The newest version of Mozilla’s experimental browser-syncing tool, Weave, just hit the net, and it’s seen a few marked improvements since it was first available. Going beyond bookmarks, Weave can match up your Firefox 3 settings, cookies, browsing history, and even tabs between browsers, with experimental support for passwords and form data—in other words, just about everything except extensions, themes, and plug-ins. There’s a lot more to come, and it’s still a pretty rough around the edges—this is, after all, just version 0.2—but follow along after the jump to see some of what Weave can do, or at least one day will do, to keep your Firefox browsing consistent and convenient.
The first step is heading to Weave’s home page and installing the add-on. Firefox in Windows detected a security certificate problem and made me confirm Mozilla’s worthiness three or four times before I could get in. After installing the add-on and restarting Firefox, you’re prompted with a welcome screen (with a requisite warning about Weave’s experimental nature), and then your first choice:
If you’re setting up the first of your Firefox browsers that you’ll grab and sync settings from, choose the left button. If you’re trying to pull your settings from Mozilla’s cloud for another browser or system, choose the right. If you’re signing up new, you’ll be asked for a username, email address, password, and then a separate “passphrase” that unlocks the encryption on your server-stored data.
Next, you’ll be asked what you want to back up and sync on the computer you’re installing Weave on:
You’ll see again that passwords and form data are “experimental” features. I tried to enable both, and while syncing to a new Firefox profile in Vista, Weave failed with a “failed to acquire lock” error—your mileage may vary, of course, but I found success by choosing the non-experimental defaults.
I’ll note here that your initial sync is going to take a loooooooooong time—about 6 minutes for an XP machine to pick up the data from a previous sync, and my Vista system went for 10 minutes before I’d decided to move on—though it apparently worked, given that XP grabbed my bookmarks, cookies, and “awesome bar” shortcuts. If everything did go well, you’ll see the screen at right, and you can resume your normal browsing.
To keep your browser synced up, Weave puts an icon in your status bar that lets you sign in or out, sync on command, and see your last sync and activity log. You’ll also see a little spinning sync wheel in a pop-up window when you close down the browser—which can stick around for a minute or more, depending on the connection and what changes you’ve made. You’ll also get a Weave menu added to your Firefox preferences, with some troubleshooting logs and syncing options, most of which you can access from the status bar.
I tried out Weave on two different profiles each in Windows Vista, Windows XP, and Linux. If you’re willing to try out Weave, here’s a few problems I encountered that you might also find:
- Linux = no go: At least on my system. Weave just refuses to accept my encryption passphrase, and it looks like it’s a disconnect between a locally-stored file and Mozilla’s servers. Let us know in the comments if you find a fix or work-around.
- Re-installation prompts: On my XP installation, Weave seemed to continually ask me to install an add-on called “Latest Weave” upon starting up Firefox. I agreed three times, until I realised it was misinformed.
- Occasional syncing hang-ups: Even on systems where Weave managed to successfully install, sync attempts at start-up or shutdown would lag or sometimes outright fail.
- Where’s the bookmark trading?: Weave was said to let users trade read-only bookmarks with other registered users, but I didn’t see any send or receive options in any dialogs or settings. Can you find the gateway?
Caveats aside, Weave is looking pretty exciting right now, and if it works fine on your system, it could be a major time-saver and mobility helper.
What’s your impressions of Weave? Got any tips or fixes for your tester or fellow commenters? Let’s hear about it in the comments.