I consume a lot of content on a daily basis. I listen to podcasts, enjoy YouTube videos but most of all I read… A lot. I read books on Apple Books, Kindle Books and I also read loads of articles on websites. I don’t read just for fun. I read to learn, to improve myself and to make my life better.
Consuming a lot of content in a productive manner can be quite challenging. How does one consume a lot of content AND remember what you have read, heard, or seen? To improve my retention of the information read on websites, I realized that I had to keep notes of what I have read – not everything and not whole articles, but only that which had meaning to me.
So, I decided to research tools to select and save content from websites. This article focuses only on the tools to select and save content from websites – future posts will cover other forms of content and how to retain what I have learned from there.
Tools to select and save content from websites
Not many people are aware of this, but there are many free (and paid) tools to select and save content from websites. These tools range from Evernote, OneNote to others, including Readwise and Liner. For this post, I tried them all to see each of their advantages and disadvantages. I installed each of these tools and used them all to select and save the same paragraph from a website to see how easy the tool is, what the saved text looked like and how useful it was for future purposes. In addition, I considered the pricing of each tool. Ultimately, I provide my recommendations for the best tools to select and save content from websites.
Evernote is one of the oldest note-taking apps. It is available across different mobile and laptop platforms. It can also be used on the web. Although there is a premium version of Evernote, the free version works perfectly fine if you only want to sync between two decides and you keep your uploads to less than 60 MB per month. I have used Evernote since 2013 to store articles and personal information that I would like to read again later.
To save information from webpages, you need to install the Evernote web clipper, which is an extension you can install in your web browser. Once you click on the web clipper, Evernote offers several options for saving web pages. You can save the whole page, a bookmark for a page, a screenshot from the webpage or a selection from the webpage.
For my test, I highlighted several paragraphs and right-clicked them to save them to Evernote. My test only involved saving a selection of text, and this is where Evernote does not work too well. Each paragraph or sentence you select on a page will be saved to Evernote in a separate note. You can copy the content of each note and paste it into one, but if you read a lot of web content, this is not a feasible solution. What is nice is that Evernote always saves the source link to each of its notes when you use the Evernote web clipper.
Another option is to save the entire article to Evernote and then to highlight the important points in Evernote. This is what I used to do in the past, but I found that saving the articles to Evernote first almost always resulted in me never reading the article.
OneNote is a free Microsoft App and it is available across different mobile and laptop platforms. It does have a web version, but it is not as easy to use as the downloaded app.
OneNote also has a web clipper extension you can install in your browser. OneNote’s web clipper works in a similar manner to Evernote’s in that you can clip an entire page, a section, a screenshot or a selection.
Similar to Evernote, just capturing a selection from a website resulted in a different note for each selection made on a website. OneNote also captures the source link for each note saved when using the OneNote clipper.
I discovered Airstory through Copyhackers’ Joanne Wiebe. It is an amazing tool for anyone who needs to do research before drafting articles or blog posts. It is available for free for bloggers, copywriters and small teams and provide 5gb of storage. AirStory has the Airstory Researcher, which is a Chrome browser extension. When you read an article and find something you would like to use or remember, select the text and click on the Airstory researcher in your browser toolbar or right-click your mouse or trackpad. A pop-up will let you save the selected text to a specific project in AirStory. All text that is saved to AirStory is also referenced, making it easy to go back to any article later on.
Although Airstory is free and can be used to select and save content from websites, I don’t think this is a permanent storage facility. The idea behind Airstory is to save notes from sources for articles you are writing, it is not meant to store notes for the long-term. It could be a good place to store notes before processing them into one document to be stored elsewhere, but this would take some time and is not an efficient use of time.
Clipicious was a new tool for me. I signed up for a free account and downloaded the Chrome extension. With the free version you can clip anything and you get 200 annotations. You can create folders if you want to categorize your clipped notes.
I read an article and after selecting a paragraph or sentence from the page, Clipicious’ pop up appears with two options, namely, a highlight option and an annotate option. I chose the highlight option and the selected text was available in the Clipicious dashboard once I clicked on the link to the article I made the selection from.
