Springpad bookmarks the world

Neat little clipping and saving service works on Web and iPhone.

Springpad is a cool little utility to bookmark things you find on the Web and in the real world as well.

When you're on the Web site, it's very easy to create a new free-form note or to-do item. If you're typing in a name of a product or business (like a movie, the model name of a camera, or a restaurant), Springpad will probably identify it as you're typing and create a note with specific items info for the category it fits in. There's also a bookmarklet that makes it fast to save an item from a Web page, providing the site you're on is recognized by the app. I found that products on Amazon pages were picked up appropriately, but when I tried to save a product from CNET reviews pages they were just saved as Web bookmarks, not products.

Good for quick notes. Screenshot by Rafe Needleman/CNET

Things you save can be flagged as "wants" or "haves" and can be shared with your buddies on the service or on your other social networks. You can also see what friends are sharing (see also: Blippy ).

The product has special powers on the major recipe sites like Epicurious and the Food Network. It will analyze the text and save the ingredients in a separate field. The app is also getting integrated to some food sites themselves, like Wine Library TV, so when you want to save something there it can park it on a Springpad list (I couldn't find the integration, though).

The iPhone app tags things in the real world. Screenshot by Rafe Needleman/CNET

The new Springpad iPhone app lets you quickly jot down notes or names, and it has two additional parlor tricks: if you press the "Nearby" add item button you can get a list of businesses near you to bookmark. And there's a barcode scanner for tagging products you come across that you might want to research later. Unfortunately, on my 3G iPhone, the camera doesn't focus close enough to get a reliable scan of a barcode; this feature worked for me only about half the time.

Other little process flaws make the system sometimes confusing to use, but even with those hiccups, Springpad is an engaging and fun service that does a very good job of blending at-your-desk and in-the-real-world bookmarking. Things you save online show immediately on your phone, and vice versa.

The iPhone app and the Web service are both free. The company makes money when it refers users from their notes to commerce sites, such as sending you to OpenTable after you're reminded of a restaurant you want to try.

Springpad could work well as an electronic memory aid. I plan on sticking with Evernote as my catch-all note-taking tool, due to its dedicated, offline Windows and Mac apps and its better features for long-form note-taking. However, I did find myself jotting down some quick things I wanted to remember recently on Springpad. It's ideally suited to that purpose.

See also Glue and other notebook apps.

 

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