Onfolio, an outstanding Web research tool

One of the most common problems with Web browsing is keeping track of what you look at. And when you actually are researching something on the Web, keeping your results organized is really hard. Over the years we've used all sorts of tools for this purpose, but we just found a new one that is da bomb. The tool is Onfolio from Onfolio.

Onfolio is a utility for noting or capturing whole Web pages or fragments of pages. It organizes your saved Web content as folders in "collections," all of which can be searched. And for those of you working collaboratively, Onfolio lets you publish your saved contents in various ways, which we'll discuss in a moment.

After a quick and painless install, Onfolio's services can be found in the Explorer Bar (that's the optional pane to the left of the main browser window) in Internet Explorer. Onfolio splits the Explorer Bar into a row of buttons at the top with two sub-panes below.

The buttons provide file functions (create, modify and delete collections, as well as export and import saved content); edit functions (operations on individual saved content items); publishing services; help options (including a "Suggest a feature . . . " -- more products should have this); and Web page content capture options.

You can capture content as links, entire pages or, if part of a page is highlighted, as a "snippet" with or without its current formatting. You also can add comments as you save, and Onfolio automatically records the source of the captured material.

The top sub-pane has tabs; the first tab shows the collections, folders and subfolders that store your saved content, and the other tab presents the search dialog. If you select the collections tab in the lower sub-pane it lists the items that are in the currently selected folder, and if you select the search tab it shows the results of a search.

Onfolio's publishing facilities are very powerful; you can publish individual items, folders, collections or search results by e-mail. For an even more polished delivery you can create custom reports using Onfolio Publisher, which comes with Onfolio Professional Edition. The Professional utility provides an editing environment in which you can drag and drop saved items onto a report page, add comments and links to other resources, and add contents and graphics. You then can publish Onfolio reports as Web content (Onfolio Publisher automatically creates the folders, files, hyperlinks and even a Rich Site Summary (RSS) feed).

Onfolio Publisher is an impressive and sophisticated tool. It contains all the content-formatting commands you're likely to need (bulleting, lists, text attributes and the like), spell checking and preview in browser support. It also can create an e-mail with the report attached, save the report to the local file system or launch an built-in FTP client so you can publish the report (and its associated RSS file) to a Web server.

Interestingly, Onfolio reports are MIME Encapsulation of Aggregate HTML Documents (MHTML) files, which means they have the content of items embedded in them.

RFC 2557 summarizes the standard as: "In order to transfer a complete HTML multimedia document in a single e-mail message, it is necessary to: a) aggregate a text/html root resource and all of the subsidiary resources it references into a single composite message structure; and b) define a means by which URIs in the text/html root can reference subsidiary resources within that composite message structure."

When this encapsulation method is applied to HTML content we get MIME Encapsulation of Aggregate HTML, or MHTML, so an e-mail client or a browser can render page content without having to retrieve the resources from network servers. In effect, MHTML content appears as a mini Web site embedded in one file.

MHTML is widely supported. For example, MS Office XP/2002, MS Office 2000 Web archive add-in, MS Internet Explorer and many other utilities can save content as MHTML archives (these usually have an extension of .mht).

Onfolio is terrific, and the only thing we could hope for is that the firm extends OnFolio's features to allow for the capture of content from other applications, such as the Microsoft Office suite. Onfolio also is an exceptional value at only US$30 for the Standard and $80 for the Professional Edition.

More information on Onfolio is available at: http://www.onfolio.com/.

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Mark Gibbs

Network World
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