The highlights can be shared via email and can be copied from Clipicious to other apps. No other export options exist.
Liner has two options, namely, a free limited option and a paid unlimited option. The free option allows you up to 7 highlighted text per article. You can also create 3 folders in Liner’s dashboard to store your highlights and selected text. The free version allows for highlights in one colour only.
I installed the Chrome browser extension and signed-up for a liner account. This was a quick and easy process. I selected and highlighted text on an article and the liner market immediately appeared. I clicked on the marker and a small popup appeared asking me which folder I wanted to save the highlighted text to.
After it saves the selected and highlighted text, the popup also has an option for you to go to the Liner dashboard. If you click on it and go to the relevant folder, it lists all the articles you have highlighted text from. On the right of the list of articles, your selected content appears.
Selected and saved content can be exported to a variety of other apps, including Evernote, OneNote, Word and it can be send per email. You can also download the selected content in text format.
I really liked using Liner, it was easy to use. I also liked that the saved content is easily exported to other apps. The free option is limited in features and I can easily see myself wanting to exceed the 7 highlights for one article.
Diigo is installed in the same manner as the other apps I tried. You sign up for an account and install the browser extension. There is a free limited account available and a variety of paid accounts exist.
Once the installation is done, selecting and highlighting text is easy. You select text and right-click to get the option to save the selected text to Diigo.
You can go to your library in Diigo to see your highlighted text. If you click on the highlight, it will take you to the source article. You can als export the highlighted text by emailing one or selected highlights to yourself or to someone else. There is an option to export highlighted text to a CSV file.
Zotero is usually used by students who needs to keep track of the references for sources used when they write assignments. It is also called a research assistant. I downloaded Zotero and signed up for a free account. Zotero is an app that you install on your laptop.
When you are on a website you selected text in the normal manner, you then right-click and there is an option to save the selected text to Zotero. You can view your selected texts in the Zotero app, together with the link to the source document. Zotero allows you to export the highlights (you can select one or all) in different formats, such as CSV or Evernote format.
Zotero is easy to use. I prefer keep my notes browser-based. If I were writing a thesis, Zotero would be perfect but I don’t like having to access my selected text in another app.
Readwise is a handy tool. It is available for free and there are a variety. of paid options available. The free version allows you to import Kindle highlights and you can select and save text from any website to Readwise.
After signing up for a Readwise account, you need to install the browser extension. When you are on a website or even an email, you right click to save your selected text to Readwise.
From your Readwise dashboard you can access all your saved text. You can export these saved text per article as markdown. With the paid version you can export your items to Evernote directly.
What is great about Readwise is that you can get an email on a regular basis with some of your highlights – this process is called resurfacing and if you want to make the most of your selected text, this is definitely on way to learn and remember most of it easily.
I tried the free version of Weava Tools. It allows you to store items up to 100mb. You can choose from different highlighter colors. Weave is usually also used by students who need to record the sources they use in assignments and writing projects.
When you select text on a website, the Weava’s highlight buttons will appear immediately. You can select the highlighter color and also the folder where your selected text will be saved to.
When you go to Weava’s website, you can access your library of notes. Weave will save the entire article with your highlights. You can also export one or more selected notes to word, CSV, text or excel format.
Other tools I tried
I tried tools such as Pocket, Google Keep and Instapaper. These tools allows you to save entire articles. Both Pocket and Instapaper’s premium versions allow you to save highlights on the entire article. I also tried Nimbus Note, a tool with its own web clipper, but each time I tried selecting and saving text, the process would just lag and not get done.
Best tools to select and save content from websites
All of the tools I tested was easy to install and use. I preferred the tools that did not require any actions other than selecting text and clicking to save. I also preferred the tools that made it easy to see all the highlights per article grouped together.
For me, the best tool to select and save content from websites is Readwise. Not only is the free version sufficient for this, but downloading the highlights per Kindle book or per website article in markdown format is quick and easy. Markdown files can be used in apps such as Bear, Roam Research or Obsidian for further processing.
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