You need Google Browser Sync

Google Browser Sync settings panel

If you use Firefox you should use Google Browser Sync. Seriously.

Google Browser Sync (GBS hereinafter, because I’m lazy) is a Firefox extension that caches your cookies, history, bookmarks, open tabs, and saved passwords on Google’s servers for your later use. You can encrypt the data, ostensibly preventing even Google from reading it, and you can prevent the caching and syncing of one or more of these five data types. For example, I do not sync browsing history so that my work computer’s history isn’t littered with flash game sites, generally considered a no-no.

Having my bookmarks and open tabs and passwords available at work and home gives me a unique freedom: I can close a browser window with multiple tabs open in the middle of researching a problem or idea at home, drive to work, fire up Firefox, and pick up exactly where I left off. This capability is incredibly valuable.

Most writeups (Google, Google Blog, Wikipedia) of GBS focus on using this information on multiple computers, which is how I got started with this extension. But it has proven valuable even with a single computer on multiple occasions.

  1. At work, Firefox and I were not getting along; it seemed the browser would crash at the slightest provocation. Even so, I could pick up where I left off thanks to GBS. When the time came to intervene, GBS saw me safely through profile pruning, creation of new profiles, reinstallations, and other usually destructive acts. (Trashing my old profile did the trick, at it turns out.)
  2. A while ago I ditched my home PC in favor of a Mac. GBS handled this move without a hitch, making the brain transplant even easier than expected.
  3. In my flush of enthusiasm over my new Mac I installed and uninstalled scads of third-party software, only to find that uninstallation (even with AppZapper, which is very good) is not as clean as it should be. Eventually this prompted a reformat and rebuild of the machine (I know, I know). Again GBS saved my bacon; I could get Firefox (or, better, BonEcho) running with all of my bookmarks and whatnot very quickly so I could be somewhat productive while waiting for other apps to install.

GBS does not sync extensions, and that’s probably a good thing, although some way of caching and syncing a list of installed extensions and URLs for their .xpi files would be very nice. Even so, GBS is a tool that I’d rather not do without.