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Author Topic: General brainstorming for Note-taking software  (Read 408617 times)
superboyac
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« Reply #50 on: March 01, 2006, 11:47:17 AM »

A quick comment:  you and I are on similar pages superboyac.  I agree with your primary needs and also your admitting that there are other needs out there.  Have you looked at NeoMem (http://www.neomem.org)?  I dont use it because it is deficient in some areas but it is an interesting example of an information manager.  Like you said before (I think it was you), we want our cake and eat it too.  This genre could be so powerful... it's just so hard to fit everything in!

Kevin

Yeah, I tried Neomem.  It's deficient in a lot of areas that I am personally used to.  To be honest, I haven't spent too much time with it.  But it does seem to have a lot of interesting features under the hood, and eventually, I will explore some of these a little more.

But, if a guy like jbiebeler saw Neomem, he would say, "What's the big deal".  And he has a point, because it doesn't offer a different approach for organizing notes. At it's base, it is still just a traditional tree-heirarchy text editor, like Keynote and Mybase.

I do like the simple interface, it's efficient and fast, which is my main stumbling point with Surfulater.  I kind of wish that we could combine the organization engine of Surfulater, with the interface of Neomem/Keynote/Mybase, and that would be heavenly to me right now.
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nevf
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« Reply #51 on: March 01, 2006, 01:05:00 PM »

Quote
nevf, I tried the patch, and it works!  Yes, that is what I was talking about as far as a simple note article.

One step forward.  smiley

Re. editing. Besides the pencil you can hold the left mouse button down briefly on any field to commence editing. See the Help. This works the same as in Windows Explorer to rename files. I plan to enable double click on whitespace to also commence editing, asap. If you have any suggestions in this area please let me know.

I am aware of the issue of overshooting a selection and exiting edit mode and intend to try and address this.

These issues have absolutely nothing to do with the language that Surfulater is written in, which is in fact highly optimized C++.

I can't really see why you feel other programs are faster than Surfulater. Maybe the HTML editor gives this impression! I can tell you that I've put a lot of work into making the core engine in Surfulater as fast as possible. Working with very large trees with lots of content is just as fast as working with small knowledge bases. It is this core that enables us to dynamically provide different tree capabilities and views (with more to come), something I think other applications will struggle to do.

From what you've said the bottom line is to improve the editing experience a bit more and we might help get past some of the annoyances that concern you. Again any suggestions in this or other areas are most welcome.
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Neville Franks, "Save anything you see on the Web or on your PC" with Surfulater
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« Reply #52 on: March 01, 2006, 01:40:26 PM »

Hi superboyac,

Thank you for the reply.  I installed MyBase again just to understand where you are coming from.  I suppose a lot comes down to subjective "feelings."  I just don't feel as connected to my data with MyBase.  One feature I think should be included in any editor is the ability to view everything in a hierarchy.  By this I mean that if I have 20 files grouped in a folder, I would like to view all of those at once without selecting each one separately.  For me this makes my notes more accessible - I can find them visually.  I was using General Knowledge Base for this reason, but it had limitations.  I could view all of the files in a folder (and their subfolders) but I couldn't preview them all at once.  The program also separated each type of article, i.e. WebPages, notes, attachments.  What I like about Surfulater is that I can view everything at once if I want to...again it just "feels" easier.  I can click on the folder "Code Requirements" and view every article I put in there, along with my comments, attachments, and links to other articles.  My main complaint with most programs is that I feel disconnected from my information.  Its not intuitive to access it.  Perhaps in this area I share your complaint with a tree only interface. 

I do agree that Surfulater needs to work on the ability to add article templates and easily edit notes (the pencil icon is a disturbance, and it kicks you out of edit mode from time to time.)  However, for the moment I am willing to put up with these disturbances because the other features (mainly accessibility to data) make up for it.  I just started using the program and I already have it filled up with information, everything from project requirements, contacts, construction materials, and personal notes.  I don't want to use a program, fill it up with information, and then dump it because something better comes along.  This is another reason I selected Surfulater.  I like the start of the program so much that I am willing to wait for updates.  I find this thread interesting because these types of programs could be extremely powerful, even irreplaceable if done right.  I hope that there will be a lot of development in the area of simple information management - because we all need it and there isn't anything that completely fits the bill - and I think Surfulater is on the way to become one of top programs in this field.
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superboyac
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« Reply #53 on: March 01, 2006, 01:46:37 PM »

I didn't realize Surfulater was C++.  I know nothing about programming, I'm just talking out of my arse there...

