Scrible: Your Web Search Annotation Tool

Remember the days of scribbling notes in the margins of your *gasp* paper-filled text book, highlighting passages with your yellow (or pink or green or orange) marker, dog-earing pages or photocopying and marking up copies of library volumes? Reach back — I know you can find that lost memory.

If it is to be believed that Web research is beating book research at the very game it invented, then how is a researcher to mark-up or jot down all the rich thoughts a source may evoke as you tear through them on the Web? One option is the very cool new bookmarklet / toolbar Scrible.

Scrible hits the highlights: save pages for later, sans broken links; annotate pages right in the browser; save and find research with tags, legends and search; and, access research from anywhere (because its in the cloud).

The primary means for accessing Scrible’s goodness is via bookmarklet or browser add-on that works in most browsers. The resulting toolbar offers the tools for annotating the page you are visiting. Share or save the work, and then retrieve it and use it further from your library on scrible.com.

Scrible currently is in public beta, as of yesterday morning. Basic service, with 125 MB of storage, is free. It appears Scrible is contemplating paid and enterprise versions with more storage and features.

A picture is worth a thousand words. Check out these images from scrible’s own tour page and see how cool this little toolbar really is:

Rich annotations with multiple text styles and colors

Add thoughts to page with "Sticky Notes"

Categorize Annotations with "Dynamic Legends"

Quick, easy export of annotations to a Document (IE add-on only at this time)

Share Marked Web Pages by Email

Save Web Research to Online Account

Organize, Search, Retrieve Saved Web Research

 

Go forth, Scrible, and mark up your Web!

More Free On-Line Space – Amazon Cloud Drive

Further to last week’s cloud management and storage post, I just happened on this deal this morning. You can 5GB of cloud storage for free from none other than Amazon via their brand new Cloud Drive. While it appears intended for use with Amazon’s music downloads (and uploads), it appears able to store all sorts of media. Purchases of MP-3′s from Amazon’s store are stored for free and don’t count against your 5GB space. You can buy additional space for reasonable change – essentially $1 per GB per year. Get your tunes in the cloud for free and a little extra storage space to boot. Beating Apple and Google to the cloud music-punch, with a freebie on the side. Nicely done, Amazon.

Timesaving Tip: Your Smartphone Cam + i2OCR

Just the other day, a colleague and I spent a couple of hours hashing out new content for our page on our company’s portal. We took full advantage of the whiteboard running the entire length of the conference room and, by the time we were done, we had decorated most of the wall with our scratch. One of the VPs walked by, took a look at the board and, with a chuckle, asked “How in the world are you going to get all THAT down on paper?”

Well, being the problem-solver that I am, I asked my colleague to snap pictures of the wall with his smartphone (can you BELIEVE I didn’t have my phone on me?). I then told him to run the images through an OCR (optical character recognition) app. A day later, I found i2OCR.

iOCR2 is a free, online OCR application that extracts text from images and turns it into an editable document. It supports a whole crowd of image file types, including all the usual suspects (.tif, .gif, .jpg, .png, .bmp, etc.). Simply browse your computer for the file or enter a URL and hit the big red CONVERT button. It can read 33 languages, and supports multi-column formats. The site assures that uploaded files are automatically deleted on conversion. The site does recommend at least 200 dpi for better recognition. So easy, and totally free.

As if this wasn’t enough, the clever folks at Sciweaver responsible for i2OCR have a lot of other cool conversion and merge tools for documents and images. Check them out:

Sciweavers themselves is a pretty cool group. Apparently, it is an academic bookmarking network that aggregates links to research paper preprints. The idea is to promote top-ranked papers, with the goal of promoting valuable work and improve the visibility of significant authors. Head over to their About  page to check out the tons of other free online tools they offer.
See, now, Ms. VP. Where there is a will, there is ALWAYS a way. ;)

Act Local, Impact Global – Google Cloud Connect & Microsoft Office

Moving in the opposite direction, there’s a new way to work locally and act globally, or more accurately, in the cloud, with the newly-released-to-everyone Google Cloud Connect for Microsoft Office. This service allows two or more to work on the same Microsoft Office file (2003 forward / Windows PCs only) and back it up using Google Docs.

Cloud Connect adds a toolbar to the Microsoft Office interface. With that toolbar, you can give Microsoft Office the same online capabilities as Google Docs. You also can give Google Docs meaningful offline capability.

The killer feature is sharing and simultaneous editing of Word, PowerPoint, and Excel files from within office, but via the great Google cloud. Synced files are continuously backed up and fitted out with a unique Web address for sharing. Even offline edits make it up -  Google Cloud Connect will sync those changes the next time you log onto the Web.

Don’t worry if you get too crazy with the edits – Cloud Connect stores previous versions and you can roll back to earlier versions if you want. When there are two or more edits to the same section at the same time, the user can choose which version to keep.

