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Alternatives for Google Notebook

January 24, 2009

I have been using Google Notebook for a long time. I like its structure of note-taking during web surfing. In its full view, the upper left panel shows the notebooks I have, which can be expanded to show the sections, and the bottom left panel displays the tags. I can do reasonable rich-text editing on my notes (but not much in the small window — maybe there are some keyboard commands I don’t know :? ). I use it more often than ScrapBook extension now (see my early post “More About Firefox“).

However, Google has decided to stop further development in Google Notebook and will not acquire any new user. Not really surprising since it was hinted in a WSJ article some time ago (“Google Gears Down for Tougher Times – WSJ.com“). Though the current users still can use this service, we don’t know when the Google Notebook extension no longer works with the later browsers nor when Google decides to shut down the service completely (this is not the first time). That’s why people in Lifehacker and Digital Illustration have made some suggestions on the alternatives. The question to me is which one I like most.

What I want in the note-taking web tool:

  • Simplicity layout, allowing to create multiple notebooks with sessions.
  • Tagging
  • Online access
  • No software installation needed

Choices:

1. EverNote

EverNote can be installed in different platform, and it offers web-clipping and syncs between them as well. However, the free account has limitations on space and number of items (see the comparison chart)

It sounds pretty good and is loved by many Lifehacker users, but I just don’t like it much. Tried it twice before but didn’t really like its layout (not structure-like). Too much stuff that I don’t need.

2. Zoho Notebook

My first thought was Zoho Notebook. But after I logged in to check, I remember why I didn’t use it before. Its interface looks like Microsoft’s OneNote, which has tabs for notebooks and pages for each notebook. You can easily add any object, such as text and multimedia files, into a page and move it around as you like. People who like OneNote’s interface will find Zoho Notebook charming. However, I prefer more structure-like layout.

In response to Google Notebook users’ habit, Zoho Notebook has provide an import tool and a new page format, called “Text Page” to add text in vertical order. However, this import tool doesn’t work on my case. After following its instruction to use the import tool and clicking at “Start”, an error message came up, “There is some problem in exporting my Google Notebook”. Some problem applied to the new extension Zoho Notebook Helper 1.0b3 (the first one I installed was 1.0b2).

I had to use the 2nd method to import my Google Notebooks: export into Atom format and import them individually, just like UberNote below. The imported notebook will use their new text page format. However, the title of each note was off (using the text from the first few lines), which is a little bit annoying. Besides, Zoho Notebook does not support the tagging.

3. UberNote

UberNote was the first to offer a script to import your Google Notebook to there. In the beginning I thought this is the closet one to Google Notebook. It looks like but actually is not. It is more like a strip-down EverNote, using tag as the main organization method. But the good thing is that it’s free and no ads on the shared notes.

After I imported two of my Google Notebooks into UberNote, the import tool messed up with the tags I used in Google Notebook because of, I guess, the different character encoding. And I couldn’t find a simple way to remove all the imported notes at once, except clicking “Trash” icon on each note. :( Not really convenient to me.

Update: (02/06/2009) Got message from UberNote:

We have taken care of the character encoding issue and are still looking at a way to handle multiple actions

4. Snipd

Notice this from Lifehacker. It’s convenient to associate the clips with the web pages and allow to access and share online. However, it’s not structure-like. Strangely, I had problem in viewing Its online tutorial video in Firefox and Opera.

Conclusion:

Still looking.

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