Wednesday, January 14, 2009

RIP, Google Notebook

Right now, I’m a little bummed out.
My favorite Notebook app is was Google Notebook. I say was because Google is apparently ending its Notebook experiment. As reported earlier today in Search Engine Land, Google Notebook is one of five casualties in Google’s effort to get leaner and more focused on its core products and mission. Danny Sullivan succinctly noted:
Google Notebook closes, though those with existing accounts can continue to save material. New accounts won’t be allowed, however — nor will the service be further developed, and the Google Notebook Extension for browsers will no longer work. Google told me it makes more sense to close this when it offers other services that allow for notetaking, such as Google SearchWiki, Google Docs and Google Bookmarks.
No doubt, Google needed to consolidate some of its bookmarking efforts, and there clearly wasn’t a critical mass of Notebook users to worry about. But I love Google Notebook, even compared to flashy, feature-rich competitors like Evernote. Google Notebook’s chief advantages were its superb bookmarklet/extension and excellent, no-frills handling of text and links. As I said before, my notes are all about text, and Google Notebook handled basic text and links better than any web-based notebook I’ve used.


Although Google Notebook is technically staying open, I can’t continue to use it without the handy bookmarklet/extension. That was the best feature.  So I’m in the market for a decent alternative. The two most obvious options are as follows:
  • Evernote: I like Evernote a lot. I had almost decided to switch a few weeks back but I ran into a snag when their bookmarklet didn’t work so well with the popular Noscript Firefox add-on. For now, I choose Noscript. But evernote has promised to overhaul their web clipper in the new year, so I’m looking forward to that.
  • Zotero: In some ways, Zotero is better than either Evernote or Google Notebook, but its relatively strong privacy and superb handling of PDFs make it perfect for my work. And I try not to mix my personal stuff with business stuff. Check out my Zotero review for a good idea of why I like it so much.
So my two favorite Google Notebook alternatives are perhaps out of the question for now. And I absolutely can’t stand Zoho Notebook. That being the case I may try one of several smaller, similarly named notebooks: Ubernote, Springnote, Springpad, or Webnote. Honestly, I’ve tried them all, and found them all lacking. Anyway, I’m don’t think any of these smaller companies will have any better luck than Google did. And without Google’s cash, I’m not too sure I can trust another company to hold onto my data.

Exporting your Google Notebook

Speaking of which, Digital Inspiration already has a great guide to exporting your Google Notebook for use somewhere else. I will probably go the Google Docs route.

One final prediction

As I said earlier, Google probably had to split the baby when it came to Google Notebook and Google Bookmarks. The fact that they decided in favor of Google Bookmarks might seem surprising given how poorly the product stacks up against every other bookmarking service out there (e.g., Delicious, Magnolia, Diigo). But I think focusing their effort on Google Bookmarks is consistent with a few other moves they’ve made in the last year or so:
Could Google be thinking about expanding Bookmarks into a bona fide Delicious competitor that’s fully integrated into its desktop offerings? I think that would be the most sensible (and compelling) route for Google to take.

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