But when I said it felt faster, I don't mean by actual time.  If you measured it, I'm sure everything is just as fast as can be.  I think your explanation is more accurate...I meant the editing experience is faster on other programs than on Surfulater.

Here's my suggestion:  for captured material like html pages, it's good to have an editing mode and a viewing mode like there is now.  However, for just plain notes, I'd prefer the editor to just always be in editing mode.  As in, you don't have to click in and out whether it's the pencil or double-click or single-click or whatever.  For just plain notes, you want to be able to go in and start typing, I don't think you want the user to feel any interruption.  Just like this forum's quick reply box--I know if I click inside it, I can just start typing away.  That's what I'm talking about.

I can definitely see how Surfulater will have an easier and more successful time with true notetaking in the future.  I think these issues are present currently only because notetaking is a more recent feature of the program, which was initially intended for capturing information.

If you really think my suggestions are useful, I'll keep them coming, especially if you think they apply to the general userbase also, and not just myself.

On a completely different note, am I not capturing from the web correctly?  I'm using Firefox, and when I highlight text and capture in Surfulater, it's fine.  But when I capture pictures, there are a lot of those broken links (with the red "x").  What are the limits to capturing accurately from the source in the program?  (I'd post a screenshot, but I've been having a hard time attaching files lately here).  And the final question I wanted to ask is how to make everything in the right content pane smaller?  I like things much smaller, compact, minimal than most, and everything in Surfulater on that right side is just too big for me.
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mouser
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« Reply #54 on: March 02, 2006, 01:34:35 AM »

a related issue: http://www.opml.org/spec2
opml is an xml markup standard for exchanging "outliner" (hierarchical notes) data.
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superboyac
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« Reply #55 on: March 02, 2006, 10:00:18 AM »

a related issue: http://www.opml.org/spec2
opml is an xml markup standard for exchanging "outliner" (hierarchical notes) data.

That looks interesting.  I don't understand much (too technical for me) but it sounds good.
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nevf
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« Reply #56 on: March 02, 2006, 01:18:50 PM »

a related issue: http://www.opml.org/spec2
opml is an xml markup standard for exchanging "outliner" (hierarchical notes) data.

mouser, thanks for that. I wasn't aware there was a V2 spec in the wind. That said I can't see OPML being all that useful and find its design quite strange and limited. For example outline text is stored in an XML attribute, Dates use RFC 822 instead of ISO8601 and aren't stored as attributes. There is no discussion of how binary data such as images should be handled.

OPML may have started life targeted at Outliners, but it seems to be (only?) used for RSS Subscription lists and such these days. Mind you this isn't something I know much about.

I'm currently doing a lot of work with XBEL, which is an XML standard to exchange Bookmarks. This is much more useful than OPML IMO.
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Neville Franks, "Save anything you see on the Web or on your PC" with Surfulater
nevf
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« Reply #57 on: March 02, 2006, 01:30:03 PM »

...

Here's my suggestion:  for captured material like html pages, it's good to have an editing mode and a viewing mode like there is now.  However, for just plain notes, I'd prefer the editor to just always be in editing mode.  As in, you don't have to click in and out whether it's the pencil or double-click or single-click or whatever.  For just plain notes, you want to be able to go in and start typing, I don't think you want the user to feel any interruption.  Just like this forum's quick reply box--I know if I click inside it, I can just start typing away.  That's what I'm talking about.

Understood. I can see this being usefull for Notes, but not for other article types such as Web clippings. I have a new idea or two I'm going try out shortly.

Quote
...
If you really think my suggestions are useful, I'll keep them coming, especially if you think they apply to the general userbase also, and not just myself.

yes, please keep them coming.

Quote
On a completely different note, am I not capturing from the web correctly?  I'm using Firefox, and when I highlight text and capture in Surfulater, it's fine.  But when I capture pictures, there are a lot of those broken links (with the red "x").  What are the limits to capturing accurately from the source in the program?  (I'd post a screenshot, but I've been having a hard time attaching files lately here). 

It should be capturing all images, but not Flash stuff. Let me know the URL of the page in question. You could also try the same page with IE, out of interest.

Quote
And the final question I wanted to ask is how to make everything in the right content pane smaller?  I like things much smaller, compact, minimal than most, and everything in Surfulater on that right side is just too big for me.

Not sure what you mean by smaller. Do you mean fonts?

