Note-Taking Tools

There are a couple of note-taking tools I use when I’m using my browser to do research, and I thought I might mention them here in case there’s a Slaw reader not familiar with them.

I use Firefox, now in the recently released version 1.5. There’s simply no contest in my mind, when it comes to browsers: Firefox beats Internet Explorer hands down, for a whole host of reasons that I urge you to explore (if you’re not already a Firefox user). Firefox lets you plug in extensions that can be downloaded from their site; these add to the functionality of the browser in a whole variety of useful ways.

QuickNote is one of these extensions. A couple of keystrokes call up a text entry window that lets you enter a note, made either with cut and paste from the main browser window or by typing into QuickNote; you can choose among four tabbed text entry pages, to keep things separated if you wish. The notes are saved automatically and can be made to reappear whenever you wish from within Firefox. And you can export notes as text files to any text editor of your choice. Simple, easy, no heavy lifting with Word or WordPerfect, loads in a split second.

(As I write this I realize that those of you who have never used Firefox might not be familiar with “tabbed browsing” — the ability to open multiple browser windows all within the same frame, and control them via tabs. This in itself is for me an essential “note-taking” device, because it lets me keep open and available any number of web pages I might be consulting. And now, in the new version of Firefox, I can reorder the tabs by drag-and-drop, helping me organize things.)

The other tool I want to mention is more sophisticated. NetSnippets is a separate program that integrates with your browser, creating a sidebar when you wish, into which you can drag and drop just about anything from the web. NetSnippets is a simple document manager, really, letting you create folders for your “snippets,” tag them with metadata, move them around in the file system, and, should you wish, pump out a “report” or a bibliography for a project. It also integrates with MS Word in ways that I won’t go into here. But if you use the web a lot — and who doesn’t do research on line — this might be a very handy tool to know about as an intermediary between your browser and your word processor.

[UPDATE: I’ve just learned of foXpose, a Firefox plugin that lets you see a mini-version of all of your tabbed windows in one window — in case the name on the tab doesn’t remind you of what’s actually in the window. The extension creates a small icon in the lower left hand corner of the browser status bar, and clicking on it toggles the function. Similar, but differently useful is Tab Preview, also a plugin: when you mouse over a tab a small pic of that window appears in the main window — like PIP on your fancy TV. Nifty.]

[UPDATE #2: via BeSpacific: Marcus P. Zillman’s “Online Research Tools” [pdf] has been updated. It’s a long list — something like 300 items — so save it for a rainy day when you’re just itching to install a new program that’ll screw up your computer.]

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