26 April 2008

Alternatives to Google Notebook

After discussing the benefits of using Google Notebook for online genealogy in previous posts, I was wondering what other alternatives to Google Notebook might be available and did some poking around.

One application that caught my attention was Zotero. While targeted at individuals doing academic research, this browser extension looked like it could be of use to genealogy researchers, as it offers much of the same functionality as Notebook. One feature that particularly caught my eye was the ability to store snapshots of web pages, then annotate and highlight them, something which you cannot currently do in Notebook.

The Zotero tool installs within your browser (Firefox, Navigator & Flock), and behaves much like Google Notebook (sleeps in the corner of the browser, toggling between mini and full-page views, etc.) The interface is markedly more complicated than that of Google Notebooks, and so the learning curve is greater. I have fooled around with it for a while, and still find myself a little confused by the various features, and how to integrate them to the most effect.

The application has a comprehensive demo tour, which outlines its features. I have yet to really feel like I can just dive in and do research with Zotero, at least to the extent that I can with Notebook. Granted, I have been using Notebook longer, but the interface and the framework around which Notebook is set-up--general browsing and high-function bookmarking, vs. Zotero's more rigid research and citation structure--just feels more natural for the way genealogy research flows online. I would have loved to have something like Zotero when I was in graduate school as a literature student. As a genealogy researcher, Zotero just seems like overkill.

I'm going to give it more time, though, and see if I can't find a way to make the academic tenor of Zotero work for the broad-based research I do on behalf of my family trees.

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