Tool Time – Apps to help your research

I get easily overwhelmed when I start a project. There’s so much information to digest, so many ideas to process, pages to look at, that I often jump out of my chair and slap on my iPod to release some stress through raucous dancing in the living room. Yep, I’m that upstairs neighbor stomping all over the place.

Anyhow, I thought I’d share two of the applications I use to organize my research online.

Diigo

Think of Diigo not as a sister to del.i.cious, but as a virtual study pack – highlighters, post-it notes, filters, bookmarks, etc.

After you’ve installed this handy Diigo toolbar and enabled it in your browser, you will see  a lot of little icons. Don’t fret! I’ll go through the ones I use the most and how they are used.

Diigo Sidebar

If you’ve tagged and organized your bookmarks, you can open up the Diigo sidebar to help you see all the links at once for fast reference. It’s the symbol on the far left with the green plus sign over it.

Highlighter

There are two ways to use this. Say you want to highlight a quote or passage in an article, like this one from Wired titled “MP3: Scientific Attempt To Create Most Annoying Song Ever.”

Hold your mouse down and highlight the quote, then hit the Highlighter icon.

or

Hit the highlighter icon and drag your mouse over the quote or passage.

Post-It Notes

These are great for all those little comments you make in the margins. Simply hover over your highlighted passage and you will see a small pencil show up. Click on it and a drop-down menu of options appear. Once you’ve made the note, it will disappear save for a small icon reminding you it’s there.

Read Later, Unread, Recent, Filters

These all have to do with bookmarks. If you’re on a page, hit Read Later to save it to your unread folder. The last 20 pages you viewed will be in the Recent folder. Use the filter button to show only certain links you’ve tagged.

The best way to discover Diigo’s potential is to open up an article and start pushing buttons. Also, one of the greatest features is its social nature. You can create a group for you and your fellow researchers to share your post-it notes and highlighted passages with only those in the group.

Tip: Because of its social nature, you can go onto a webpage and see every single annoying note a confused user has posted. To get rid of those remarks, click on Options, Bookmarks & Highlights, and check “Hide Public Annotations.”

Readability

If you’re like me in that you have horrible vision, there’s nothing more annoying than reading an article with a million ads surrounding it, too small text, or funky fonts. Readability alleviates your sore eyes by changing the look of the article in front of you. I prefer the Ebook, large font style. Yeah, I’m practically blind. Make your selections, drag the bookmarklet up to your toolbar and voila! Next time you’re reading a horrendously laid out article, click on the bookmarklet for easy reading.

Tip: When you use Diigo’s highlighter with Readability, the text becomes italicized. When you refresh to original view, voila, it’s highlighted!

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