I'm a student. I'm also a writer, a researcher, and a number of other things that all seem to involve a ton of research. Particularly that student thing. An increasing number of us, regardless of what we do, rely on the Web to get information, do research, and get work done.
For most of us (at least for me), that research involves the fun little dance of switching between Microsoft Word and the Internet, constantly reading, writing, losing my place, cursing the world, crying uncontrollably, and then getting back to work. But I digress.
One of the best tools out there, of the many I've tried to avoid that vicious cycle, is WebNotes. I use it constantly as a student and a professional, and it offers the most features and best usability of any application out there.
WebNotes, at its most basic, is an annotation tool. The first step is to install the toolbar (which works in Firefox and Internet Explorer), or the bookmarklet (which works in pretty much every browser, but with a couple fewer features). When you visit a website, the WebNotes software lets you can either highlight the text on the page, or make sticky notes with comments on the page. Everything you annotate is automatically added to your WebNotes organizer, for easy access later.
Once you've annotated a few pages, check out the WebNotes organizer. From there, you can either see the Web pages in their original form, view your highlights and comments on top of the page, or see only your markups. You can also search through your highlighted text and annotations, which makes finding that killer quote you came across an impressively easy proposition.
You can share notebooks, or individual notes (the organization and filing features of WebNotes make sharing them easy), which makes WebNotes great for collaborating on research within a group. There's no emailing files necessary, no trying to figure out which version is most up-to-date; instead, all your research lives in one constantly-updated place.
For the more professional users, there's the ability to create a "Report," which is a well-designed aggregation of all your notes and highlights on a given subject. I've used it for giving presentations, or just summarizing research to someone else – it's much more useful than I initially thought it would be.
The bottom-line of WebNotes is that it streamlines all your research. One, everything goes into one place, meaning there's no hunting through twelve different Word documents to find what you want. Two, there's no copy and paste – just highlight or comment, and everything gets saved automatically. The best thing about WebNotes, though, is that it lets you avoid the inevitable hunt through a page you know is useful, but that you can't for the life of you figure out why.
A few weeks ago, WebNotes launched a "Pro" version, which adds some serious functionality to WebNotes. The biggest update, at least in my own use, is that WebNotes Pro lets you highlight and comment on PDF files. Particularly in school, I do a ton of reading PDF's, and hate changing between the PDF and Word constantly so I can take notes. With WebNotes, that's all avoided, and PDF markups go right into my organizer. (If you love the idea of PDF markup, but don't want to use all that WebNotes has to offer, give Foxit Reader a look – it's got all the markup love you could want.)
The Pro version also offers better support, and Multi-Color highlighting. It's aimed squarely at professionals and students who do a lot of research from a lot of different sources, and WebNotes wants to be the source for all your research and informational bookmarking. For me, personally, it's become indispensable in both cases.
The Pro version costs $9.99/month, but there's a 50% discount for students who use the promo code "student101". For gHacks readers, however, there's an even better deal:
3 FREE months of the full, WebNotes Pro interface. The first 50 people to click this link will get three months free of the Pro features, to test to your heart's content.
If you don't want the added features (and the price tag), you'll be reverted to the free version of WebNotes – which is pretty great itself – after three months is up.
What do you think of WebNotes? Is there a better application out there?
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.