These Surfulater specific support issues would better be handled over on our Support Forums  Wink
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Neville Franks, "Save anything you see on the Web or on your PC" with Surfulater
lifeonmars
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« Reply #58 on: March 04, 2006, 11:01:42 AM »

In my view (perhaps different from yours because I am an architect/law student).  I want a nice UI and easy access to my information.  The information is what it is all about.  As far as a text only programs there should be not discussion.  There are a ton of text editors that all do the same thing.  What is important is a tool that will allow you to gather information from everywhere (the web included) organize it (usually trees) and link it. Obviously the ability to grab information from the internet is important (because there is so much information out there) but you need to also be able to use simple text or import from other sources, docs, pdfs, etc. 

....

With this said, I am placing my bet on Surfulater.  I down loaded this program with about 20 others and it is still installed.  My process for evaluating is as follows:
1. Go to download.com and do a general search so you get as many results as possible (then do it again so you do miss it)
2. Go through the hundreds of results, read the descriptions, look at screenshots, visit homepages, and finally download promising programs.
3. Install all the promising programs (I do it while I am searching)
4. Gather all the new shortcuts on the desktop, and open each of the programs
5. If the UI sucks - uninstall the program
6. Take a closer feature look at each of the remaining programs.  Can you import the information you want? Does it work well with other programs? Can you input data easily (i.e. is the structure of the program not so restrictive that it takes to long to input simple date), etc, etc,....

I use a similar, subjective approach - but that's what it's all about, surely? Everyone has different needs and preferences and no one piece of software will please everyone!

I was a little disappointed to find that both Surfulator and Mybase are not freeware! Surfulator sounds great. Oh, well. Personally, I have used EverNote quite extensively, although less so recently, perhaps because there seem to be so many new web-based developments:

  • Voo2do - advanced task and priority management
  • Spurl - store, share and search all the interesting things you find on the web
  • Clipmarks - clip and save pieces of web pages
  • Performancing for Firefox - a full featured blog editor

These are some the ones I currently use or am trying out, although I can't say I feel fully satisfied with any of them or in combination. There are pros and cons of using "separates" versus an all-in-one application, too.
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nudone
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« Reply #59 on: March 04, 2006, 11:41:46 AM »

i use spurl all the time but i'd never heard of voo2do - looks quite nice so i'll give that a try. i think clipmarks is something i had dismissed before but i'll give it another go - there appears to be 'images' missing for quite a few of the things i searched for - i wonder is this common?

i see that the power still lies with the desktop versions in these categories of programs - i wonder how long it will take until we see truly powerful web based versions and would we be happy to trust such things?
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nevf
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« Reply #60 on: March 04, 2006, 01:33:17 PM »

...
I use a similar, subjective approach - but that's what it's all about, surely? Everyone has different needs and preferences and no one piece of software will please everyone!

Absolutely right.

Quote
I was a little disappointed to find that both Surfulator and Mybase are not freeware! Surfulator sounds great. Oh, well.

Do you work for free? If so I'd be interested to know how you provide food for you and your family, put a roof over your head, buy petrol for your car, electricity, water, clothes etc. Maybe you are independently wealthy. How about coming to work for free for me, I'm sure I could find something for you to do.
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« Reply #61 on: March 04, 2006, 03:54:08 PM »

I was a little disappointed to find that both Surfulator and Mybase are not freeware! Surfulator sounds great. Oh, well.

Do you work for free? If so I'd be interested to know how you provide food for you and your family, put a roof over your head, buy petrol for your car, electricity, water, clothes etc. Maybe you are independently wealthy. How about coming to work for free for me, I'm sure I could find something for you to do.

Well, I have done voluntary work in the past and I do give my time, knowledge, experience and skills up to help others out on occasion, still. Volunteering is a good way to gain those attributes that will help you to get paid for similar work in the future....

I like the idea that software developers provide basic functional freeware versions of their programs as a kind of marketing "loss-leader". Donation-ware, fine. To make a living you target the people who can/will pay - non-discriminating Joe Public and the commercial business sector. It's really no use marketing payware to the likes of me because I will just look somewhere else for something that works for free. Sorry! cheesy
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superboyac
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« Reply #62 on: March 05, 2006, 04:09:36 AM »

Well, I hope we can get this thread back on topic...which is brainstorming for this complicated notetaking genre of software.  I'm sure mouser and other software developers have other threads in the living room section for discussing the issues of shareware/freeware/donationware (which, incidentally, is an extremely interesting topic).

