Sync Safari Bookmarks Using Dropbox

Using Cloud Storage, You Can Keep All Your Mac's Safari Bookmarks in Sync

Safari Bookmarks and Favorites
Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

Syncing your Mac's Safari bookmarks is an easy process, one that will also increase your productivity, especially if you routinely use multiple Macs.

We're going to show you how to set up your own browser bookmark syncing service. We chose Safari for this guide because it's the most popular web browser for the Mac, and because Firefox has built-in bookmark syncing capabilities, so you really don't need much of a guide to set that service up. (Just go to Firefox preferences and turn the Sync feature on.)

We're only going to sync Safari's bookmarks, although it's possible to sync other aspects of the Safari browser, such as history and the top sites list. Bookmarks are the most important aspect of Safari that we want to be consistent across all of our Macs. If you want to sync any other items, this guide should provide enough information to help you figure out how to do it.

What You Need

Two or more Macs whose browsers you want to sync up.

OS X Leopard or later. This guide should also work for earlier versions of OS X, but we haven't been able to test them. Drop us a line if you try this guide with an older version of OS X, and let us know how it went.

Dropbox, one of our favorite cloud-based storage services. You can actually use just about any cloud-based storage service, as long as it provides a Mac client that makes the cloud storage appear to the Mac as just another Finder folder.

A few minutes of your time, and access to all the Macs you wish to sync up.

Let's Get Going

  1. Close Safari, if it's open.
  2. If you don't use Dropbox, you will need to create a Dropbox account and install the Dropbox client for the Mac. You can find instructions in the Setting Up Dropbox for Mac guide.
  3. Open a Finder window, then navigate to the Safari support folder, located at ~/Library/Safari. The tilde (~) in the pathname represents your home folder. So, you can get there by opening your home folder, then the Library folder, and then the Safari folder.
  4. If you're using OS X Lion or later, you won't see the Library folder at all, because Apple chose to hide it. You can use the following guide to make the Library folder reappear in Lion: OS X Lion Is Hiding Your Library Folder.
  5. Once you have the ~/Library/Safari folder open, you will notice it holds many of the support files that Safari needs. In particular, it contains the Bookmarks.plist file, which contains all of your Safari bookmarks.
  6. We're going to make a backup copy of the bookmark file, just in case something goes wrong with the next few steps. That way, you can always revert back to how Safari was configured before you ever started this process. Right-click the Bookmarks.plist file and select "Duplicate" from the pop-up menu.
  1. The duplicate file will be called Bookmarks copy.plist. You can leave the new file where it is; it won't interfere with anything.
  2. Open your Dropbox folder in another Finder window.
  3. Drag the Bookmarks.plist file to your Dropbox folder.
  4. Dropbox will copy the file to cloud storage. When the process is complete, a green check mark will appear on the file icon.
  5. Since we have moved the bookmarks file, we need to tell Safari where it is, otherwise, Safari will create a new, blank bookmarks file the next time you launch it.
  6. Launch Terminal, located at /Applications/Utilities.
  7. Enter the following command at the Terminal prompt:
    1. ln -s ~/Dropbox/Bookmarks.plist ~/Library/Safari/Bookmarks.plist
  8. Press return or enter to execute the command. Your Mac will then create a symbolic link between the location Safari expects to find the bookmarks file and its new location in your Dropbox folder.
  9. To verify that the symbolic link is working, launch Safari. You should see all of your bookmarks loaded in the browser.

Syncing Safari on Additional Macs

With your main Mac now storing its Bookmarks.plist file in the Dropbox folder, it is time to sync your other Macs to the same file. To do this, we will repeat most of the same steps we performed above, with one exception. Instead of moving each Mac's copy of the Bookmarks.plist file to your Dropbox folder, we're going to delete the files instead. Once we delete them, we will use Terminal to link Safari to the single Bookmarks.plist file located in the Dropbox folder.

So the process will follow these steps:

  1. Perform steps 1 though 7.
  2. Drag the Bookmarks.plist file to the trash.
  3. Perform steps 12 through 15.

That's all there is to syncing your Safari's bookmarks file. You can now access the same bookmarks on all of your Macs. Any changes you make to your bookmarks, including additions, deletions, and organization, will show up on every Mac that is synced to the same bookmark file.

Remove Safari Bookmark Syncing

There may come a time when you no longer wish to sync Safari's bookmarks by using cloud-based storage such as Dropbox or one of its competitors. This is especially true of your using a version of OS X that includes iCloud support. iClouds built-in support for syncing Safari Bookmarks can be much more reliable. 

To return Safari to its original state of not syncing bookmarks, follow these instructions:

  1. Quit Safari.
  2. Open a  Finder window and navigate to your Dropbox folder.
  3. Right-click the Bookmarks.plist file in the Dropbox folder and select Copy 'Bookmarks.plist' from the popup menu.
  4. Open a second Finder window and navigate to ~/Library/Safari. An easy way to do this is to select Go from the Finder window, then hold down the Option key. Library will now appear in the menu list of places and folders you can open. Select Library from the menu list. Then open the Safari folder within the Library folder.
  5. In the Finder window open on the Safari folder, find a blank area, then right-click and select Paste Item from the popup menu.
  6. You'll be asked if you wish to replace the existing Bookmarks.plist file. Click OK to replace the symbolic link you created earlier with the current Dropbox copy of the bookmarks file.

You can now launch Safari and all of your bookmarks should be present and will no longer be synced with other devices.