File formats

ELinks supports two bookmark formats: the native format and a generic bookmark exchange format called XBEL. Each of those formats has its pros and cons, which we shall discuss below. You can switch between then by changing the option bookmarks.file_format.

However, first please note that ELinks CANNOT read Links bookmarks directly. Importing Links-0.9x (or Links-1.x) bookmarks is easy - it is just matter of changing all the | (pipe) characters to tabs. There is a script for that in the contrib/conv/ directory. Importing Links-2.xx bookmarks is not so easy; in fact, the scribe knows of no way of doing that at the time of writing this, so this is up to you to figure out (if you do, please tell us so that we can add it here). Perhaps you might find a way to convert Links2 bookmarks to the XBEL format, which can then be loaded in ELinks.

Native file format

This is the preferred bookmarks format, which is also used by default. The bookmarks file is ~/.elinks/bookmarks, in a simple format:

<name> '\t' <url> [ '\t' <depth> ['\t' <flags>] ] '\n'

\t represents a tab character, \n represents a newline character. [Square brackets] denote optional parts. The <name> and <url> fields should be obvious. <depth> contains the depth level of the entry - by that, ELinks can unambiguously figure out the bookmarks hierarchy:

Bookmarks structure:                                Depth:
 ,-- The Pasky's C Bestiary                         0
[-]- Wonderful things                               0
 |    |-- Christmas Carol in l33tsp34k by L.M.      1
 |   [-]- Beautiful Potato Camera Shots             1
 |   [-]- Gallery of Scary Images of Jonas Fonseca  1
 |         |-- Jonas torturing gdb                  2
 |        [-]- Urgh                                 2
 |         |    `-- Jonas consuming Tofu            3
 |         `-- Jonas with crashed ELinks            2
 |-- Slides from Witek's hack-patch show            0
 `-- Miciah's English Grammar Spellbook             0

<flags> is a string of characters. Currently, two flags are supported:

Flag Description
E This folder is currently expanded. (No effect for non-folders.)
F This entry is a folder. The <url> part is usually empty.

Separators: these are special bookmarks with "-" as title and no url.

Naturally, ELinks handles the native format the best, easiest and most reliably.
It is unlikely that you could use the native format anywhere else than in ELinks.

To use the native format, set bookmarks.file_format = 0.

XBEL file format

The XBEL file format support was added at some point during the 0.4 development by Fabio Boneli. It has never been complete and has plenty of troubles, but generally, it works at the basic level. The bookmarks file is ~/.elinks/bookmarks.xbel (thanks to a different filename, you can have both XBEL and native bookmarks saved in your ~/.elinks directory).

We shall not describe the XBEL file format here,

is the authoritative resource on that. It also contains list of some of the applications supporting the format. Basically, you will be probably able to convert from/to the XBEL format to/from most of the other widely used formats, so this way you can import your bookmarks to ELinks from basically anything.

XBEL is the gateway to the rest of the bookmarks world.
The support for XBEL is incomplete and there are known bugs. Especially, national character sets are basically not supported, so ELinks will most likely get it wrong if you have any non-ASCII characters in your bookmarks. Generally, the XBEL support should be considered experimental and you shouldn't rely on it. It could trash your XBEL bookmarks file so make regular backups.

To use the XBEL format, set bookmarks.file_format to 1.

Usage hints

As already noted above, probably the best usage pattern is to use XBEL for importing/exporting your bookmarks to/from ELinks and the native format for regular operation. Of course, if you want to synchronize your bookmarks in ELinks and some other XBEL-supporting gadget and you are brave, you can use XBEL as your exclusive bookmark format - the choice is upon you.

Regarding the bookmarks synchronization, there is one important note. ELinks saves your bookmarks each time you added one through the a shortcut (add-bookmark action) or when closing the bookmarks manager if you made any changes or when quitting ELinks. However, ELinks reads your bookmarks only ONCE, during the startup. This behaviour may change in the future (tell us if you need a way for ELinks to re-read the bookmarks file), but this is how it is done now.

Actually, you may now ask "So how do I convert bookmarks between the two formats?". It is quite easy. ELinks simply follows the current value of bookmarks.file_format whenever loading/saving the bookmarks.

So, e.g. if you normally use the native format but you want the bookmarks to be saved in the XBEL format once, change bookmarks.file_format to 1, then cause the bookmarks to be resaved (e.g. by doing some simple change, like adding a trailing space to some bookmark's title or so), then change the bookmarks.file_format value back to 0.

It is a little more complicated if you normally use the native format but you want to import bookmarks from the XBEL format once. You again change bookmarks.file_format to 1, then cause the bookmarks to be reloaded. That involves saving the configuration, quitting ELinks _completely_ (that means closing/killing all instances of it you have running), then restarting it and changing bookmarks.file_format to 0. Then save the configuration again and cause ELinks to resave the bookmarks.

Agreed, this all strange dances are quite clumsy, likely some simple wizard-like interface for switching the bookmarks formats will be introduced in the future. So far, we have had no reports from our users that anyone wants to switch their bookmarks format frequently, so this is not too high on our TODO list. So be sure to tell us if you would like this process to be simplified rather sooner than later.