[The following column originally appeared in print in April 2008. I am republishing it as part of my continuing effort to maintain an archive of my published columns. Important note: I have not updated this since its original publication. While most of the sites remain as described, some may have changed. All information was current as of the date of original publication.]
Consider this the super-powers edition of Web Watch. Read on to find out how you can use the Web to build memory stronger than an elephant’s, have the vision to search across the Web, and develop the ability to communicate from the afterlife.
Never forget. EverNote has long been a popular desktop application among lawyers, who use it to store notes, Web-page clips, images, ideas, to-do items and whatever. The “ever” in EverNote came from its appearance, storing all your notes and clips in a perpetual, scrolling tape-like window. Recently, the company announced the beta release of EverNote 3.0, which expands its functionality to the Web and mobile phones and adds a Mac-compatible version.
The company describes the product as an external brain, available to you whenever you see something you want to remember. With its ability to store and search just about anything and do it from any platform, the description is not far off the mark.
The most significant enhancement in this beta release is the ability to create and synchronize notes across multiple platforms – desktop, Web and mobile phone. Synchronization is seamless, so wherever you enter the note, it is quickly available everywhere else. A side benefit is that if your computer crashes, your notes are backed up online. In fact, you need not install the desktop software at all if you prefer to use only the online version.
A second notable new feature is EverNote’s ability to index and search text within images. Snap a picture of a business card or receipt with your mobile phone, send it to EverNote and later find it through a word search. This also works for images containing handwriting, meaning you can write a note, save it to EverNote, and later find it through a search.
Other useful features let you e-mail notes directly into EverNote, clip Web pages, add tags to notes, and use a time band to find notes by date.
As of this writing, this latest version of EverNote remains in private beta, which means you must request and receive an invitation before you can sign up. Once you do, registration is free.
See across the Web. Searchme is a new search site, in beta as of this writing, that delivers results visually, showing images of pages in place of descriptions. While not the first search engine to include page images within search results, Searchme delivers results more smoothly and seamlessly. Results flow across the screen in a style similar to the Cover Flow display of CD covers on an iPod touch or on iTunes.
Begin to enter a query and icons pop up under the search box representing topics by which you can narrow your search. As I type “antonin scalia,” for example, icons appear for U.S. government, courts, politicians, U.S. news and history. I can select one of these icons or ignore them and search across topics. The icons remain visible throughout, so you can narrow your search at any time.
The default results page has no text, just the flow of matching pages, with the top result centered in the screen and the others queued to the right waiting to take center stage. As you move through them, the pages flow smoothly across the screen. Hover over a page image and a box pops up with more information about it. Click on the page image to go to the actual page.
If you prefer both images and text in your search results, a quick click on the arrow at the bottom of the page divides the screen horizontally, with the top showing images and bottom containing the descriptions more typical of other search engines.
Searchme’s delivery of search results through images rather than text is highly effective. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then seeing the pages that contain your search results helps you quickly measure their usefulness and relevance. Visual search may not be for everyone, but I like what I see here.
Goodbye from the grave. Any lawyer who handles wills, trusts and estates should check out iGoodbye.com. It offers a way to pass on critical financial and personal information to heirs while keeping it private until death. This could include passwords, information about assets and financial accounts, and other personal data. It could also be used to store copies of wills and trusts, to leave recorded messages or videos, or to provide instructions.
The way it works is simple. After creating an account, you specify the heirs or recipients, upload the encrypted files intended for each, and then notify each heir of the location of the files and the password. Upon death, the heirs contact iGoodbye.com, which verifies the death through a death certificate and then releases the files.
The cost to use the service is based on an annual subscription of $29.95 – so the sooner you say goodbye, the less you will pay. There is also an option for a free account if you agree to pass the costs on to your heirs.
Copyright 2008 Robert J. Ambrogi