Info wrangling
July 10, 2008 7:35 PM   Subscribe

How do you all manage the information that you find in various places, online and off, and make it findable later?

I get various kinds of information from a lot of sources, most of them online, which should be easy to manage and access but I find that I really don't have a system for accessing it efficiently and effectively. For example, I have bookmarks, RSS feeds, stuff that has been starred in google reader, links in emails from friends, favorites in you tube/flickr/yelp etc., saved gmail chats with links, etc. etc. You know the story. Then one day a friend says something like "gosh I wish I knew where to find XYZ" and I remember that I have a link to it somewhere but I have no clue where. Or something comes up at work and I feel that there is a solution out there, but I forget that I once found it on some website and that I have a link to it somewhere.

What are your tricks for organizing and accessing all this information? Bonus points for the process being cheap and quick.
posted by kenzi23 to Computers & Internet (18 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
Perhaps Evernote would be an option.
posted by ISeemToBeAVerb at 7:49 PM on July 10, 2008

I use several programs for this:

Surfulater -- Cant live without it, best way to save bookmarks into organized folders (new version coming out will have both folder tree and tags). You can even put in text notes of your own and organize those into folders (and soon, tags too). Has browser right click integration to save bookmarks and even full text of web pages.

MS's Onenote -- student price should be under $50 at education stores online or on ebay.
Here I store longer notes or information or quotes. This too has browser integration and integrates with the rest of Office too.

For shorter or more temporary memos, I use Notesholder which is very handy, instantly accessible and dissappears out of view when not in use.

Other than that, I've begun using MS Word a lot more for longer documents of structured or organized information, using the 'outlining and headings' features with the 'document map' feature, which throws up a heading tree in a frame on the left side, for easy navigation to different sections of the document.
posted by jak68 at 7:56 PM on July 10, 2008

2nding evernote- besides being able to clip stuff from the web, you can also use your camera to scan papers and convert with ocr. I find it perfect for saving individual blog posts, mefi threads, that sort of stuff. And its searchable, categorizable, and taggable.

For other stuff like yelp, it helps to have a system. If you read about a restaurant in the newspaper, find it on yelp and favorite it.
posted by acidic at 7:59 PM on July 10, 2008

For bookmarking links, is the gold standard. I'm at 6698 links and counting.
posted by zamboni at 7:59 PM on July 10, 2008

I've spent a lot of time with Evernote and OneNote, and they're both great programs. I found OneNote to be a little better for actually taking notes (easier to format, more formatting options, etc.) but Evernote is vastly superior in terms of other features (online access, better handwriting recognition, etc.). From what you've said about your needs, I would lean towards Evernote.
posted by sinfony at 8:07 PM on July 10, 2008

On my Mac I use Journler. It hooks into the Print dialog so anything you can print you can instantly create a PDF which will be sucked into Journler and stored. You can also used cut and paste or drag and drop to the Journler icon in the dock. Whenever Journler receives something it pops up a dialog to let you tag and/or categorize it.

I have also heard many people praise Evernote and OneNote. When I was looking to centralize my "knowledgebase" I decided on Journler. YMMV.
posted by forthright at 8:22 PM on July 10, 2008

nthing Evernote, especially now with the online database syncing. It's great although I don't always get around to tagging my stuff enough. When properly tagged, evernote makes sifting through tons of information very simple. If you have saved items on a lot of websites (youtube, flickr, etc.), you can sometimes clip them right into evernote, or just clip the title into evernote and tag it. Evernote automatically adds links to websites or emails that you paste from, so you could use it as an index of bookmarks from several sources.

Since Firefox 3 came out I've been Bookmarking more and trying to get in the habit of tagging. It's, just click the star twice. If you're good about tagging all of your bookmarks, they should be pretty easy to find just by typing keywords into your address bar.

Also, look into a desktop search program that will index your inbox (not sure if there are ones that index RSS feeds, but probably). Personally I prefer Microsoft Desktop Search but a lot of people swear by Google Desktop Search or Copernic. These also index all documents on your PC so you can keep track of anything you have in Word, txt, PDF, etc. files.

If you have a mobile gizmo, there is a syncable version of evernote, but I don't know much about it. For "offline" information, I jot it down in my hipster PDA and pop it into Evernote when I'm at my computer.

