Microsoft is bringing up the rear for a reason.
Since it’s not obvious how to do it, let’s type “IE9 sync favorites” into Google. The first choice takes us – well, it takes us to an obsolete third-party site. But the second choice! Ah, that must lead right to the official Microsoft answer: “Sync your favorites using Windows Live Toolbar.” Perfect!
We don’t want a toolbar but the page promises that favorites will be synced and stored in our Skydrive account for online access, and that’s good, right? So bravely click the link on that page to “Install Windows Live Toolbar”!
Hmm. That link goes to the Windows Live Essentials 2011 page, and there’s no mention there of a “Windows Live Toolbar.”
There’s a “Bing Bar.” Maybe that’s it – after all, the “Bing Bar” is the new version of the annoying Windows Live Toolbar. And yet over on the Bing Bar page, there’s no mention of syncing favorites. The Bing Bar looks completely useless, instead of almost completely useless like its predecessor.
Let me end the suspense. There is no method from Microsoft built into Internet Explorer 9 to sync Internet favorites among computers. It was removed from the add-on toolbar a few months ago and moved over to Live Mesh, the crippled program that deserves to be ignored. (Before its most recent name change, when it was still called “Windows Live Sync,” it inspired one of my most heartfelt rants. The failure of Live Mesh represents everything you need to know about Microsoft’s lack of vision and inability to lead us into the world of cloud computing.)
You’ll recall the other things synced by Firefox and Chrome in addition to bookmarks. They sync a variety of things related to web browsing – browser preferences, history, tab groups, saved passwords, and the like.
Live Mesh will sync Internet favorites “and if you have Microsoft Office installed, you can sync your styles, templates, custom dictionary, and email signatures.” That’s it. Syncing an Office custom dictionary is helpful to some people, I’m sure, but it’s not exactly a grabber on the feature list.
I’m not going to detail the process of setting up Live Mesh. It makes me irritable. I uninstall Live Mesh when I find it and send people to Dropbox instead. Dropbox doesn’t sync favorites but it is otherwise better than Live Mesh in every conceivable way.
Technical note: I feel like I should mention this, since I do it. It’s possible to make Dropbox sync your IE Favorites. It’s really geeky. It requires installation of the Dropbox Folder Sync add-on, which moves folders into Dropbox and replaces them in their original locations with symbolic links. It looks easy but in reality it’s powerful and things break if you get too happy with it. If the words “symbolic links” frighten you, don’t go there.
Tomorrow: Syncing Bookmarks And Favorites With Xmarks