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If you have ever kept a scrapbook, you will instantly understand Pinterest. This social platform lets you gather images from around the web into personal collections and share your finds with friends. It puts images first. That makes it both a great place to bookmark favorite images and also to discover images others have shared. Want design inspiration, or ideas on how to redecorate your house? Pinterest is a popular place to start those searches today.
Unlike most social networks, Pinterest is not about sharing your daily life with a worldwide audience. As the name suggests, the idea is to collect (or pin) images that interest you. First install Pinterest's browser extensions or add its bookmarklet to your favorites bar. Then, when you stumble upon a beautiful landscape image, or inspiration for your next interior redecoration, just click the Pinterest button to “Pin it”—a reference to the corkboard-like structure of Pinterest.
Pinterest will find all the images on the page you are viewing, so you can select the ones you want to save. You can add a description and location, and Pinterest will automatically add price and other info from the site. Then, you'll select which “Board” (or collection) to add the image to. When you create a new account, Pinterest initially provides you with a few preset Boards covering popular subjects, but it is preferable to add your own. New Boards can be given a name, description, and category to make them easier to find, and you can choose to keep any new Board “Secret” (or private).
You could just use these features in Pinterest to bookmark your favorite online images. Its simplicity is part of what makes Pinterest great. But there's more if you're willing to dig deeper. For example, if you flick the “Map” switch as you create a Board, incoming Pins will be added as locations, meaning you can compile visual research for your next vacation. You could also share any Board via email, and any invitee with a Pinterest account can then collaborate on the curation process—letting your friends or significant other help add ideas for a trip, renovation project, or anything else.
There's more to the social side, too. You can follow other users to see what they pin, show your appreciation with the heart button, and then share anything by “Repinning” it to your own Boards. Make a board for your business, for instance, and your followers could share your product images right inside Pinterest—advertising your products without extra effort on your part.
Pinterest is also great for search. With such a large catalogue of images, you can find pictures of just about anything you want. Pinterest includes search filters for colors, patterns, rooms, locations and just about anything else you can think of, making it a great place to research for your next creative project. Its mobile apps now also let you start a search with an image to find out where to buy something that caught your eye, or to find example outfits that match the shirt you're wearing.
Bookmarks tend to be just a small text link, but Pinterest turns them into a simple way to browse through the very best things you find online. If you have an interest in design, an appreciation for beauty, or just want to save gift ideas for next Christmas, it's a bookmarking tool you might actually find to be fun. And that's not something you can say about most bookmarking tools.
Originally published October 21, 2015; updated June 18, 2018 with new screenshots and details