All you need is a free plug-in and a Google account. Google Cloud Connect works on Windows XP, Vista, and Windows 7. However, sadly enough, it doesn’t work with Microsoft Office for Mac. Not sure if there is any hope for a Mac version in the future.

You can download here Google Cloud Connect onto your capable machine running the eligible Microsoft Office versions. And get cloud backup and collaboration within the Google ecosystem for free.

Instant CV With pdfCV

Assuming that there is pain involved with drafting your curriculum vitae, web application pdfCV aims to ease that pain. The splash page promises that, if you add your information and select a template, you will be rewarded nearly instantaneously with a polished CV that you can download. Essentially, the app formats you information into an attractively designed document, removing that often time-consuming step of graphic layout. Other nice features include the ability to import information from LinkedIn and layout changes with a single click. I haven’t yet tried the app, so I can’t report on its efficacy, but what do you have to lose for free?

Set & Forget A Text-Based Web Page with Pen.io

Have you ever needed to publish on-line a page of text and wished you could do it without having to add it to your web site or without enduring the aggravation of setting up yet another blog? Pen.io seeks to solve the problem of the “down and dirty” quick web publication problem with its simple, free, effective publishing tool. The site uses simple “PenUp” language to allow for rudimentary manipulation of the page, but it also supports HTML. You can drag and drop images into the editor for simple graphics. Pen.io offers the following information about its service:

How Do I Edit a Page?
Go to yourpagename.pen.io/edit – put “/edit” on the end of any Pen.io page to view the editing interface. In edit mode, just click the body of text to bring up input boxes

Can I create Multipage Sites?
Yes! The “:page” tag (without quotation marks), can be placed where you want to add a page break. Pagination will automatically get added.

Does Pen.io Support HTML?
Absolutely! Some HTML elements have been disabled but common HTML is accepted.

How Long Will Pages Remain Online?
There is no expire date on Pen.io pages. You can set and forget

What About my Privacy?
We don’t collect any personal information. Pen.io pages are public and expect other people to see them. We don’t recommend placing any personal information on a Pen.io page that you don’t want Google to see.

The resulting page is a beautifully elegant, simple layout of text – great, per Pen.io, for  publishing essays or ebooks, creating pages for upcoming events, sharing code snippets, sharing recipes or quick advertising. It couldn’t be easier – use Pen.io to expand your message with yet another publishing outpost on the Web.

On-Line Privacy Public Service Announcement: Spokeo

Start the New Year off with a bang – check out what Spokeo knows about you. Spokeo, an online people search tool, warns up front that it’s not your grandma’s phone book. No, it certainly is not. My grandma’s phone book didn’t provide a map to my home, with a sat picture of it, as well as an estimated property value, my email addresses, age, relationship status and ages and names of my family members, hobbies, estimated income, social haunts and even more. Sure it may all reside somewhere in the public record, but a service that scours on- and off-line information, aggregating it in one easy-to-access location available to anyone seems just a wee bit on the sketchy side, even for my own open on-line sharing viewpoint.

I have known about Spokeo for a while, but some recent updates make it a bit spookier. In November, Spokeo 5.0 was released, implementing graphics, icons, and a new design intended to present information in a more visual way. Just a few days ago, Spokeo released Username search, which scans social networks, blogs, photo albums, dating sites, music networks, video sites, ecommerce stores, and other web services in real-time to help find online profiles with similar usernames.

If you really want to stalk, I mean, search someone, you can upgrade to premium ($14.95 for three months and $59 for a year) and get name, phone, email, username search, and an import feature allowing users to utilize their email address book and social network contacts to pull information. Premium membership also features a tracking system – once the account is added to a friend’s list, Spokeo will periodically check for new updates from the account, with notifications and an update counter.

Spokeo’s information is scary accurate, but not completely accurate. Thus, one might be given the mistaken impression that all of the information presented is spot on, which it most decidedly is not if my own search was any indication.

Today I found a quick procedure for pulling yourself out of the database, which you may want to do when you see what Spokeo can spit out about you to anyone with an internet connection, thanks to Chris Hardwick over at the Nerdist blog. To summarize:

1. Navigate to Spokeo
2. Search your name in the box
3. Copy the URL when you get your result
4. Look for the Privacy link in very small type at the bottom of the page. Click.
5. Complete the form by pasting the URL in the field “To remove a listing from Spokeo…”
6. Enter a dummy email (create one for this purpose with Yahoo, Gmail or one of those temp email services). You don’t want the Spokeo creeps getting a hold of you, that’s for sure.
7. Click “Remove Listing”
8. When you get the email in your dummy account, click on the link “To complete the removal process…”
9. Go into your browser preferences and search your cookies for “spokeo.” Delete them.

