The best way to study and review text is to highlight and annotate what you read, and two of the most useful tools for doing this are the online and iPad app, Diigo, and the recently updated eHighlighter.
I won’t pretend that making annotations with a traditional yellow highlighter and sticky notes is sometimes faster and better for study purposes, but digital annotations offer so much more when it comes to reviewing, sharing, and even archiving annotations. The little extra effort you make to use Diigo and eHighlighter can be worth it when it comes to taking in information, studying and writing research papers.
Back in 2010, I wrote about how to use Diigo for writing term papers, and since then the free annotation service has not only been updated with more features, it now includes a completely redesigned Diigo Web Collector – its flagship browser extension for Google Chrome.
Diigo provides you tools to bookmark and annotate webpages, and to also review, manage, and share your annotations in your Diigo account. All your highlights and notes get listed under the source link for each article. You can tag articles and group them into folders.
The Google Chrome extension, similar to its Safari and Firefox tools, is now better designed with a few more additional functions. With this tool added to your Chrome toolbar, a single click, like picking up a yellow marker, provides you handy highlighting and note-taking tools.
Diigo now includes the ability to highlight in more than one color, and you can also click to add sticky notes to your individual highlights.
In addition to tagging and bookmarking articles, you can also share a link to your highlights and annotations via social media or email. This makes Diigo a great tool for group projects as well as solo study.
When you re-download a webpage, your previous highlights and annotations will appear, just as if you had made the highlights on paper. The Web Collector has several other useful features, including a tool for taking and annotating screenshots and adding that content directly to your Diigo account. You can also mark articles for reading later, as well as cache pages so that if they are changed, you will still have the original version.
Diigo’s free services include unlimited bookmarks, 1000 highlights per year, and 30 total cached pages. Basic and premium accounts get you an ad-free account, unlimited highlights and cached pages, full text search, and priority support.
Diigo for iOS
Diigo also has a free app for the iPhone and iPad. It’s one of the few iOS apps that allow you to highlight webpages on your device, and it also syncs with your Diigo account.
As a web browser Diigo does the job and also includes features for offline reading, bookmark sharing, tabbed browsing, keyword search, incognito mode, Quick Dial for favorite sites and more.
I especially like using Diigo on my iPad because it allows me to read digital mediums while at the same time highlighting text as if I were reading a paper magazine.
eHighlighter for iOS
If you’re like me and you still also read paper books, you probably know how laborious it can be to type and transcribe text from a book you’re reading. An iPhone OCR app called eHighlighter ($1.99), you can actually take a photo of a page you’re reading in a book, mark the text you want to copy, and eHighlighter will, using OCR technology, translate that image capture into text.
Before you start collecting highlights with eHighlighter, you can use the app to scan the bar code of the book, and in turn the app will locate and download the relevant information (title, author, publisher and date). If the barcode is not available, you can do a manual search in eHighlighter.
Before I started using eHighlighter, I mainly tried using the voice to text feature on the iPhone for transcribing longer passages in books. eHighlighter transcription is not always prefect, and in my tests, it couldn’t effectively transcribe text that contained pen or pencil underlining or traditional marker highlights.
eHighlighter retains all your page captures and highlights, and it also allows you to export transcriptions to your Evernote or Dropbox account, or simply via email. When transcribed text is exported to a text editor like Evernote, you can better edit and clean up the transcriptions.
The OCR technology in eHighlighter is not perfect, but it is certainly better than copying and typing text from a book, and it could be a very useful app for when you need to quickly capture a few quotes from the pages of a library book, or in a bookstore.
Diigo and eHighlighter are powerful solutions for paperless readers and students. These tools allow you to access, review, and manage your annotations beyond the original source they were taken from, and they make writing a research paper a little easier because you can simply paste quoted text into your paper.
Let us know what you think of these annotation tools – have you tried them yourself? Any others you’d recommend? Leave your thoughts in the comments, below.
Image credit: IB English (Quinn Dombrowski)