Google Notebook

Gnote You’ve heard me praise and rant and rave over Google Reader, and I should say more often than I do that I use Google Calendar and Gmail every day. And of course, I use Google’s search, and News, and Images, and Maps, and iGoogle, and all sorts of clever Google goodness. One of their tools that I also use all of the time, and that receives far too little mention I feel, is Google Notebook.

Google Notebook does not look all that interesting, and it doesn’t have the obvious hook that Calendar and Mail do, but it can be a great companion to one’s browsing. Google’s own description is a little bland:

With Google Notebook, you can browse, clip, and organize information from across the web in a single online location that’s accessible from any computer. Planning a trip? Researching a product? Just add clippings to your notebook. You won’t ever have to leave your browser window.

First off, you need to install the extension or plug-in that’s right for your browser. They offer them here. Now that you have that, what do you do with it?

For me, the value in using Notebook comes in two primary forms:

  1. I read essentially all of my news online, and it is frustrating when I go back to review a story and find that the link is dead, the story is stashed in an archive, or perhaps I simply cannot recall where I read a particular article. The Atlantic, the New Yorker, the NYT Magazine? Who knows? I select the text from every article I read and save it to Google Notebook. This way I have a full text record of all the articles I read, easily searchable and not reliant on the publishers’ web sites. Plus, when I do search, I am searching only in my articles and not across the thousands of things I do not want that I’d wade through in Google or Google News.
  2. There are times when there’s text on the screen that I wish to copy and save. Printing is awkward, and it’s cumbersome to email a copy of everything you wish to save to yourself. With Google Notebook, I toss the material in and I might add a keyword or two and then I know later that it’ll be there waiting for me when I need it.

What are the drawbacks of Google Notebook? For the most part, none, but it does have quirks. As a notebook fills up, the extension gets slower and slower, so I have to break my books up into 1-2 week snapshots. As Notebook searches across notebooks, this is not an issue. Also, Notebook’s search can be a little fickle sometimes. I think this is because my voluminous notebooks make me an edge case. Nonetheless, it’s not that awful to have to click search 3-4 times until the mighty Google servers spin up from their slumbers.

Finally – yes, I know there are many other similar products. Google Desktop captures much of this info already on my work PC (shudder), but I started this habit before there was a Google Desktop for Macintosh, and this solution permits me access to the material from anywhere. Fundamentally, Google Notebook works for me because it’s lightweight, integrates well with their other offerings, seems to offer essentially unlimited storage, and it’s free.

For a more detailed overview, please check out the Notebook FAQ. If you have other ways to use Notebook, or have run into problems with it that I have not, please speak up in the comments.

Currently listening to The Sunday’s “Here’s Where The Story Ends” from Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic. Similar to yesterday’s comment, this dates to the spring of 1991, when I was completing a sophomore architecture project with Lise Wold. Hear it on iTunes here.


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