Importing Bookmarks, including tags, into Firefox 3

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

UPDATE: 2008-06-29T23:08 +0100 UTC

There's now an easier way to import your bookmarks and tags into firefox 3. In a forum post at, watanabe described a process using a ruby script (written by the same) to combine a firefox bookmark backup file (in .json format) with a bookmarks export file (in .xml format) to create a new .json file for firefox 3.

The good news is that based on this script, a clever chap named Ben Hayes (and his friend) has created a nice and simple web-interface to import tags into firefox 3 which you can find at


On Tuesday, at 8pm (forty-four minutes after the 11:16am PST release time), I upgraded to the all new Firefox 3 and so contributed to the Guinness World Record for the most downloads of a piece of software in a 24 hour period. I must say, the World Record spin is a bit of a farce since doing things like checking for updates to the add-ons (which were incompatible with version Firefox 3) took an age - as did trying to find any information on mozilla's site. That aside, I've spent an enjoyable evening checking out the new features and improvements. One of the things I really like is the long-awaited tags for bookmarks. It's now possible to tag bookmarks and to enter tags into the address bar to find those bookmarks. This is an awesome feature and one that will undoubtedly improve my ability to find stuff I know I've bookmarked...

Up to now, I've been using and the add-on for firefox which has helped a bit, but still falls short of the ideal. So now I want to import all of my bookmarks into firefox with all of the tags in place. Unfortunately, exporting bookmarks to an html file (which includes tag information) and then importing the html file into firefox 3 doesn't help because the tags aren't created in firefox. A little googling on the subject yielded a blog post at which points to a partial solution using Flock 2.0 beta, a "social web browser". Flock 2 uses the Firefox 3 codebase and also integrates well with and can export a .json bookmark file with all the tag information in it.

At the time of writing, the blog poster had managed to import tags into Firefox, but hadn't managed to get the bookmarks themselves to show-up in the bookmarks side-bar:

"What's strange, and something I've yet to figure out, is that the bookmarks DON'T display in the area on the left when selecting a tag in the nav area. However, when you type in a tag or a keyword relating to a site you've bookmarked from inside the location bar (a.k.a. "awesomebar" or "address bar") in the main Firefox window, the appropriate results display".

I can confirm though that it is possible and, very simply, involves exporting favourites from Flock 2 as a .json file, exporting favourites from as an html file and then importing both them both into Firefox 3. It's a bit more involved than that and there's a couple of potential pitfalls, but I'll describe the whole process here. First, you want to make sure that all your Firefox bookmarks are available in using the import html file facility on the website:

  • From Firefox, Bookmarks > Organise Bookmarks > Import and Backup > Export HTML... and save the html file somewhere.
  • Then login to and head to Settings and under Bookmarks, click import / upload. Browse to the html file you've just exported from firefox and make sure "Only import items I don't already have" is selected before clicking the import now button. And wait.
  • While you're waiting, download and install Flock 2.
  • Wait for your upload to to finish and then it's a good idea to spend some time checking over your tags, removing or renaming those created by the import and generally tidying-up. Time spent here will be well spent.
  • Now fire-up Flock 2 and login to the website. You'll see an information bar appear with a "Remember Account" button. Click this and then, very slowly, your bookmarks will start to download into Flock - tags and all.

This may take a long time and it's important to wait until it's finished. From within Flock it's possible to see the progress of tags downloading by opening Favourites > Organise Favourites and click on tags in the left-hand pane of the Library dialog. In the right hand-pane click the right-hand scroll bar and then below the list of tags you'll see the number of items and this number will increase as tags are added. To find out how many tags you're expecting when the process has finished, select your favourites on your website page and at the bottom of the right-hand column under tag options choose "view as cloud" and "hide bundles". Now select the entire tag cloud and paste it into a text-editor which can display line numbers and you should have a tag per line and the last line number shows you the number of tags you have.

  • While you're waiting export your bookmarks to html from the website by heading again to Settings and then export / backup and save the html file somewhere.
  • When your bookmarks have finally finished downloading to Flock you can delete any Flock specific bookmarks that you don't want to transfer to Firefox.
  • Still in Flock, in the Library dialog, click Import and Backup > Backup and save the .json file along with the html file you exported from
  • You're almost there!
  • Now head back to Firefox, Bookmarks > Organise Bookmarks > Import and Backup > Restore > Choose File.. and select the .json file exported from Flock. This will overwrite all your current bookmarks and replace them with your tags from
  • Then Import and Backup > Import HTML... select Import Bookmarks from: From an HTML file and click Next, select the html file you exported from and voila!

Now you should have Bookmarks and Tags in Firefox 3 from Job's a good'n!

It's worth noting that you will have lost any folder structure you had previously in Firefox and that the bookmarks will all be in the bookmarks menu. You'll soon discover you don't need a folder structure though as you can find any bookmark based on it's tag from the Address bar. If you know of any other ways to achieve the same result without using Flock then do drop me (jah) a line. Happy surfing!