Opera Software on Tuesday plans to release a second preview version of Opera 9, the next version of its namesake Web browser. For the first time, the new version will include support for so-called widgets, Opera representative Thomas Ford said. Widgets are essentially small browser windows that display information taken from the Internet on a user’s desktop. The notion is similar in concept to the widget idea that Apple Computer uses in the Dashboard feature of Mac OS X.
“It is really a big jump for us into Web applications,” Ford said. “They give people the information they want right on the desktop. Even if it is a Web page, people don’t have to go to the browser to see it.”
Actually Windows users have had access to widgets for a while, via Klips and Konfabulator, now bought and rebranded by the folks at Yahoo! as straight Widgets. I’m a big fan of widgets but I find I don’t use them as much as I should. It’ll be interesting to see how Opera handles it. The preview version also includes support for BitTorrent, the file distribution protocol.
I recently wrote in WSJ.com (subscription required) about how to save snippets of information while you’re browsing. I didn’t have space to mention all the options I — or readers — came across, so here’s the beginnings of a list. Please feel free to let me know about more: The basic criterion is that the service lets the user easily capture material they’ve found on the Internet (for stuff that’s more socially oriented, check out my Directory of Social Annotation Tools).
Zotero. It not only does a great job of storing globs of web pages or the whole thing but it has an academic bent too, allowing you to store bibiographic information too.
ContentSaver: is both a browser add-in and an Office-style application at the same time: With the additional toolbar and the extended shortcut menus in the browser, you can easily gather material during your Internet research. 35 EUR (Thanks, Ganesh)
eSnips: Save real web content not just links: relevant paragraphs and images you find on any web site….oh yes, and links too. 1GB free
wists.com: The idea is to bridge the gap between blogging and bookmarking. It aims to make simple list blogging as easy as bookmarking and make bookmarking take advantages of weblog publishing, with automatic thumbnail image creation etc. (David Galbraith)
Net Snippets: The friendly, intuitive way to maximize the effective use of information from the Internet and online research
Jeteye: enables users to create, send, view and share any type of online content, add notes and annotations and save it all in user organized Jetpaks™ through an easy drag and drop interface.
Google Notebook: makes web research of all kinds – from planning a vacation to researching a school paper to buying a car – easier and more efficient by enabling you to clip and gather information even while you’re browsing the web.
ClipMate: ClipMate saves time and makes you more productive by adding clipboard functions that the Windows clipboard leaves out – starting with the ability to hold thousands of “clips”, instead of just one. ($35)
Onfolio: a PC application for collection, organizing and sharing information you find online. ($30 to $150)
EverNote: Quickly create, organize and find any type of notes on an endless, digital roll of paper. (from free to $35)
ScrapBook: a Firefox extension which helps you to save Web pages and easily manage collections. Key features are lightness, speed, accuracy and multi-language support.
Omea Reader: Free and easy to use RSS reader, NNTP news reader, and web bookmark manager. It’s fast, it aggregates, and it keeps you organized.
My personal favorites? I love ScrapBook because it lets me save stuff in folders on my own computer. Clipmarks is great for online stuff, and the tagging/folder mix is powerful. EverNote has its moments but for all its interface ingenuity, it’s not easy to organise stuff.
An Opera whinge:
Some readers have pointed to Opera’s ‘Notes’ (Flash Demo) function which is neat, but doesn’t do as much as ScrapBook (there’s also a Firefox extension called QuickNote which performs more or less the same tricks as the Opera Notes. And besides, I’m still mad at Opera for not supporting drag and drop. What is it with them? (Sad to say that, because I think Opera have been great in improving interface design. But I think they’ve dropped the ball. Back in February 2003 I was wowed (WSJ.com link; subscription only, I’m afraid) I wrote:
Just when I thought software had become as innovative as a bacon sandwich, something came along to prove me wrong. There is software out there that is innovative and that actually makes things easier. It’s a Web browser made by a Norwegian company called Opera Software ASA and its latest incarnation, released last month, is a real gem.
Of course, that was before Firefox came along and stole my heart.
Opera has today launched a ‘technical preview’ version of its browser that includes support for BitTorrent, the protocol for distributing files via peer-to-peer that utilises both downstream and upstream bandwidth and spreads the load among different servers. As far as I know this is the first mainstream program that offers inbuilt support for what could become an increasingly controversial medium (please correct me if I’m wrong, but I know of no Firefox plugin for BitTorrent files).
Oslo, Norway – July 7, 2005: Opera Software today launched a technical preview (TP) of the Opera browser for Windows, Linux and Mac that includes support for BitTorrent. Integrating this popular file-downloading technology in the Opera browser offers the end user a faster download process by utilizing full bandwidth and reducing the chance of in-transfer delay when multiple users download the same file.
Its BitTorrent Resource page explains that Opera treats BitTorrent as just another protocol, like FTP and HTTP. This is not Opera turning browser users into BitTorrent hosts:
By offering BitTorrent in a technical preview of its browser, Opera seeks to broaden the appeal of downloading legal torrent files. Opera does not encourage the use of BitTorrent, FTP and HTTP protocols for downloading illegal, copyright infringing material.
I must confess I haven’t used BitTorrent a lot, but it clearly is popular and has huge potential. Part of the reason I haven’t used it too much is that the software I’ve used, tho simple, isn’t quite as intuitive as one would like, so the idea that the browser might make it as easy as downloading an ordinary file might propel usage into the mainstream.