The perfect Tablet PC highlighting application

Friday, September 23rd, 2005
I'm looking for an application that will allow me to highlight, organize, and retrieve specific selections of text - based not on what I write, but on what I highlight.

Many note-taking programs for the Tablet PC, such as OneNote or GoBinder, will allow me to highlight text in a variety of colors. Acrobat even allows this, though with a limited interface. I want to do more ... It's the retrieval part that is most important to me. I want to search and retrieve, not by text, but by the color of what I've highlighted.

The feature that I've been unable to find (or have missed) so far is the ability to ask the note-taking software to organize or show me all of my blue highlights or all of my yellow highlights.

In summary, I want the ability to:
  • bring in documents into the program (PDF or Scan or Import)
  • highlight text, using a pen, in a minimum of 6 color shades, ideally in a pallette
  • retrieve, access, or organize that text on the basis of the highlighted color.
Why do I want this?

I'm about to embark on an adventure, reading through the Bible. I plan to highlight key verses based upon a variety of criteria. Using the analog approach, I would take a Bible and a stack of colored highlighters and get to work. the problem with that time-honored tradition is that there's no easy way to retrieve what's been highlighted. That's where the Tablet PC comes in. I believe that an application must exist, (or should exist), that will allow me to highlight selected test in different colors and then bring those highlighted selections of text together.

I would imagine that this capability, if it does not already exist in products like OneNote or GoBinder, would be useful to anyone that enjoys highlighting what they read and who would like to be able to retrieve information, based on their highlights.

Hopefully, what I want exists today, and I've simply overlooked an application or a feature in something I already own.

Perhaps I'm barking up the wrong tree and should look instead to a text-based program or Bible-study software designed for this purpose. This just seems like a perfect Tablet PC application.

Do you know of a program/feature that will do what I want? If so, I'd like to hear from you.


Update 9:14 PM:  While my initial request is motivated by my interest in rereading and annotating the Bible, I don't want to limit my request to Bible-related software only. As I digitize some of the paper and books in my office I'm also considering tools to use for information storage an retrieval. For most applications, a PDF file, with appropriate ink-enabled annotation software would work well. (While I'm happy to work in OneNote, I hesitate to store files for long-term use in this format) As far as searching highlights: The Bible-study example is the first time I've considered the desirability of information retrieval based on highlight rather than on flags or text search. Comments welcome.

Discussion/Comments (14):

The perfect Tablet-PC highlighting application

I don't own a Tablet yet, but I do mark my Bible using 5 colours (yellow, blue, green, red, and orange). It's great when I have to flip through and find something on, say, prayer (orange).

I can see why you want/need this capability, Eric, and hope you find it soon.

Posted at 9/23/2005 5:28:34 PM by Dean


The perfect Tablet-PC highlighting application

I recommend e-sword (www.e-sword.net). It's free and has a lot of features.

I re-imaged my laptop recently and don't have it installed, but it has a lot of bible versions and commentaries that can be added.

The screenshots on the website show multiple highlighting colors, but not sure if you can search on them.

Thanks,

Chris

Posted at 9/23/2005 5:52:14 PM by CJBROWN


What categories are you using?

Thanks, Dean,

I sat down to make a list of the categories I could highlight and I ran out of colors - I stopped at 12.

Out of curiosity, what are the 5 categories that you've chosen to highlight?

Posted at 9/23/2005 5:45:00 PM by Eric Mack


re: The perfect Tablet-PC highlighting application

Thanks, Chris. e-sword looks like a powerful application for Bible study. Too bad it's not ink-enabled. In any case, I won't let a lack of ink stop me. I'm interested, both in the practical aspect - my own study of the Scriptures - and the theoretical aspect - what tools are available to search on highlights. Thanks for sharing. - Eric

Posted at 9/23/2005 6:15:00 PM by Eric Mack


Additional thoughts on highlighter search

My initial request was motivated by my interest in rereading and annotating the Bible, however, I don't want to limit my request for recommendations to Bible-related software only. As I digitize some of the paper and books in my office I'm also considering tools to use for information storage an retrieval. For most applications, a PDF file, with appropriate ink-enabled annotation software would work well. (While I'm happy to work in OneNote, I hesitate to store files for long-term use in this format) As far as searching highlights: The Bible-study example is the first time I've considered the desirability of information retrieval based on highlight rather than on flags or text search. Comments welcome.

Posted at 9/23/2005 9:25:16 PM by Eric Mack


The perfect Tablet-PC highlighting application

Hey Eric,

I share your desire for such a program. I posted a similar request on my blog and over on Student Tablet PC back on 9/8 so I could have something to use when reading and summarizing academic articles. I can defintely see such a program's value for reading the Bible. No good suggestions yet.

