Research tool wanted

What do people here use to store all the clippings they make from the web? It needs to be quick, unobtrusive, so that I can just press a hotkey in the browser, and to allow tagging and later sorting by date; also to be easy to synchonise between two Windows computers. I’m not going to get a Mac laptop just for this. So far, the following have failed me:

  • Opera’s notes facility is quick and unobtrusive. But it doesn’t allow tagging, doesn’t easily let me sort date ranges, and won’t synchronise between computers.
  • The scrapbook extension for Firefox is comprehensive and may allow tagging, if I misuse the comments field. But it won’t synchronise between computers.
  • Ecco is old, and growing buggy. I know that other people can get the shooter working properly. I can’t, is all I can say. It would be perfect if it did work, because then I could slice, dice, and classify everything I put into it and integrate this with other information. I’ve just wasted an hour proving that there is a bug in its date folder handling.
  • OneNote? Won’t tag very flexibly, and won’t interact with non IE browsers has a powertoy to work with Firefox. May or may not synchonise; I can’t remember.
  • EverNote: I found the UI irritating and the web clipper wouldn’t work with Opera. I might have another look though; I’ve paid for it. It does synch without fuss.
  • Zotero looks great, but won’t synch at all: they suggest putting a special firefox installation on a usb drive, and carrying that between computers. Seems sensible for students but I need a solution that works at the breakfast table, when I am half asleep.

First rough conclusions: none of these will work properly with Opera, which I went back to using a few months ago, for two reasons: I adore the single key ‘z’ shortcut for going back; and I was hoping that improved IMAP would deliver me from bloody odious Thunderbird. Still, it looks as if I will have to return to Firefox.

What else? I know there was some bibliographic-ish program that I lusted after which was a competitor to EndNote. Can’t immediately remember the name, though. Ah. Biblioscape. Wants you to use its own web browser. No thanks, I already have three.

I don’t want an online solution because then it’s not around when I am offline. But I can see I might be driven to one.

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15 Responses to Research tool wanted

  1. Shaun says:

    To judge from acknowledgment pages, didn’t this thing used to be called an academic’s wife?

  2. acb says:

    The upgrades are expensive.

  3. “I’m not going to get a Mac laptop just for this.”

    What would you use if you were on a Mac?

  4. acb says:

    I have not idea, but I expected that some smug Mac owner would come along and suggest something that did everything I want. Actually, were it not for the synchronisation problem. Zotero would be very impressive. If I could figure out how to make it import stuff, I would be even happier, but it expects to be scripted in Javascript.

  5. rr says:

    Uh, Google notebook? or is the G-word as bad as the M-word? do you not want a web-based solution? It has a little icon that sits at the bottom right hand corner of Firefox and is very nifty. IMHO.

  6. Nah. I’ve tried a lot of Mac stuff for note-taking, but I’d really like something more than just a clipping store. I’ve been looking at outliners and the like that also support clippings, but I haven’t really cottoned to any I’ve tried.

    On a Mac, Yojimbo is probably the closest thing to what you’re after. If you were on a Mac….

  7. acb says:

    rr: Google looks good for sharing, but I don’t like putting my whole life on there. And Zotero is really very good indeed if you don’t need to synch; also cross-platform. You might want to try it if you live on a laptop, and so know that your stuff will always be with you. In particular, it extracts bibliographic information from lots of sources automatically, and lets you tag and annotate in useful ways. All I have to do is to work out the synch problems.

    JL: Yojimbo looks very nice though less good for bibliographic-type information. Don’t barebones software make other famously good stuff? That’s it. They make Textwrangler, which is absolutely gorgeous.

  8. WRT Yojimbo, I agree, it’s not ideal. Bibliographic info has to go into a freeform comments field, which is way less than totally useful.

    I’m not even sure I could describe the ideal program I’m looking for; I’m hoping somebody will think of it (and implement it) for me. And then tell me about it.

    Barebones is best known for BBEdit, which is TextWranger’s big brother, and quite wonderful. They have a mail client, Mailsmith, that started out looking promising, but they appear to have lost interest in it long since (and Apple’s Mail has gotten steadily better).

  9. rr says:

    Sorry, I obviously didn’t register your last line, the wisdom of which I now fully appreciate after a recent period of unelected offlineness.

  10. I’ve been meaning to take a closer look at Scrivener, another Mac app. On the face of it, not exactly a clipping tool, and it’s not clear how helpful its bibliographical support is, but it’s intriguing.

    I’m not a big fan of 30-day trials for project software, mainly because I tend not to get around to it after the first installation. OTOH, it’s relatively cheap.

    http://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.html

  11. BTW, on that previous comment, when I tried to post it via the preview page, I got sent to sodsmappers.cgi (or something like that). Pasting the text into the main article page worked fine.

  12. sodspammers, that is.

  13. acb says:

    I think I may have fixed the posting from preview issue, thanks to your helpful bug report.

  14. acb says:

    Yes! wonderful. Finally! What had happened was that two anti-spam systems were colliding.

    I looked at Scrivener, briefly, and it seems intelligent and useful. BUT — apart form the mac thing, which i could get round if I really needed to — it turns out not to be able to move or select by sentence because the standard Mac text routines know nothing of this. Now, I don’t know about you, but I think in sentences, more or less. They are the unit of prose. And writers’ software that doesn’t recognise them is not really designed for pushing prose around, whatever else it does.

  15. Try http://www.surfulater.com/ it captures web pages (or parts thereof) and lets you annotate them. Also preserves them on your hard disk. In other words it saves them – doesn’t link to them – so if the web page is deleted or changed you still have what it was when you clipped it. But it also saves the URL so you can go back later.

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