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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

IE + Xmarks caused major problems on my Win 7 machines

A crazy decision by Internet Explorer designers to keep its Favorites as files in Windows file system instead of XML / HTML file as any other browser does, just led to major problems on my Win 7 machines.

As you imagine, names of files on Windows have several restrictions, as they for sure do on other operating systems. Certain symbols are prohibited, file names cannot be longer than a limit, etc.
Obviously, these restrictions cannot always correlate to titles authors give to their pages.
Now, just add to this equation a common necessity for synchronizing bookmarks across different types of browsers and you got a recipe for a disaster.

That’s what happen yesterday on my home Windows 7 machines. Obviously, Xmarks software which lately became more and more buggy (Xmarks acquisition by LastPass haven’t helped so far) after some “upgrade” decided that it cam pump Firefox 4 / Chrome bookmarks to Internet Explorer (I use IE9, but it hardly matter) without adjusting their names to become suitable as Windows file names. Windows 7, on its side, which I previously thought of as a pretty stable OS, allowed to save some files with names it actually doesn’t support. For example, Firefox has a habit of converting long page titles into bookmarks of a format ‘This is a very long bookmark (…)’. Files with such names were saved on Windows 7, but then became corrupted. An attempt to delete such a file leads to one of the most stupid error messages I ever saw on Windows:

File name too long for destination folder.

Again, Windows displays this error message when  you try to delete a file, not to put it into Recycle Bin!
I finally found a way to delete those files: it turned out that launching command window and using del _folder_name command deletes all files inside that folder, including files, undeletable by Windows tools.

Add to this stupidity a nasty habit of Xmarks of creating millions of duplicating bookmarks (they even have a tool for deleting duplicates, instead of designing bug-free Xmarks!), and you’ll end up with a mess.  Bookmarks cannot be synced across browsers, a lot of garbage in your OS. I’m pretty sure my nightly Acronis backup failed last night because it couldn’t copy corrupted favorite files.

So, who is worse, Windows OS itself, Internet Explorer, or Xmarks? All of them together, probably.