Taking Notes with Google Notebook

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google_notebook.gifGoogle announced three new tools a couple of days ago, and one that stood out to me was Google Notebook. I’m a huge fan of Web 2.0 note-taking apps, and my recent ga-ga was was over Sabifoo which I found a very robust tool. Google Notebook seemed like an interesting idea to me when it came out, but after having used it for a fair while, I realise that this sort of a thing (Firefox plugin + central note-gathering page) has been done quite a few times, and Google Notebook only differs in the fact that it comes from Google.

The idea of Google Notebook, like every other advanced Web 2.0 note-taking service, is to take notes from around the web. Google Notebook follows this idea in a simplistic way and setting it up and getting used to using it I would say are one of the easiest things it enables. If you have a Gmail account, you can headover to the site and login. There you will be prompted to download a plugin for your web browser (I tried it out with Firefox and Internet Explorer) and no matter which one you use, it generally is the same exact thing with little differences. Of course, in my experience, Firefox had much better performance with it than IE6 — mainly because Firefox was created around the idea of extensions while to IE this is a side thing [this may change in IE7, perhaps].

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So once you’ve got it installed, you will have a notebook icon in the status bar on the right-hand corner, which looks something like cap-0002.png. Upon clicking on it, a box will magically appear which is one way you can take notes (the only way if you want to write one — useful for reminders, todo lists, etc.) Here, if you want you can select text and click Add Note (alternatively Right Click, click on Note this (Google Notebook)). If you have no selected text it opens a blank WYSIWYG editor.

Once you’ve written your note, or at the end of the day, all your notes are visible at the main Google Notebook site, this is the central place where your notes go to — in a realistic analogy, taking a clipping and adding it as a note is like copying text and e-mailing it to an address where you store all your notes. With Google Notebook, of course, all this is very automated, seemless, and fast.

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What I like about Google Notebook is the fact that you are able to make your Notebook ‘public’ (idea: group note-taking sessions for research projects) and create as many notebooks as you like — meaning you aren’t limited to just one place leaving everything to clutter up — so if you’re collecting notes on the Term 2 assignment about rats, then you can put it in its own Notebook instead of amongst every other note you’ve ever taken.

At the end of the day, however, we have to remember that this is a note-taking tool, and although a brilliant one it is, there isn’t anything creative about it except that all the ideas and requirements a user faces been thoughtfully fulfilled. This has also been tried before many times, and there are literally tens of tools which do the same thing — the difference is that this is by Google and attached to its name is billions of dollars worth of branding, reputation, and trust – which I find a valid reason to choose it over others in the same scheme of things. Of course, that’s not the only reason — the tool itself is quite impressive.


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