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March 23, 2005

Serendipity:

Every so often one experiences a beautiful "aha" moment, when a technology or software feature delights you above and beyond your daily experience.  I've been testing a new set of AppleScript examples that qualify as delightful--if not magical--in their own right.  In short, they have transformed my daily use of NoteTaker into a new and powerful platform for doing web research.

NoteTaker's built-in web browser is a very convenient tool.  Even more convenient is the Web Search Box on the Toolbar since it's programmable and flexible in allowing the use of any web search site or service.  Most of my daily searching is done from NoteTaker's Web Search Box.  However, once the search result page is displayed on my notebook page, I'm back to reviewing and clicking on individual result links.  It's tedious at best and usually results in limiting what I actually look at--especially if using Google results.  In short, not much has changed.

However, I recently started testing a new set of scripts we call Web Research Agents that completely change how Google and other web search sites are used.  If you already have NoteTaker 1.9.4 installed, then you're already set to explore a whole new way of searching.  Of the  50-plus AppleScript examples that are now included in the Scripts menu,  my favorite is called MegaSearch

Simplicity is the key to the "aha" moment I am talking about:  Once you have the MegaSearch script installed, the rest is easy.  Here is the web research recipe I am fondly calling "Serendipity" (with credit to Sir Arthur C. Clarke's insightful book, The View from Serendip - circa 1977). 

The One-Minute NoteTaker recipe
for a productive Internet search experience

1. Open a new notebook (not required but more effective the first time you use the recipe)

2. Make the Notebook Drawer visible with the Contents view expanded

3. Type a search term or phrase in the new outline entry of the new page such as "Albert Einstein"

4. Select the search term or phrase you've typed

5. Run the MegaSearch script located under the Web Research Agents sub-menu (you can also use the new Scripts pull-down menu from the Toolbar if set from Preferences)

If the search agent works as expected, you now have at least five new sections in your notebook.  The search results are added as unique new pages within each section containing the web page entry for the search link result itself.  This is a real time saver if you're building web quests or gathering research for a project or just doing a daily search to find some new information about a topic of interest.

And best of all, you can email your new notebook of web pages to other NoteTaker users or create a dynamic web notebook in one step. 

Whenever I use NoteTaker and AppleScript, my appreciation grows  yet again for the power and elegance of this technology tandem.  In my daily routine, serendipity is a productive search result.