Yahoo launches automatic notetaking tool

If you’re one of those people who researches information online and winds up with a bunch of scrawled notes on the back of envelopes, Yahoo could have the solution.

The firm is launching a feature in its search engine which can automatically take and store notes from the pages you visit. Search Pad launches today in 15 countries after a test period, thought it will still be a beta edition for now.

The tool is designed for when users are researching a topic in-depth rather than looking for a quick answer. For instance, it could be used when looking for information about an upcoming vacation, as in the pictured example (below).

Search Pad gathers together a combination of notes the users type themselves and summaries of the pages they visit, along with the sites addresses. The theory is that the tool will then organize these notes in the most logical order; in the vacation example it could group details of car hire options together, regardless of the order a user visits the pages. How well that works is one of the main things being tested, so it won’t be perfect at first.

Users can manually reorder or delete any entries. All the notes gathered in one session are collected in a document which can be automatically shared via e-mail. The notes are kept permanently (unless the user deletes them) and can be kept private as the service only works when a user is logged in to a Yahoo account.

The tool can be switched on at any time from Yahoo’s search results pages, but the site is now using “deep science” to recognize when somebody is researching a topic. (This appears to mainly consist of noticing somebody following a lot of links in succession on a serious subject.) At this point the site automatically asks the user if they want to switch the tool on.

As well as helping the user, the service could prove a boost for Yahoo if it catches on. Not only does it require the user to create a Yahoo account (thus making it easier for Yahoo to track user activity and target ads), but it means they must search via the site if they want to benefit from the tool.

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