Anyway, since these discussions have proved to be somewhat productive lately (at least to me), I thought that sometime in the future, I'd put together a short summary of some bulletpoints of what most of us are looking for in notetaking software.  I'm sure that will be of some help to both the users and developers.
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Perry Mowbray
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« Reply #63 on: March 06, 2006, 06:36:02 AM »

Surfulater works this way. There is only ever one physical instance of a 'note', but it can be in as many tree folders as you want.

Surfulater also lets you link related 'notes' together so you build a web of related information. This is very useful.

It's pretty good: Though I'd like drag&drop enabled on this so that you could simply drag one article on top of another and it would be added to the "See Also" section. That would make it very fast to link your articles together.

Quote
I don't see a tight connection between the hierarchical tree and tags (labels, keywords whatever).

Tags are separate organizational method which can be used in a variety of ways. For example you get a list of all tags and selecting one shows all notes which include that tag. Tags could also be used in conjunction with filtered tree views. In this mode the tree would only include notes that included a certain tag or tags. With a good implementation of tags some folks might not even use the tree.

In my mind the most flexible method of implementing this would be a FolderType of TagFilter where you could add your tags and/or !tags to the folder query definition and the articles would sort themselves as required.

Then you could have any number of TagFilter folders that would sort your information for you!

Now to add automatic tagging based on content and the display of your information gets very dynamic. Although I'd always want to be able to turn on my Tree View if I wanted  Wink...

Regs,
Perry
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kfitting
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« Reply #64 on: March 06, 2006, 08:01:35 AM »

Hey pmowbray... are you the same pmowbray from the Tranglos (Keynote) forums?  If so, welcome aboard (if not, welcome aboard anyway!).  I'm kf2 from over there... just remembered the name from the thread about KN2 "database-type" development.

Kevin
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Perry Mowbray
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« Reply #65 on: March 06, 2006, 08:27:05 AM »

Hey pmowbray... are you the same pmowbray from the Tranglos (Keynote) forums?

I am!  smiley

If so, welcome aboard

Thanks!

I'm kf2 from over there... just remembered the name from the thread about KN2 "database-type" development.

I thought I remembered the name  Wink

Those were the days smiley

I've been in and out here for a wee while but just looking, I think I'm starting to get serious now...

Perry
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nevf
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« Reply #66 on: March 06, 2006, 01:55:32 PM »

Surfulater works this way. There is only ever one physical instance of a 'note', but it can be in as many tree folders as you want.

Surfulater also lets you link related 'notes' together so you build a web of related information. This is very useful.

It's pretty good: Though I'd like drag&drop enabled on this so that you could simply drag one article on top of another and it would be added to the "See Also" section. That would make it very fast to link your articles together.

Hi Perry,
I think that would be quite confusing as some folks would think the dropped article would be added as a child of the target article.

You can drag an article from the tree and drop it on the 'See Also' field in the content window. You can also use Copy (anywhere) and Paste as reciprocal 'See Also' links,  in the tree and content window.

Quote
Quote
I don't see a tight connection between the hierarchical tree and tags (labels, keywords whatever).

Tags are separate organizational method which can be used in a variety of ways. For example you get a list of all tags and selecting one shows all notes which include that tag. Tags could also be used in conjunction with filtered tree views. In this mode the tree would only include notes that included a certain tag or tags. With a good implementation of tags some folks might not even use the tree.

In my mind the most flexible method of implementing this would be a FolderType of TagFilter where you could add your tags and/or !tags to the folder query definition and the articles would sort themselves as required.

Then you could have any number of TagFilter folders that would sort your information for you!

Now to add automatic tagging based on content and the display of your information gets very dynamic. Although I'd always want to be able to turn on my Tree View if I wanted  Wink...

Regs,
Perry


I haven't locked down the implementation details for Filters yet and will definitely take your ideas on board. The normal Tree view will always be available.

I've written about automatic content classification somewhere, probably in the Surfulater Customer Forums.
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Neville Franks, "Save anything you see on the Web or on your PC" with Surfulater
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« Reply #67 on: March 07, 2006, 09:59:35 AM »

Just to add a few of my own semi-on-semi-off-topic musings to this random cluster of a thread...

I was a big Keynote user, but eventually the shortcomings got to me.  I tried setting up MediaWiki as a genreal note taking database, but that proved somewhat cumbersome.  I've since coded up my own little hierarchal type solution in PHP which although doesn't do a heck of a lot, does what I need.  For one thing, it automatically looks for relationships between notes based on keywords and content, like a wiki.  That to me is a big time saver, especially for brainstorming.

