Review: Springpad

Springpad
Spring­pad

I have been eval­u­at­ing Spring­pad, a note tak­ing tool.

It is not really fair, though, to call it that. Spring­pad is more like a Swiss Army knife for the Inter­net. There’s a lot of util­ity in small and ele­gant package.

Spring­pad was built to help you quickly grab infor­ma­tion from the web, asso­ciate it with other infor­ma­tion, cre­ate and man­age tasks, and so on. There are spe­cific inte­gra­tions with a dozen or more pop­u­lar ser­vices such as Ama­zon, Apple Trail­ers, IMDB, Flickr, and many others.

The cre­ators also obvi­ously were think­ing of the iPad specif­i­cally and tablets and smart phones more gen­er­ally when they named and designed this prod­uct. The user inter­face on the Android is easy to get around, and there are even big but­tons for some things (such as check­ing off a to-do list item) in the web version.

Where the appli­ca­tion really shines is in find­ing rel­e­vant snip­pets and web links about cur­rent day loca­tions such as restau­rants, but also muse­ums and brick-and-mortar stores. The site then orga­nizes the infor­ma­tion and presents it in a clean list fash­ion, or as pins on a Google map, or on a vir­tual cork­board of images and stickies.

In your set­tings, you can link to Twit­ter, Yahoo, Gmail and Face­book accounts, as well as get an e-mail address to mail things to if you have some­thing to add to Spring­pad when you are not on their site. There’s also a quick link to import your Deli­cious links. (When Yahoo’s deci­sion to divest itself of Deli­cious, users of the social book­mark­ing site got up-in-arms about it; soft­ware devel­op­ers at Ever­note, Spring­pad, Pin­board and other sites quickly posted ways to import links from Deli­cious. Evernote’s method brings every book­mark into a sin­gle note, which is just lame. Pin­board and Spring­pad were more ori­ented to treat­ing the links as inde­pen­dent items.)

Spring­pad is designed to help you con­trol what you share. You can­not cre­ate fine-grained shar­ing con­trols. Items are either shared with every­one on the Inter­net or they are kept pri­vate. This can be con­trolled at the cat­e­gory level (book­marks, restau­rants, prod­ucts, recipes, files, busi­nesses, albums, wine, and so on) or at the level of the indi­vid­ual item.

For Get­ting Things Done (GTD), Spring­pad pro­vides tasks and task lists, but also check lists, pack­ing lists, alarms, shop­ping lists, events, and mile­stones. This looks like it will be very handy: When you add a recipe that the site rec­og­nizes as such, you are lit­er­ally one click away from hav­ing a shop­ping list. Since the site syncs your devices, that list is ready to show up on your smart phone.

Spring­pad for geneal­o­gists is very handy as a pow­er­ful task list orga­nizer, and as a quick way to gather in advance what is around the cour­t­house you will be vis­it­ing (the brew­pub, the golf course, the hotel), but it’s almost painful to see how deep the inte­gra­tion is with sites like Yelp and Epi­cu­ri­ous and real­ize that there is no such prod­uct that delves into archives.gov, Rootsweb, Foot­note, and sim­i­lar sites. We still have to search for items one by one on var­i­ous web­sittes, then man­u­ally down­load and cat­a­log each find­ing. It’s only a mat­ter of time before some­one takes this level of usabil­ity and applies it to the gath­er­ing and orga­niz­ing of his­tor­i­cal data. When that day comes, the irony is that it may make phys­i­cal repos­i­to­ries more impor­tant to the casual researcher, because genealog­i­cal data min­ing will pro­ceed faster.

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