Beyond a proclivity for bad posture from sitting hunched in front of computers, prolific users of the World Wide Web tend to develop a desperate need for decent digital data-keeping.
Bookmarking features on Web browsers simply don't satisfy as trackers of online itinerations, and people seem to have developed their own screwy methods for saving stuff.
A new $30 program called Onfolio attempts to solve all that.
Onfolio lets you cogently file and compile your Web takings. Though far from a complete solution, it's a very good start.
As more of our business and social life — from simple chores to major projects — moves online, the need for programs in Onfolio's breed will only increase.
At its most basic, Onfolio captures your Web research on command. It integrates tightly with Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser, just like any toolbar you'd install.
If you want to bookmark a Web page or save it in its entirety — text, images and also the encoded metadata that's invisible to the eye — simply left-click a toolbar icon or right-click from anywhere else for the Onfolio action item.
You can save as much or as little as you want: a single image, an entire PDF file, a portion of text.
Not for Mac users
Best of all, Onfolio doesn't restrict you to material you've accessed from Internet Explorer. Onfolio can handle any file format your computer supports, the company says. Sorry, Mac users, your operating system is not supported.
(The Cambridge, Mass., startup behind Onfolio Inc. comes with good credentials, by the way. Its founders were behind Allaire Corp., a leading Web design software maker that Macromedia Inc. acquired.)
Because it's integrated with Internet Explorer as a box to the side, Onfolio can easily be made to disappear. It does take a few seconds to load when you want to call it back, however.
Organization is the program's strength. It saves data as items in folders within collections, improving on the classic Windows folder-file metaphor. Onfolio also quickly finds information in your collections.
Simple to learn, the program proved deceptively powerful.
I used it to organize a college scouting trip with my daughter, a high school junior. I also used it in researching this review.
Not just Web pages, but snippets of data can be captured into Onfolio. You can create a note to yourself, or copy content from any application and paste it into a note. You can also add separate files from your computer.
Microsoft's OneNote program, developed with the tablet PC in mind, does some of this, but Onfolio is more elegant and intuitive. It also exploits dragging and dropping as well as any program I've used. (MSNBC is a Microsoft - NBC joint venture.)
To store your data, Onfolio uses the Web archive format known as MHTML, MHT for short. Multi-part Hypertext Markup Language is an Internet standard and can be viewed in Internet Explorer; files saved in Onfolio can be easily e-mailed to others.
Onfolio can also gather your data in Web archive "reports" that can be shared with others via e-mail. You'll need Internet Explorer to read them, however.
My e-mail correspondents sometimes couldn't open MHT files I had sent them as attachments. Often as not, this had to do with security restrictions imposed by their e-mail software.
Right-clicking and saving the MHT files rather than trying to open them with a left-click generally solved this problem.
A more robust, $70 version of Onfolio provides the tools to let you publish customized Onfolio-collected content as Web sites. That's far more than most users will want but the publishing features are important for collaborative use.
Onfolio does have its shortcomings, beginning with its lack of integration with browsers other than Internet Explorer. You can capture content from other browsers through a standalone "deskbar," but that's kind of clunky.
You also cannot synchronize collections, which is troubling for people like me who work on several computers.
It's fashionable these days to forecast a near future when the device or software we use to get on the Internet matters far less than the value of the content we glean.
That may be so. But we'll still need to organize and classify all that information.
Onfolio is a fine start.