Posted at 9/25/2005 10:00:39 AM by Michael Willits


The perfect Tablet-PC highlighting application

Been looking for this too. Also, would love to sort columns in Excel on color in addition to uses previously mentioned. Have you checked into Enterprise Document Management (EDM) solutions? Aimed at (and priced for) corporations, they have extensive search on lots of variables and I think color might be one. Lowest price EDM I've heard of starts at $7K so that leaves lots of room for developers to add this functionality and still hit it big with individuals. RepliGo by Cerience isn't ink-enabled and won't search on color, but it does do a nice job of presenting highlights to the viewer and has a neat way of auto-scrolling to a highlighted passage. Cheap too. The converter is about $30 and the viewer (with the highlight tools) is free. Files are exchangeable between lots of platforms (except Mac). { Link }

Posted at 9/25/2005 4:46:23 PM by Barry


Thanks for the feedback, folks

I've yet to find a solution, though I've exchanged some interesting emails and found some good programs as a result of this post. I've contacted a few people I know who develop software. I'm curious to see if other pick up on this paradigm of information retrieval.

Posted at 9/25/2005 4:50:20 PM by Eric Mack


The perfect Tablet-PC highlighting application

Please keep us updated. This kind of application just makes sense, as it'd be a natural extension of the tablet platform. Now that I'm using the tablet more in my routines, I get annoyed after having done all sorts of highlighting in articles but not having any simple way to make use of highighting. You just shouldn't have to go back through page by page to find something you highlighted. Rather, it should just be there, upfront and accessible. It'd certainly help during class when my professors make a reference to a passage we read that I know I highlighted, but I just can't seem to remember where exactly.

Posted at 9/25/2005 5:17:49 PM by Michael Willits


OneNote is pretty close...

If you have the actual text you can create special note flags in OneNote that highlight the text in different colors. These can be customized and searched (as I learned from reading your blog :-) The problems are the need to have the original text, note flags highlight the entire line, and cruising through all the note flags in the note flag summary view might be tedious. You could break up the lines to isolate your notes and the hyperlink capability of the note flag summary view would make it easy to jump to the reference. The addition of 'floating' note flags or some kind of note flag 'bookmark' would be the ticket.

Posted at 9/26/2005 4:54:39 PM by Mark


The perfect Tablet-PC highlighting application

I am trying to understand the application better. How is the highlighting features different from cutting and pasting, say, all yellow highlighted text to a doc, all orange text to another doc, and so forth? These docs would be in GoBinder, OneNote, etc. and be searchable. What else is meant by "bringing text together?"

Posted at 10/28/2005 5:48:40 AM by Will


re: The perfect Tablet-PC highlighting application

Will, there are lots of ways this could be done. Certainly a filter, as you;ve described, that would allow all of one color to be seen would be helpful. Another option would be for the colors to be treated just like note flags so that you could jump to them. Thanks for the feedback. Eric

Posted at 10/28/2005 10:30:28 AM by Eric Mack


This feature would be fantastic for law students

I'm a joint law/grad student and use my tablet constantly. Since starting law school, I've gotten in the habit of color-coding my highlighting of cases: facts, precedent, reasoning, holding, etc. I now use a similar system in all my non-law reading as well. Color-coded filtering/whatever would be HUGE for leveraging this.

BTW, I evangelize tablets to grad students constantly. Our entire world revolves around .pdfs of journal articles. Tablets are worth it just for the ease of reading these in slate mode alone; add in inking features and it's no contest. I use a combination of EndNote, CiteULike, and PDF Annotator to keep my complete archive of secondary source material--with my notes, no less--organized and at my fingertips.

Posted at 12/31/2005 3:39:24 PM by Michael


The perfect Tablet PC highlighting application

I use e-Sword daily. I think I understand what you want to do and do not believe it is possible as e-Sword is currently built.

Alternatives might be considered, however.

If you want to class passages by a particular subject, "prayer", for instance. Even if you could search for a highlight color the search would be sequential in Bible order.

Of course, you can create any color you like for any subject. But to have a means to link these together a different approach is necessary. You might try using Study notes. These notes are linked to Bible verses. If you select Study Notes in the commentary section you will see it appear every time you select a different passage. If you have put anything into the Study note for that passage it will appear also.

It is possible to search study notes for a word like "prayer" but that might prove less than productive. I use a system whereby I would change the word to "xprayerx" (ignore the quotes) That way my search will only turn up study notes that have that word in it. As I select the study note that interests me I will also note that the Bible passage appears in the Bible pane.

The study note becomes a sort of footnote for you. Of course you can add any number of XwordsX to a single Study note. Many verses have instruction in many topics and you might have several under which you'd like to be able to come back to this verse.

You will find a lot of help in classifying passages in the Dictionary files for Naves and Torrey which have indexes according to topic already included in them. Many of the dictionary type helps will have similar treatments.

The TSK (Treasury of Scripture Knowledge) in the Commentary pane is like a very complete "center reference" Bible.

So, lest this become tedious, I'll stop and let you explore. If you have further questions write to me at my ernestthomas1 email account and I'll try to help.

Posted at 6/26/2007 10:24:48 PM by Ernie



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