December 10, 2008

WebNotes Makes Annotating the Web Easy

By Mike Fruchter of (Twitter/FriendFeed)

In the digital age that we live in, information overload and keeping organized is often a daunting, and at times overwhelming task. Hundreds of emails, RSS feeds, bookmarks, tweets, you name it, and that's only the start for some of us. I have recently begun to look at the ways I use these tools, and what purposes I use these tools for. This is an effort to become more productive and efficient with my time, especially the time spent involved with research and collaborating with colleagues on projects.

Email is still key for exchanges of long text. Twitter is just as important for quick, short micro bursts of information. However when trying to locate and reference a micro blurb, paragraph or sentence of text, I often find myself spending more time looking for it in multiple places and services, thus wasting valuable time in the process. My unorganized methods of storing and locating useful bits of information for later use consists of referring to bookmarks, email, Google Notes, Twitter, and the list goes on.

When time is of the essence, this process weighs me down considerably. In trying to work smarter and not harder, I stumbled upon and started to use a new annotation service called WebNotes. Webnotes has been in private beta, and is officially launching today via public invite-only. WebNotes was gracious enough to supply us with 100 invites, so be sure to check the end of the post for a link to sign up and try their service.

What exactly is WebNotes?

It's a simple and extremely useful
productivity tool for creating sticky notes on webpages, highlighting and clipping bits of text, organizing, and lastly sharing it. It's targeted for businesses and researchers, but it's simplicity makes it so anyone can use it.

Getting started:

Getting started with the service requires either installing the WebNotes toolbar, or if you prefer something more lightweight, you can also use their bookmarklet.

Annotating information is easy:

Highlighting and clipping text is done by activating the highlighter icon on the toolbar, and then simply selecting the text you wish to clip. The selected text will be highlighted yellow, and then saved. The other useful feature is the ability to leave sticky notes on webpages . If your colleagues are visiting and using the same sites for research, this could be used to leave informative notes of interest pertaining to the subject matter. It's great for leaving visual reminders, and It compliments annotating rather nicely.

Organizing your data:

WebNotes makes it easy to organize your data. You can do this in two ways. One is by clicking "Organizer" on the toolbar. This brings up an explorer sidebar on your browser. This makes it so you never have to leave the current page you are on. The other way of accessing your data is by going to your "MyWebNotes" page. What I really like is the functionality at which you can organize your data. You can create a hierarchical folder tree for your annotations. Drag, drop and rearrange data just as you would on a windows desktop.

Sharing and publishing data:

The sharing function is accessed from the toolbar. It will allow you to email a viewable public link of your annotations. The link will take the person directly to the position on the webpage with the highlighted text. You can also share your annotations by generating a permalink. You can see an example of the permalink in action here. Publishing and printing your data can be done in two ways, via an html page or downloadable PDF file.

Register here for a beta invite to test drive the service.

Closing thoughts:

There are currently a few annotation services on the market such as Fleck and i-Lighter. It's a crowded space that WebNotes is entering. If they can stand out and differentiate themselves, I think they have the components of a successful, solid application. I would like to see more collaborative features, and the option to share data via RSS. Other than that, I dont have many other requests. For what it was built for, this application works extremely well. Invites are limited to 100 only. Use this link to register for a beta invite.

Read more by Mike Fruchter at