Then, lean back and rest comfortably until the next on-line privacy hullabaloo. Go ahead, thank me.

Aviary: A Bird of a Different Feather

Sure I’m a lawyer. But I am also a graphic artist and illustrator too, in my wads of spare time. A few years back, I started to teach myself to use computers to make art, negotiating the transition in technique from traditional media to the very different process of thinking in layers and elements. I got myself a Vector graphics program and figured it out. And let me tell you, decent graphics programs are not cheap.

Not that very long ago, my vector program decided to slip into a coma, which was a problem as I was in the midst of a couple of graphics projects. How I wish I knew back then about Aviary.

Go on, ask: what’s Aviary? Aviary (link here) is a suite of surprisingly powerful creative applications that you can use right in your web browser. Their applications span the creative genres, from graphic design to audio editing. All you have to do is fill out your free account and get creating! Did I say free? By George, I did!

I’ll come right out and say it: learning how to manipulate graphics tools such as these is not an easy process. There is definitely a noticeable learning curve to be climbed. However, couple that learning curve with the comparably steep price these programs usually command and you pretty much have a Great Wall of China standing in the way of the average person’s desire to learn how to create and manipulate their own graphics, images and music clips.

When you reduce that number to free, the process becomes far more compelling. And Aviary is mindful of that – you have to check out their absolutely amazing tutorials (link here). There has to have been some point in your online career when you wished you could “Photoshop” and image or draw a logo or, perhaps, create a sound clip to add to a video or audio ‘cast. With Aviary, there is no expense other than your time coupled with your Web browser (and a hopefully decently fast processor).

There is an Aviary Pro paid level with access to additional features for $24.95 per year. This pro or “Blue” membership gives you unlimited storage and allows you to create private works, remove the Aviary watermark from images, access all tutorials, and increases means of participating in online communities and promotional features. This is peanuts, folks.

Once you finish your masterpiece, you can export a flat version of files (like jpg and gif) to your computer. Unflattened work (layers intact) will remain on Aviary’s servers. Eventually, Aviary promises to add a paid service allowing export of these workable files, but for now, only your finished product is functionally downloadable.

Aviary is also an online community. You can connect to your social networks to find friends. You can make your creations public and share with others, who can then comment on them. You also can collaborate with Aviary’s community of artists, or hire Aviary to put their considerable design expertise to work for you. Who are these amazing people?

Aviary is on a mission to make creation accessible to artists of all genres, from graphic design to audio editing. We’re a privately held company currently headquartered in New York City with team members around the world. Our founders also created Worth1000.com, a talented community of 500,000 digital artists that participate in amazing daily contests.

All I can say is, the sky’s the limit with this great set of free graphics tools for the do-it-yourself-er.

DooID – Another Virtual Biz Card Option

I really like Flavors.me (link here), a free virtual and visual web page containing a resume of your on-line life. Another option that combines the benefits of Flavors.me and Retaggr (link here) is DooID (link here).

DooID, still in beta, bills itself as an on-line business card, but shares more with Flavors.me’s landing page-type service and non-techy interface. Sign up for your account and you are presented with an easy to use dashboard with options for setting up links to your other web hangouts, contact information, formatting and layout, much like Flavors.me.

However, DooID does offer a couple of distinguishing features. For one, you can set your contact information to private, resulting in a pop up box for visitors seeking a password for access. You can privacy protect information that you might want to offer but not openly promote to the web at large.

Additionally, DooID has a few “add ons” – little widget-like boxes that give additional functionality, such as an email signature, video bio, and map. The paid version gives you more layout options and more add-ons. DooID also includes a VCard link so that visitors can download your information into their own address books. Of course, you can share your masterpiece with the web via the sharing tools:

 

The end result is a slick page containing your pertinent information and links. DooID expands your territory on-line and promotes your brand and content via yet another web connection. All the better because of its ease of use, even for the non-tech-savvy. Check it out and, if you set up a page, link it back here in the comments – would love to see the results.

More Free OCR Fun

Last week, I posted about a free Web utility that would allow you to upload scanned documents and apply OCR treatment. Now Google Docs has trotted out a free OCR feature available for on-line docs, per the Google Operating System Blog (link here).

The option appears during the uploading process: Docs users are presented with a clickable link that will run an OCR scan of docs uploaded into user accounts. Those familiar with OCR know that the process extracts characters and inserts them into a new text document. PDFs apparently do better with the process and simply black text on white background yields the best result. 

As far as those results, users report some formatting loss and less than perfect end product. And, you will need to separately load and save the PDF if you want both the original and the OCR’d version of the doc. Still, while it may not be the power tool you are looking for, it does offer a free option for simple scans and searchable saves of images, business cards or simple records.