del.icio.us account. Pukka's helpful drop-down menu lets you flit between accounts with ease, making multiple account management very swift. This offers another advantage over the browser, where you'd be forced to log out and log in again to achieve the same effect (or use a separate browser for your additional del.icio.us account, at which point the whole point of simplifying things starts to break down somewhat).

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