Webstractor - nice app, wrong direction


Product Image: Webstractor
My rating: 3 out of 5

As part of the ADCE blogging project, we apparently get thrown some new stuff to try out (and likely to review). The first thing that came my way was Webstractor - a cool sounding app that is kind of a combination between Safari and DevonThink. It acts as an offline searchable cache of web pages you surf, and generates tables of contents for sets of these pages.

My first reaction was "Hey! That's so cool! I'm going to use this all the time!" So, I tried to do just that. I added stuff to it, and the thumbnails it generates of pages are pretty impressive. Even long pages, like the home page of my blog, are thumbnailed properly. Impressive.

But, after a few hours of intermittent usage, I was feeling a bit uneasy. The stuff I was using it for was really no different than what my del.icio.us account already offered. I found myself wondering how hard it would be to hack content searching and thumbnails into del.icio.us...

Webstractor feels like a decent academic researching tool - letting you save snapshots of a page as part of a research effort - say, for a thesis or term paper or something - and even provides handy tools to edit and annotate the pages. But... If you're able to edit the page, it's no longer archival... Safari's built-in print-as-pdf feature does a pretty decent job of archiving pages, as does the "Save as Web Archive..." feature.

I'm not meaning to slag on Webstractor - it's really a pretty cool app - it just doesn't fit in with how I use the web. Online resources are more of a flow or stream, through concentration tools like del.icio.us or digg.com rather than desktop caching. A desktop cache is tied to, well, my desktop. That's less useful for me, since it's hard to share that cache, or to access it from other machines. Both of those activities are essential to making a web researching tool useful for me.

SoftChaos - the company that makes Webstractor - also offer a free Dashboard widget called Yoink for creating snapshots of a single web page. That's pretty cool, and free...

ps. this is the first post I've written using Structured Blogging...

pps. I'm also hoping that my first review being hardly a glowing one doesn't blacklist me somehow...


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Last updated: February 27, 2024