Google has started to roll out a dramatically different bookmarks manager for its Chrome browser, releasing it with the latest beta build and preparing users of the more popular stable version for an appearance within weeks.
But when Google asked for feedback, it got a thumbs down from most users.
On Nov. 19, Google said it would roll out the new bookmarks manager "gradually over the next few weeks" in the beta of Chrome 40. Users of the beta, including staffers at Computerworld, have had the new manager supplant the old, list-style bookmark tool.
The new bookmark manager sports a redesigned user interface (UI) and user experience (UX), with large thumbnails of each site that appear as "cards," folders into which bookmarks are automatically organized, and improved search that lets users retrieve bookmarks not only by title but also by content on a saved page.
The previous bookmark manager was a simple list view of URL titles, the approach most other browsers continue to take.
The large visual-oriented cards are easily the most distinctive UI/UX feature; they're reminiscent of the thumbnails shown in Chrome's new tab page.
Google has experimented with the new design for months, first leaking it as a Chrome add-on in May when it was dubbed "Stars," then releasing it to the Chrome Web Store in October as "Bookmark Manager." The add-on has now been rolled into Chrome itself.
In late October, Google debuted the new in-browser bookmarks manager in the Canary and dev build channels -- the two least-polished versions of Chrome -- and asked for user feedback in a message posted to the Chrome support discussion forum.
Although there were a few users who applauded the redesign there, most did not, labeling it "an abomination," "unmitigated disaster" and "child-like." Those who roasted the new manager asked Google to restore the old list view or at least offer it as an option.
Those with large numbers of bookmarks were particularly frustrated with the change. "The new bookmark manager is unusable if you have more than a handful of bookmarks," said a user identified as csw13.
For now, Chrome users who don't like the new bookmarks manager can restore the list view by typing chrome://flags in the address bar, hitting Enter, then searching for the flag labeled Enable Enhanced Bookmarks and setting it to Disabled. The old-style manager will return after Chrome is restarted.
Those flags are notoriously temporary, however. In fact, a Google employee warned that the disable flag might vanish in the future. "Be aware that flags can go away, break, or disappear at any time so this option may not always be there," said Sarah Dee in the thread.
Google has dropped flags before that Chrome users relied on to restore old features after the Mountain View, Calif. company mandated changes to the browser.
The most notable example was Google's revision of the new tab page, which was introduced in the stable build of Chrome in September 2013. Five months later, Google removed the flag that had disabled the revamped new tab page, riling users all over again. But even after vocal complaints, Google stuck with the design, telling users as late as April 2014 that it wasn't going to backtrack.
Anyone interested in trying out the new bookmarks manager can download the beta build of Chrome 40 for Windows, OS X or Linux from Google's website.
Google has not said when it will promote the new bookmarks manager to the stable channel of Chrome. But the first opportunity would be version 40, which could hit the stable branch as soon as late December or as late as the first two weeks of January 2015.
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