I love reading science fiction stories. Not only because they allow our imagination to soar free, but also because they are – as one writer philosophically puts it – the way for humans to question their humanity.
From my writer’s point of view, crafting science fiction is as exciting as – and so much even more challenging than – reading it . The science behind every great science fiction is always based on the real science that really exists in our real world. That’s why making the story believable requires an extensive amount of research.
But science fiction is not the only genre that requires research. Any kind of writing involves some process of data gathering. That’s why research tools are an indispensable part of every writer’s life.
Scrap everything to Scrapbook
One of the best research tools that I’ve come across so far is a Firefox extension called Scrapbook. Basically, this tool acts as a filing cabinet for all of your digital research data. Whenever you find something interesting on the net, you could add it to your scrapbook, either by dragging and dropping, right clicking or using shortcut keys.
We’ve discussed Scrapbook before. If want to get familiar with it, you could read Tina’s “Offline Browsing Anywhere Anytime – Part One” and my “7 Writing Addons for Turning Firefox into the Ultimate Writer’s Suite“.
One reader suggested Scrapbook+, a modification of Scrapbook with some improvements here and there. But with the exception of the highly visible 6 highlighters, I personally couldn’t spot the differences between these two. I use the plus version based on the developer’s claim that it’s faster.
As much as I love Scrapbook+ and Scrapbook to aid my research, they both have one similar major drawback: my data is only available on one computer. If you are a person who works with more than one computer (home, office, mobile, library, and any other possible variation), you’d wish that you could share your data from every one of your working points.
Well, my dear friends, with some modification and a little help from another tool, your wish could come true.
Access your Scrapbook data everywhere
After installing the client (available for Windows, Mac and Linux), this service will create a Dropbox folder and everything inside this folder will be synchronized to your online account and to other Dropbox folders in other computers which installed under your account. It’s also possible to share folders with other Dropbox users.
As time has gone by, I found other uses of Dropbox aside from being a mere backup tool. One of them is using it to remote trigger file and torrent downloads. While trying to find a solution to have my research data available on other computers, I suddenly realized that I could use Dropbox to achieve that goal.
The first thing to do is to create a folder inside the Dropbox folder to put your Scrapbook data. Mine’s called “Scrapbook” but you could name it anything you want.
If you install the Dropbox client on several computers under one account, you can continue on to the Scrapbook setting up process. However, if this is not the case and you still want to be able to access your Scrapbook data from another computer, right click on the Scrapbook folder and choose “Dropbox –> Share this folder” from the pop up menu.
You will be taken to the Dropbox site under your account. Write down the email addresses of the Dropbox accounts to whom you want to share this folder with. These accounts would be the accounts of computers where you want to access your Scrapbook data.
This arrangement opens up another possibility: you could collaborate with others on data collecting.
Configuring Sharing on Scrapbook
The next step is configuring Scrapbook. Open Scrapbook using the key combination Alt + K and click the little arrow button next to Tools. Choose “Options” from the po up menu.
Choose the “Organize” tab and click the “Save data to” option. Click “Browse” to determine where Scrapbook should put your data. Choose the “Scrapbook” folder inside the Dropbox folder.
Please note that from my experiment, the above method is working with a fresh install of Scrapbook but not with an already built database. Alternatively, you could choose “Enable Multi-ScrapBook” to have several sets of data collections. This way, you could put your private data on one local location and share non-private data through the Dropbox folder.
Click the little arrow next to the “Multi Scrapbook” icon on the left of Tools and choose manage.
On the next Scrapbook management window, you could Add, Edit and Remove a scrapbook. Click Add.
Give a name to the new scrapbook and choose a location to save the data. Since our goal is to make the data available on other computers, choose the Scrapbook folder inside the Dropbox folder that we’ve created earlier.
Do the same thing on the other computers: accept the Dropbox shared folder if it’s installed under a different account, and set Scrapbook (either using “Save data to” or “Multiple Scrapbook“) to store its data in the shared Dropbox folder.
Another solution for sharing partial Scrapbook data is using the “Export – Import” feature from the Tools menu.
The combination of Scrapbook and Dropbox will enable us to work using the same data on multiple computers under different OS’s as both Firefox and Dropbox are available for Windows, Mac and Linux. Just remember to pay attention to your Dropbox quota and the size of your Scrapbook library.