Instant Outline? Topicmarks Summarizes Complex Articles

Ho ho, now here is a COOL tool. A cool SEMANTIC tool. Particularly if you are lazy or reading comprehension isn’t your strong suit. MakeUseOf has a thorough review of Topicmarks, a web-based application that automates a summary of key terms and text in electronic form, or a “smart, interactive synopsis” of your electronic documents.

Open a free account, or sign in using Google or Yahoo. Topicmarks invites you to “open” your “personal knowledge space.” Then, upload a document (in a variety of formats, including Word, PDF, html, or plain text) to the Topicmarks site. Or use their bookmarklet to summarize any web page you happen to be visiting. Or email your document to the special email address provided by Topicmarks under the “profile” button.

Topicmarks’ engine then goes to work, and you will be notified by email when the process is complete. Under the button for “text knodes”, you will find your document summaries. Via tabs, you can get the overview, facts, summary, keywords, index, and properties. These tabs offer different ways to digest your information – either by quick facts, general overview, a deeper dive into particular keywords, or an index of all keywords. The information is linked across tabs – click on a keyword in the index and pull up the “facts” associated with that keword in the facts tab.

Your texts are stored forever, and it is currently free, although heavy users might see a cost for the service in the future.  Keep in mind that texts are public by default, and you can share your knodes with Facebook and Twitter, but you can make them private in the settings.

So, you research your topic (or you collect materials sent to you by others). Send them through Topicmarks. Read the synopsis. Check out some key terms. Does it look interesting? Check out the whole article? Does it look like dreck? Move on.

Now, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist, but it might take a lawyer, to see how Topicmarks might be of value to the legal profession. The fine folk at Topicmarks are mindful of this, including lawyers and paralegals on their list of who might benefit from their service. They also suggest the following uses for their awesome service:

  • Analyzing your own writings
  • Being up-to-date with the latest financial research
  • Building a knowledge base for a graduate thesis
  • Building a knowledge base for a master’s thesis
  • Checking current facts against past press releases
  • Checking doctoral theses
  • Discovering emerging patterns
  • Evaluating student papers quickly
  • Finding back quotes they remember having read somewhere
  • Finding inconsistencies in long reports
  • Getting the gist of subordinates’ presentations
  • Preparing a school project
  • Reading up quickly on industry analyses
  • Researching a first student paper
  • Sifting through annual reports
  • Sifting through legal cases
  • Staying abreast of white papers
  • Storing relevant legal precedents
  • Writing fiction abstracts y analyses
  • Researching a first student paper
  • Sifting through annual reports
  • Sifting through legal cases
  • Staying abreast of white papers
  • Storing relevant legal precedents
  • Writing fiction abstracts

Why do I love this? Well, it’s free (for now), it’s effective, its a serious efficiency tool, it’s web-based with social sharing, it’s research-and-writing-oriented, it’s uber-cool Semantic-powered. A clear winner on all counts. My mind is already coming up with new ways to play with it – I am thinking about finding the most complex securities case I can find in Google Scholar and running it through Topicmarks to see what I get. Check it out and turbo-charge your own electronic research and reading experience!

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Turning Gmails Into Tasks with Taskforce

Despite the advent of mobile devices, specifically-targeted applications, and multi-style messaging systems akin to unified inboxes, people (particularly business people) still love their email. I know I am still tied to it – a large chunk of my time is spent sifting through my five or so main email accounts.

I have been a proponent of Gmail for some time now – largely due to the fact that I can avoid the hefty downloads of messages onto my computer via my local email client. Gmail also allows for multiple messaging formats – I can access Google Chat and Google Voice right from my Gmail page.

You can collapse yet another function into Gmail. Check out Taskforce, a browser add-on that lets you manage and coordinate tasks within Gmail. Taskforce enters public beta today. Simply install the add-on, currently available in my three browsers of choice  – Chrome, Firefox and Safari, and see a toolbar appear on your Gmail page.  The bar includes “tasks”, “activities” and a + sign for adding a new task outside of a specific email. But the truly cool thing is the addition of two buttons on an given open mail item – “add to an existing task” and “convert to new task.” When you click the later, Taskforce goes to work creating a “task” for you from the title of the email and a few prompted questions. Add contacts to the task and you now have a task-based “filter” of communications or “comments” pertaining to the task. You can add due dates. the “activity” button shows a feed of all of your outstanding tasks, offering an overview of your Gmail-based “to do” list. Further organize yourself with task folders.

There is a desktop version of Taskforce, and it appears to work with email systems other than Gmail. There is also an iPhone optimized interface – check it out here.

 

I see this as a great add to Gmail – since many emails are the genesis of some call to action, why not turn them into tasks with a simple click of a button? If you are into tracking tasks in a medium other than your brain, Taskforce seems like a no-brainer.