For organizing images and visual information, I've delegated that task to Picasa2.  Simply make some labels or collections and you're good to go.  And for webpages, nothing beats the ScrapBook extension for Firefox in my view.  Works like bookmarks, except saved locally and completely editable.  Now supports sticky notes and a dropdown bookmark like list from the toolbar menu.  Recently won the 'Most Useful Upgraded Extension' prize in the Extend Firefox Contest.
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superboyac
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« Reply #68 on: March 07, 2006, 10:27:26 AM »

I never knew about Scrapbook, it's awesome!  The only problem now is what I mentioned before about using several programs to collect information, because each does something a little differently.  Now, I am usually totally against all-in-one solutions, but in this category of software, namely information collection and organziation, I really feel that web collecting, note taking, and organizing all have to be tightly integrated into a powerful solution in order to take this to a new level.  There are a handful of programs out there who are attempting to tackle this problem, but none of them have really blossomed to a mature state yet.
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« Reply #69 on: March 08, 2006, 03:54:36 AM »

it automatically looks for relationships between notes based on keywords and content

This thread has been veering somewhat closer to the idea of a database that stores full text, and indexes every word of it.  That's more or less what you get in the mighty commercial system Dialog that I access at work, but desktop-size versions are rare and expensive.

Dialog "Providing more than 15 terabytes of content from the world's most authoritative publishers, and the tools to search every bit of it with speed and precision."


Nobody seems to have mentioned UltraRecall yet; this is yet another tree-type notetaker, but I seem to remember hearing that it's fully indexed.

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« Reply #70 on: March 08, 2006, 09:33:28 AM »

Another product in this category is AskSam.

I think the feature that sets this apart is the ability to add searchable fields to your documents.

From the site:

askSam is the ideal application organize your information. askSam is a different kind of database - a free-form database designed for users rather than programmers. askSam makes it easy to turn anything into a searchable database: email messages, word processing documents, text files, spreadsheets, addresses, Web pages, and more.

askSam gives you the power of a database without the complexity. No need to program or learn a complicated query language. With askSam, you simply import or enter information, and you're ready to search. askSam users range from individuals organizing email, addresses, and research notes to corporations and government organizations managing meeting minutes, regulations, policy manuals, and corporate databases.
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superboyac
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« Reply #71 on: March 08, 2006, 09:47:38 AM »

I remember trying both AskSam and UltraRecall recently, but I think that at the time, I was looking for an addressbook program and both of those were too much for that.  I'm going to go back and check it out again.  One thing I remember about AskSam is that it is one of these programs that has come up with a creative and unique way to collect information, and I felt it might be a bit too creative for the casual user.  But I have to go back and see.  Another program like AskSam was Zoot, also a very creative way to organize information.

And, rjbull, as far as fully indexed searching, well...YES!  Why?  Because fully indexed searching will allow the program to have the search-as-you-type filter feature, which people here should know, is my number one all time greatest most favoritest thing ever.  OK, time to check out some software!
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superboyac
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« Reply #72 on: March 08, 2006, 09:58:46 AM »

I don't understand what Dialog does...I'm on their page right now.
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superboyac
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« Reply #73 on: March 08, 2006, 10:13:25 AM »

OK, so I just tried UltraRecall, and it has lots of features and can do just about anything.  But it still organizes everything in the typical tree-heirarchy.  If that's the case, then I'd rather use Surfulater for it's more sophisticated organizing enginer, and if I am going to stick with the typical tree format, I'd use Mybase because it's just simpler for general notes and webpage capturing.

Ultrarecall and Surfulater are similar in that I think you can create templates for different kinds of information.  In Mybase you can only do two things, capture a webpage or store text.  In fact, each "note" (or item) in Mybase has two tabs, one for writing text in and another for a webpage.  I think the idea is you just don't use the webpage tab unless you have to and you write whatever you need in the text tab.  And if you do capture a webpage, you can add additional notes to it in the text tab (but you can't edit the webpage, it's a snapshot).  In Surfulater, you can actually edit the webpage you captured.
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« Reply #74 on: March 09, 2006, 03:42:48 AM »

Another product in this category is AskSam.

Back in the DOS days, I had a demo disk of the DOS version of AskSam.  There were no instructions.  It was one of the few programs I couldn't even get started with  Sad  So I've been wary every since.  But, I heard it was used to organise and search the texts used in the Watergate hearings, so it must be powerful.

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