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I do research all the time, and it’s always on the Web. Even when the material comes from a “book” (remember those?), odds are I found a snippet of it on Amazon or read it on Google Books. All the research I do is on the internet, whether it’s for school, Make Use Of or my own random curiosities.

Even as research went online, taking notes on that research really didn’t. It still involved either cutting and pasting into Word, or writing furiously in a notebook. Research became easier, but recording it fell behind. That is, it did until WebNotes happened.

WebNotes‘ motto is “Annotate. Organize. Share.” That’s exactly what they do, nothing more and nothing less. For bookmarking and other features, as we all know, I turn to Diigo 7 Reasons Diigo Tastes Better Than Delicious 7 Reasons Diigo Tastes Better Than Delicious Read More . For pure research, though, WebNotes is my new favorite, and may be my last.

WebNotes is not the only Web annotater I’ve ever used (I even loved the annotation features of Diigo), but it’s the simplest- which, for research, makes it the best. It’s simply a tool for taking, organizing, and sharing (if you want) your research findings.

Set-up is a breeze: once you’ve got an account with WebNotes, you either install the toolbar (a Firefox extension, Firefox-only) or a bookmarklet with many of the same features (which worked in any browser I tried). Then navigate to a site you’re using for research, and let the fun begin!


With WebNotes fired up, you’re able to highlight any text on a page, as well as create sticky notes that float on the page. There’s no limit to how many you can do, and WebNotes works surprisingly well in every page I tried to use- highlighting and note-taking were always responsive. The way I liked to do it was to highlight relevant things on the page, and then write a couple of notes about the key points of the article.

WebNotes’ usefulness doesn’t end there, though.  Once you’re done taking notes, the organizer gets the spotlight. Right from the organizer page, you can see all the highlights and notes you grabbed from a particular page- it becomes your notebook, with all the information you need right there in one place. You can look through your highlights, read your notes, and see where it’s all coming from.

One small feature that I loved is that WebNotes automatically updates your organizer as you send it more information, meaning you don’t have to constantly hit “Refresh.” It’s a small feature, but a sanity-saver.

You can organize notes into folders, with endless numbers of folders and sub-folders possible. From the organizer, you can launch any page on which you’ve taken notes- with or without the notes on it.

Though sharing features aren’t the point of WebNotes, they’re extremely useful and easy to use. You can share a page, and its highlights and notes, to another person whether they have a WebNotes account or not. Each page gets a marked-up permalink, which you can send to your friends and study buddies. Pages can also be shared via email, or even turned into a PDF. This makes WebNotes useful for group projects and studying, which is a great feature.

WebNotes is still in private beta, but I’ve managed to snag 100 invites from them. The first 100 people to register for WebNotes by clicking THIS LINK will be able to try the private beta – for everyone else, it shouldn’t be long before it’s public.

If you manage to snag an account, please come back here and let us know what you think about the site.   Is this something you see yourself using often?   In your opinion, how does it compare to other note taking sites?

  1. al
    January 3, 2009 at 11:56 am

    try this quotation service

  2. Al
    December 26, 2008 at 8:34 am

    nice idea and works okay but I can't rearrange the highlighted text - it doesn't even store the highlights in the order they appear on the webpage, or alphabetically - has anyone figured out how they are arranged?

  3. bollonet boll
    December 15, 2008 at 11:02 am

    I still doesnt get why this tool is hyped and described as "serious tool for researchers" etc. really. What it does it to save highlighted text in "notes" not editable. No formatting, no pictures. No tagging. Just som txt and URL saved in one block.
    Have you guys tried features like scrapbook, or the serious tool Zotero? Its much better for referenche work, especially Zotero. Or maybe Diigo?

    I find the sponsored tech-blogs (mashable, readwritweb and more) acting like lemmings, one start the hype and everyone follows without a gram of critical thinking, repeating like parrots what the first one said. Its all this "for proffesional researchers".. Hello! What the h*ll are you talking about? This is a very simple tool saving URL and some highlighted text, not able to edit or tag or anything else that serious researchers need.

    I think the leading tech-blogs have to straighten up to keep people trusting what they write. As it is now, there is only not substancially wrong but also ridiculos to call Webnotes a tool for university students or researchers, when you have Zotero, scrapbook, Diigo, Evernote who is much better.

  4. sumie
    December 15, 2008 at 12:22 am

    oh, i missed a great service. i checked for hours to get an invite. pls can someone send me an invite to tekcroach AT

  5. Leisureguy
    December 14, 2008 at 11:09 am

    Extremely nice and useful. You're right: taking notes from Web pages can be a great flaming pain. I have been using Evernote with some success, but this package is simpler and easier and faster. Thanks for pointing this out.

  6. digideth
    December 14, 2008 at 12:56 am

    dam missed getting in to the beta. anyone have anymore invites? Digideth at gmail dot com

    Evernote is still my fav at the moment but i am always looking for something better. I just got in to, anyone else try them out yet?

  7. megcd
    December 13, 2008 at 3:05 pm

    For web browsing and research purpose, Webnotes highlight and sticky note features sound similar to Diigo. Do you switch between these two services? I find it not very impractical

    • David Pierce
      December 13, 2008 at 3:16 pm

      I do switch back and forth, actually. When I'm doing multi-source research, I use WebNotes, but for general bookmarking and the like I use Diigo. I like having them separate, because if I only used one, it would get overly crowded. That's what works for me, anyway.

  8. ArpitNext
    December 13, 2008 at 2:36 pm

    Thanks MUO!

  9. codyp
    December 13, 2008 at 1:16 pm

    This sounds great for research. But I have to say I really prefer evernote. I signed up and I will try out out for a week and see how it goes. But i love easily having everything on my home computer, work computer, and phone. With out having to do it through a browser (but do have that option if im on a computer where I can't install it).

    • David Pierce
      December 13, 2008 at 3:17 pm

      I DO love Evernote. The thing I love about WebNotes, though, is that I can see the page I've marked up, with the highlights and notes right on it. That way, I get the context for what I'm researching. I can't live without Evernote, though!

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