Thursday, October 06, 2005

Looking for online tools

When I was an online student (Master's in Education, University of Phoenix), one of the hardest things was switching from computer to computer. I might stumble across a great site while at work that I would want to include in a paper--that was sitting at home on my computer. I might need to work with my classmates on a project, when we weren't all in the same time zone (or continent). I might find I had an extra ten minutes before a meeting at another university, and want to do some research in their databases, but on a computer that wasn't mine and that I couldn't print from.

I'm sure that other online students have similar problems. So, I'm trying an experiment. With the proliferation of great online tools, I want to know if it's possible to do most research related functions online: notetaking, collaboration, writing, presentation, etc. They must be browser based, i.e. not require any downloads to use, and must be server-based, i.e. be accessible from any Internet connected computer. Ideally, they should be usable in multiple browsers, and at least editing/adding should be password protected. They should also be free or very reasonably priced (maybe $30 a year or less?) This is a Web 2.0 sort of thing.

I'm going to write this up as a "Toolkit" for online research that I am compiling, which will also include tips on searching databases and the open web, plus copyright and plagiarism information.

Here are some of the tools I've found so far:
  • Writely -- an online word processor (I blogged about this one last week.)
  • Num Sum -- an online spreadsheet (Haven't tried this yet, but it looks interesting.)
  • eSnips -- a web note-taking tool (This does require a download and at this point only works with Internet Explorer. I also can't get the "snipping" part to work right now. However, the concept is perfect and it's an early beta, so it's still on the list for now.)
  • Kiko Calendar -- online calendar with collaboration features
  • WebNotes -- open notetaking (not password protected)
  • OperaShow Generator -- an online generator for the Opera browser based presentation format (Specific to the Opera browser, but even in other browsers you get PowerPoint style organization, kind of like presentation notes. If you have CSS skills, you should be able to tweek this to be viewable in any browser that uses CSS, though you might lose some of the advanced functions.)
  • Skype's conference calling abilities
  • Jybe for co-browsing the web
  • Conversate for online discussions
  • Wikalong for annotating websites (Firefox extension, but usable in other browsers via Bookmarklets)
  • bookmarking tools like and FURL for saving links and sometimes content
  • blogs for notetaking and reflection (in some, you can make the entries private)
  • bibliographic citation managers and formatters, like RefWorks (RefWorks requires a subscription, but it, or a similar service, is available at many colleges and universities.) Some bookmarking tools also do citation managing, like Connotea and CiteULike, which pull citation data from databases, and FURL, which exports in APA, MLA, Chicago, and CBE formats. RedLightGreen, the Research Library Group's online catalog (or, really, a book search engine) will save and format references in APA, Chicago, Harvard,MLA, and Turabian.
  • Also, things that aren't meant for research use, but can be used that way. LibraryThing could keep a collection of books used for projects.
Anyone have anything else to add? Please don't send your favorite generic bookmarking tool or blog host. I know I've only scratched the surface of these tools, but I don't want to make a huge list of these tools that will be impossible to keep updated. If you have a huge list that you plan to keep updated, I'd wouldn't mind seeing that, or if there's a particular tool that does something unusual, like FURL's export in citation formats. (Remember that comment word verification has been turned on, so if that sort of thing makes it impossible or too annoying for you to comment, please contact me in another way.)

I would also be interested in hearing from developers on what you are planning, and from students (and instructors) on what you think is needed.


Blogger Mind Valley said...

Thanks for sharing your lists of cool sites. Another site that you might like to check out is

It is great for keeping your bookmarks and also great for discovering lists of other great sites on the web. We are working on some big improvements and are hoping for more user input. If you have the time to check out the site, I would love to hear from you. Thanks, Mike

12:01 PM, October 06, 2005  
Blogger LibraryThing said...

Thanks for including LibraryThing. It's under constant development. I'm planning four features that speak to what you need:

1. Bibliographic export, like EndNote, etc.
2. Ability to include articles.
3. Ability to search for books in multiple libraries without adding them to your library, like the Library of Congress' Z39.50 Gateway, but simplified and automating cross-library searches.
4. "Marginalia" for each book (notes, by page)

Needless to say, they aren't all going to happen this week. Let me know what else would make it a better reseach tool.

Tim Spalding

1:53 PM, October 06, 2005  
Anonymous Meredith said...

Fantastic list! AirSet is another great calendaring program that also has lists and blogging functions. With AirSet, you can create group calendars as well, which would be great for group projects.

What about wikis? There are a lot of web-based wikis these days like PBWiki and Seed Wiki I think a wiki is the perfect format for doing group projects. A wiki is great because it can really become anything the group needs it to be!

It's definitely an exciting time for those of us interested in technology and education!

9:42 PM, October 07, 2005  
Anonymous Brian Hoogendam said...

Thanks for mentioning Jybe as an online tool. We are starting to see a lot of library interest in our approach to offering real time support for patrons. Our next version contains even more features so feel free to ping me if you want a demo. I can be reached at brian.hoogendam AT


1:47 PM, October 10, 2005  
Blogger Christina said...

I just found a ppt alternative, s5: Looks promising (it's like the Opera one, but should work across platforms and allow for easy printability.

9:04 PM, October 16, 2005  
Blogger Derek Baird said...

Have you tried Yahoo's social bookmarking service called My Web 2.0?

or YackPack? YackPack allows users to record and send audio messages to friends inside privately formed groups.

2:56 PM, November 01, 2005  
Blogger Rebecca Hedreen said...

I got an email suggesting ZohoWriter as an additional online word processor.

I'm also testing out ThinkFree's Online suite: word processing, slide show (PowerPoint), and spreadsheet.

4:04 PM, November 02, 2005  

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