Katherine Boehret

A Service That Says ‘Yes, We Have Bananas on Sale’

If you’ve replaced pen and paper with digital data, you know how important it is to have a single, smart repository for holding and accessing this information

This week, I tested Springpad (SpringpadIt.com), a free service that saves and synchronizes Web content across all major browsers on Macs and PCs. It also works on the iPad, iPhone and Android using their apps. Services like this aren’t new: Evernote, for instance, does a fine job of saving Web content and synchronizing it across multiple devices. But Springpad is unique in that it automatically generates links and alerts you to online offers related to the content a user has already saved.


The free Springpad service works on Macs and PCs, as well as the iPad, iPhone and Verizon Android.

If I saved a recipe for banana bread, Springpad might send me a link from Coupons.com so I can save money on bananas. If I save the Web page for a new iPod I want to buy and its price drops on Amazon.com, I might see a Springpad alert about it. Or if I save a photo of a bottle of wine to my Springpad account, an alert may appear to tell me about an offer on free shipping from Wine.com.

Starting Sept. 22, these Springpad Alerts will work in mobile apps on the iPhone, Android devices and iPad. (Springpad currently works as a website and as a mobile app, but the alerts only appear on the website version.) Spring Partners, which owns Springpad, plans to also release a Google Chrome browser extension Sept. 22.

Springpad doesn’t work as a BlackBerry app and the company has no immediate plans to make such an app. A Springpad spokesman says the company is working on a version for Microsoft Windows tablets.

Springpad uses a handsome interface to display saved content. Users can look at their saved content in list, detail or gallery view, where you see colorful images of products the service pulls from the specific page you saved. A Web clipper tool can be dragged from SpringpadIt.com to a browser’s bookmark toolbar, which creates a quick shortcut that saves a website in a Springpad account.

There’s also a My Tasks section, which let you jot down personal lists like checklists, packing lists, alarms, events and milestones.

I’ve been testing Springpad and its Alerts on a Mac and on a PC with various browsers, as well as on the iPhone, Verizon Droid and iPad. Spring Partners gave me a way to preview mobile alerts, which would be helpful to read if you’re out shopping for an item and a price-saving alert appears.

The mobile alerts will eventually have smarter capabilities such as using GPS to tell you about a discount at a nearby restaurant that you saved in your My Stuff or if a product you saved is on sale in the Best Buy where you’re shopping. Alerts don’t pop up as text messages or immediate emails; rather, you must open the SpringpadIt.com site or a section in the mobile app to look in Alerts for new offers (a weekly email Alerts summary is also sent).

While not everything saved in Springpad will generate an alert, I found myself more motivated to use this service. I liked the service’s way of saving images with almost every item in My Stuff. I also enjoyed searching through publicly shared things people saved in Springpad to see what others thought was worth saving.

But how exactly do the alerts work? For each saved piece of content, Springpad recognizes the content’s metadata (like the ingredients in a saved recipe) and sends an alert based on that metadata.

A spokesman claims Springpad doesn’t pass any personally identifiable information to retailers. So the fact that I saved a Prince tennis racket to my Springpad account isn’t shared with a retailer. Springpad may, however, pass along statistics to retailers, like 500 users saved Prince rackets to their accounts. If someone uses a link they received in Springpad Alerts to buy something, Spring Partners gets a commission from the company or service.

Springpad Alerts come from the partnerships that Spring Partners has with over 250 companies and services. Among the partners are Price Grabber, Best Buy, Wine.com, Groupon and Fandango, and the company continues to add partnerships.

These alerts are product-specific, so I didn’t have to worry about receiving alerts for a Panasonic HDTV if I saved a Sony HDTV in my Springpad account. There’s no way to opt out of alerts, which appear in special sections on the SpringpadIt.com site and in the mobile app.

If you’d like to display your saved content in Springpad with all other Springpad users, you can opt to make that content public. Someone who visits a new restaurant and wants to tell the world about it, or sees a movie that they think deserves high praise, Springpad will let them do that.

Springpad works like Twitter in that people using the service can follow one another. Unlike Twitter, no one can set an account to require permission to follow it, though marking all settings as private hides everything from others.

And accounts like Facebook and Gmail can be linked to the service creating contacts in Springpad and Flickr and Twitter to share images or saved data.

I don’t always say this about the products I review, but I think I’ll continue to use Springpad—especially for saving important shopping items and recipes that I find online. Its built-in Alerts add an element of relevancy to certain saved items, and I like that it gives me the option to share with Springpad friends or with friends in other social networks.

Email Katherine Boehret at mossbergsolution@wsj.com

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