Yesterday Yahoo! released its new “online personal research assistant”, Search Pad. The tool, which is built into the Yahoo! search page, allows you to quickly store details of search results, add notes, and clip content from web pages. Looking at it in a wider perspective, Search Pad seems to be an attempt by Yahoo! to prevent it from hemorrhaging users to Google and to Microsoft’s new Bing search engine, which has brought its own range of personalized search features to the table. Here’s the lowdown on the new tool.
Predicts what you’re researching – You’ll notice that if you perform a few searches for a similar thing (e.g. “laptop prices”, “holidays in Costa Rica”, “best security software”) Search Pad will detect that you’re performing research on a particular topic and will ask you if you want to start taking notes on these searches. Click ‘Yes’ and the tool will add all of the links into the Search Pad, allowing you to annotate each with your own notes if you like.
Intelligent copy and paste – One very cool feature of Search Pad is the way that you can copy and paste text from any web site into the notes and Yahoo! will go off and find exactly where it’s come from, adding the corresponding link within a few seconds. This is great if you’re researching from lots of sources or from different search engines.
Share stuff – Once you’ve finished your research you can save the notes as a document. You can then share this via Delicious, Twitter or Facebook, with a single click.
What’s not so good
Static window – The pull-out Search Pad window is integrated into the Yahoo! Search site, and can be pulled out by clicking on the ‘View Notes’ button. Annoyingly though, there’s no way to move this window around, or even resize it, making awkward at times.
Can’t be disabled – I would have preferred Search Pad to give me more control over when it starts logging my research. Although, it’s supposed to give you the option to start recording search activity, I found that it was just adding everything I searched for into the notes. This gets a little disconcerting after a while and feels like having someone sat next to you, taking notes on everything you’re doing.
Locked into Yahoo! – I guess the key thing with Search Pad is that it is locked into Yahoo! search. It’s fine if you’re comfortable with the site and are a regular user, but you won’t be able to access your notes from anywhere else. In this respect, unless you only use Yahoo! you’re still probably better off with a good old-fashioned note-taking app.