Ever find an ancestor’s name on a long Web page and wish you could attach a sticky note to it for easier retrieval later? Alas, Web pages change and Post-it Notes fall off your computer screen. But a new browser tool, Diigo <www.diigo.com>, makes it possible to not only highlight and annotate parts of Web pages, but also to share your notes with fellow researchers.
Diigo (pronounced “dee-go”) stands for Digest of Internet Information, Groups and Other stuff, and calls itself a “a social annotation and networking service.” But what’s hiding under the hood of this free Web tool is a powerful research assistant.
To get started, simply sign up and download the Diigo toolbar, which works with mainstay Web browsers Internet Explorer and Firefox. If you can’t stand to install yet another gizmo, the Diigolet browser button provides basic functionality without the bells and whistles, and works with Internet Explorer, Firefox, Opera and Safari. Just add it to your bookmarks. With Diigolet, you can access your saved bookmarks and annotations from any computer.
Now whenever you find a family history tidbit online, just right-click (or select the Diigo button) to highlight it; you can highlight text and/or pictures, though you can’t highlight just part of, say, a digitized record. Diigo puts a blue dotted highlight around your selection and adds the page to a special bookmarks archive. Even if the original Web page vanishes, Diigo will still preserve your “clipping.” You can opt to search only the highlighted text of book-marked pages, speeding retrieval of genealogy finds.
Adding a Sticky Note to highlighted text on a Web page is similarly easy: Right-click within the area or select from the “floating menu” that appears when you hover over a highlighted area (you have to turn on this option). Like highlights, your notes show whenever you revisit the bookmarked page.
To share your finds and notes with other researchers, you can choose to make a Diigo-bookmarked page public. Or click the Diigo button and select Forward from the pop-up menu, fill in the e-mail addresses of fellow genealogists and click Submit. When the recipients click the link in your message, they’ll zip to the Web page with your (otherwise private) highlights and notes visible. They don’t have to install Diigo in order to view your annotated page.
Though Diigo – currently in its second “beta” version – has attracted a lot of techsavvy users and veteran bloggers, don’t let this put you off a handy research tool. Even computing novices can quickly master the basics and start marking up Web pages as easily as you would paper. And these digital pages prove a lot faster to search than a pile of Post-it Note-filled printouts.