Google Notebook

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Google Notebook is a web app for creating and categorizing notes, either through clipping them off the web or typing them in. These notes are saved online within your personal Google account.

There are many excellent hierarchial-notes outliner programs out there that are free; however, if you do a lot of research on the web and you need to clip parts of articles (including images and links) then Google Notes is for you.

Google Notes will install a little plugin into your IE or Firefox browser and will be visible either as a small icon in the bottom right hand corner of the screen or a little window that you can use to see your categories and notes. Adding notes can be done by selecting a part of a website and using the right-click ‘note this’ command or the ‘Add note’ button within the little Google Notes window (see first screenshot). It works very well, but note that you have to logged in into your Google account (which would be your gmail account if you had one) in order to access your notebook.

Here’s what you need to know about this software:

  • You can use Google Notes to clip images (and links) and it will automatically reference the URLs where the clippings originated. However, it will not clip objects such as flash animations or videos. Note also that there is a size limit to what you can clip, which in my opinion is not really a drawback as it forces you to make more meaningful clippings.
  • You can view your clippings in a list, with each clipping either collapsed (for a compact list) or expanded. You can expand or collapse any entry.
  • Google Reader Screenshot#2You can manage your clippings simply by creating categories (which are called ‘section headings’) and dragging and dropping clippings into these (see second screenshot). No tagging is supported, and each clip can only belong to a single category.
  • You can create multiple notebooks and make any of them public. Note that public notebooks are searchable.
  • Once you install the Google Notes plugin you start seeing ‘note this’ links associated with each Google search result, which you can use to quickly bookmark the website into Google Notes. Although you could very well use Google Notes as a bookmark manager of sorts, it does NOT feel like it was built as a bookmark manager. My guess is that eventually Google Notes and Google Bookmarks will be merged somehow and fashioned as a taggable social bookmarking tool. Or not.
  • With all of your data stored online, you can do your research from anywhere and you are not tied to any single machine. This is either an advantage or a disadvantage, depending on your perspective. (Advantage in my book).

The verdict: there are many things I like about Google Notes; I can quickly clip things off the internet and move on, and it will automatically reference all webpage URLs clipped. But for all its Ajax wizardry it is a bit clunky compared with local notes outliners. I even wonder if a local Google Notes might be a better idea, with the option to store and sync the data both locally and online. Still, I AM finding it useful, and it is probably a safe bet that this product is here to stay, and that it will get better and better.

Go to Google Notebook.