I've heard great things about Backpack. Jott is useful for sending memos to yourself or others--call the service and leave yourself a voicemail, which gets transcribed and emailed to you (optionally with a reminder), or to other people on your list. Probably more features than that but I haven't delved in deep yet.
posted by Alabaster at 8:24 PM on July 10, 2008

I just started using Evernote and I love it. They just released the iPhone application too.
posted by bradbane at 9:03 PM on July 10, 2008

use gmail. Email everything to yourself, with some key terms to help you find it again later. Then search! It's your own private Google, ad almost everything can be emailed -- most browsers have an "email link" function, for example.

Also, you might want to set up some filters in gmail to automatically archive or label incoming messages from yourself.
posted by bonaldi at 9:12 PM on July 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

I used to use Google Notebook but it was just too time consuming, I had to tag and edit all the information myself. I decided that using google's Web History was a much better option for me. You can search by any word or phrase on the website you were reading so it makes it easy to find what you want. Plus it gives other interesting statistics about your internet usage, search habits and things of that nature. Of course it's those very things that can make it somewhat undesirable as well; if you have any web pages you DON'T want it to archive forever, you have to make a special effort to set it up. Overall though, it's a great tool.
posted by rmtravis at 9:57 PM on July 10, 2008

Seconding Journler for Macs.

Previously I used various google/gmail tools, and just kept gmail open in a tab at all times.
posted by lullaby at 10:34 PM on July 10, 2008

I use for bookmarking and Google Docs for anything more memo-like. If it's actually something I have to do, it goes in Tracks. I try to resist the temptation to bookmark with other tools, but I do have lots of posts marked "keep this post new" in Bloglines and some favorites here at AskMe and at Flickr.

But, for the most part, it's Gmail + Google Docs. I keep Gmail, Google Docs, and Google Calendar open in separate tabs. And I have boomarklets for adding things to and bloglines.
posted by wheat at 6:28 AM on July 11, 2008

Happy Tiddlywiki user here.
posted by PatoPata at 7:01 AM on July 11, 2008 everything and be sure to use the tags and notes fields.
posted by Jacqueline at 8:28 AM on July 11, 2008

delicious for bookmarking anything online. Gmail for mail, google cal for calendar and Remember the milk for tasks. For on the fly lists and discoveries jott (use the phone to note yourself or send it gcal or rtm). As for rss feeds and all information in one place.. use widgets in netvibes to centralize all information.

Thats my out well
Essentially I would reccomend webapps since they should be online and accessible anywhere and everywhere.
posted by radsqd at 1:01 PM on July 11, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for so many great suggestions and explanations of how you make it work for you. Another question occurred to me, since most of you are using 2-3 different systems for info wrangling, what do you all do when you go "now where is that thing about how to tie your shoes faster?" I often can't narrow it down to whether it was a URL or a note or a YouTube video or an email. A system is a system, but am I missing some particular way of thinking about information?
posted by kenzi23 at 8:09 PM on July 11, 2008

The best thing would be to pick one and use it exclusively.
posted by wheat at 3:07 PM on July 12, 2008

"I often can't narrow it down to whether it was a URL or a note or a YouTube video or an email. A system is a system, but am I missing some particular way of thinking about information?"

I guess I broadly separate what i'm storing based on source. Anything off the internet goes into Surfulater (urls, whole pages, sites, etc; categorized by a folder tree mainly).
Any notes that I'm writing myself (book reviews, quotes, even things for reading lists etc) go into Onenote - long term storage. My short term or temporary notes-to-self go into Notesholder.

I've never really 'lost' anything with this system. These days having a 'desktop search' program (I have Microsoft's desktop search) makes finding things across programs a piece of cake anyway.

In the end I think the key is simply sticking with whatever system you've come up with. Everyone's needs and tastes are different when it comes to information systems. Consistency is really what makes finding things later on much easier. Find what works for you but then stick with it religiously, and you'll generally not lose anything.
posted by jak68 at 11:51 PM on July 12, 2008

« Older Help me "Put on a Happy Face"! (sorry, had to do...   |   Facebook a privacy problem? Never would have... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.