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A New Approach to Sharing Web Research

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There are many approaches to sharing information you've found on the web, but a new free tool called eSnips is one of the most useful and intriguing yet seen.

Net Snippets, the company that developed a product for post-search information management, has rolled out a new tool for collecting and sharing information. eSnips is a way cool tool—a little hard to describe but amazing in its capabilities.

A caveat: eSnips is just barely in beta, and every now and then it hiccups, so be patient. I have already seen several improvements in the service since I have begun using it, and I have high hopes that it will continue to improve.

So, what is eSnips? At its most basic, it provides a free web-based file storage and sharing tool. You can upload up to one gigabyte of material—plain text, music, photos, screen shots, whatever. Since I travel a fair amount, I was first attracted to eSnips as a simple way to make a back-up copy of my essential files and presentations accessible from any PC.

But what makes eSnips interesting is that, with its toolbar, you can "snip" any content you see on the web and have that material stored in your eSnips account as well. If I am doing research for a client, I can highlight the portion of a web page that I think would be useful, click the "Snip" button on the toolbar, and that content, along with the URL, is stored in my eSnips account.

If I want to save a screen shot, I pull down the "Snip" menu and select Screen Shot. I can even specify whether I want to grab the full page or just a section, and—if the latter—whether I want to snag a portion of the page in the shape of a square, rectangle, ellipse, and so on. I can add a title and description to the snipped content, and then I specify in which folder within my eSnips account the file should be saved.

What I find particularly interesting about eSnips is that I can also share any folder with others. There are times when I have trouble getting a large file to a client, particularly if the client's IT department has set up a firewall that blocks attached files over a certain size. Now, I can simply set up a new folder, upload the file(s) I want my client to have, and then send an "invitation" to her email address. My client clicks on a link included in the email and has access to the folder as soon as she provides her email address.

For people who are, say, using eSnips as a way to share vacation photos with friends and family, there is even an option to allow others to upload their own files to the folder or to comment on the files in the folder ("gee, that picture of little Susie on the roller coaster sure is cute"). Anyone who has access to the folder is notified whenever a new file is added to the folder.

Since eSnips is just barely in beta, it is continuing to evolve. Right now, the toolbar only works with Internet Explorer, although a Firefox version is in the works. And while the wording of the email invitation to share a folder doesn't offer much flexibility now, eSnips plans on building in more options.

Although eSnips is a stand-alone product now, Yael Elish, CEO of Net Snippets, says that the company plans on integrating it with Net Snippets Professional in the future. Once that happens, this will be an even more powerful tool for organizing and sharing information.

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