What do you do if you come across an interesting online article or Web page but don’t have time to read it? You could bookmark it for a visit to the page at another time, or email the URL to yourself in hopes of eventually getting around to reading it. But since the Web is ever changing, a link that works one week might be useless the next.
This week, I tested iCyte (icyte.com), a smarter way of compiling data from the Web. Rather than relying on live URLs, this tool saves a Web page’s content, just as it looked when you first saved it, even if that Web page later shuts down or is no longer retrievable. It also saves any highlighted markings you’ve made on a page. ICyte is a free Web browser add-on that, once downloaded, works with Microsoft’s (MSFT) Internet Explorer and Mozilla’s Firefox browser. Versions for Apple (AAPL) Safari and Google (GOOG) Chrome browsers are planned for May.
There are several existing products that offer to organize digital data in one central place. Among them are Evernote and Springpad, which save a greater variety of content (documents, emails, reminder memos and voicemails as well as some Web-page data) in various places. ICyte focuses specifically on saving Web-page content.
It encourages people to share Web research with others by inviting them to join a project (iCyte’s term for a collection of Web pages saved on its server), comment on the content and share notes with one another.
For the most part, I liked using iCyte. I created a free account and made several projects filled with “Cytes” (saved Web pages), naming projects according to what they contained, like Tech Stuff and To Read, where I saved a bunch of online articles I wanted to read but didn’t have time to finish. I also used it to create a project with a friend called Silly News, where we shared news articles and Web pages with videos on them in a common space and commented on each other’s pages. People who want to participate in sharing and commenting on iCyte must also create accounts for themselves. ICyte is currently limited to browsers—whether on computers or on smartphones—though the company is considering making an iPhone app.
Once the iCyte add-on is downloaded onto a Windows PC or Mac for use in Internet Explorer or Firefox, two tiny icons that look like an eye and a list appear unobtrusively to the side of the browser’s address bar. When the eye icon is selected, it saves the opened Web page into a new or existing project and lets you add details like notes and word tags.
To save a highlighted section of a page, just highlight it with your cursor before hitting the eye icon, and that text will appear highlighted in the saved Cyte. By selecting the icon that looks like a list, users can open or close a left-side panel displaying a list of all saved Cytes. At the top of this list, and from the iCyte.com home page, a search box lets users comb through all public Cytes or just their own for specific terms.
With a click on the iCyte icon, Web pages—with highlighted text—can be saved as they originally appeared.
Though the ability to highlight and save Cytes only works with the Internet Explorer and Firefox browsers, users can log into their iCyte accounts and see their saved or shared content using any browser. I did this using Chrome and Safari browsers on Windows PCs and Macs, and I also accessed my iCyte account on an iPad with its Safari browser.
By default, Cytes are saved as private projects, visible only to their creators. But in one step this privacy setting can be changed so the Cyte is shared publicly for the iCyte community to view and comment on. I browsed several public Cytes and found a few that I chose to save to my own account for reading, like an art history Cyte one user saved from a Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Web page.
Blue Bar Feature
Each Cyte has a blue bar across its top that shows who originally saved it and on what date. The blue bar also tells you whether you’re viewing the page with marked highlight on or off. A button lets you view the page in a live view, which may or may not be the same as what was saved depending if highlights were made, if the page has changed, or if more content has been added to it—like new reader comments on a blog post.
I found it easy to share Cytes with friends using a variety of methods, and a single Cyte can be shared from a private project without allowing someone access to the other Cytes saved in the project. I shared Cytes via Facebook and email, though links to Cytes can be shared in other ways like on Twitter, Digg, StumbleUpon and MySpace—or by using a shortcut to embed the link on a Web site or blog.
I didn’t use the highlighting feature much, but I could see it being a real boon for people doing research and saving Web pages for specific content. Also, by highlighting text before sharing Cytes with others, users can more specifically point out what they like or find useful in a particular article or Web page.
The version of iCyte that I used is free and a company representative said each user’s profile information is kept private and not shared with third parties. ICyte doesn’t currently include built-in advertisements; instead, the company plans to roll out subscription-based Enterprise and Pro versions. The Enterprise version costs $195 a year and the Pro version is still in the works.
If you use the Web as a research resource or simply like saving articles, videos and other online materials, iCyte could be a great tool for organizing and sharing all of that content.
Write to Katherine Boehret at firstname.lastname@example.org