Thursday, April 07, 2005

Onfolio Serendipity

As I noted earlier, one of the things that annoyed me about Microsoft OneNote was its relatively weak tools for capturing information off the web. Basically you can do the usual cut & paste thing or you could snapshot part of the screen but that's about it. Even just capturing a full web page takes unofficial add-ons and, even then, you end up with an image file--i.e. something that you can't search.

But OneNote did get me thinking about capturing research materials from the web. After all, it's something I spend a lot of time doing as an analyst but don't really have a great system for. I end up with a messy combination of bookmarks (mostly unorganized), printouts, and saved HTML files (also mostly unorganized). Enter Onfolio.

In a nutshell, I'm absolutely sold on Onfolio as a research tool and as an RSS aggregator. It integrates right into your browser (Firefox in my case although it also works with Internet Explorer) as a sidebar. It can capture complete web pages and even complete web sites. It's searchable. It can export. One can even take notes with it although I haven't been primarily using it for that. Maybe I'll start now that I've decided to keep it. There's a free download of the beta 2.0 version available on the company's site. If you do any amount of web-based research (doesn't everybody?), definitely give it a look.

Here are some more details from one of the developers, Joe Cheng:
We provide the familiar hierarchical-folders organization model, but also provide extremely fast full-text search (including a find-as-you-type mode) and Search Folders a la Outlook 2003. We are also way more suitable for capturing stuff from the web, as that is really our primary focus. (Our actual note-taking abilities are more of an afterthought, compared to capturing existing files and web content, but should still be a lot better than what you're doing now.)

We also provide several ways to bulk export items. You can drag the root folder of a collection to the file system; your notes and captured web pages will become MHT files. You can use our Web Publishing feature to "publish" a collection to a local directory, which will give you HTML for your notes and captured web pages. And finally you can use our included cfs2xml command line utility to export a collection as XML + data files.

Onfolio 2.0 Release Candidate is currently available as a free download on www.onfolio.com, when the final version comes out there will be $30 and $100 editions (the latter is intended for professional researchers).
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