SimplyBox: Drag-And-Drop Clips Of The Web For Research, Sharing

Web bookmarks are badly in need of an overhaul. Sure, they’re fine for jumping to the dozen or so sites you visit on a daily basis, but they quickly become unwieldy whenever they’re used for research purposes. Folders of bookmarked job listings or apartment openings on Craigslists become practically useless as you frequently need to revisit them to remind yourself why you bookmarked them in the first place.

Tonight sees the launch of SimplyBox, a San Francisco-based startup that allows users to clip portions of websites in a visual way, overcoming some of the shortcomings of traditional bookmarks. SimplyBox is currently available as plugins for Internet Explorer and Firefox, with a Safari version on the way. The site will go live at 6 PM PST tonight.

To use SimplyBox, you hit the “Box and Save” button in the browser toolbar, which turns your mouse arrow into a targeting cursor and displays a series of “boxes” at the bottom of the screen. After highlighting the portion of the page you’d like to save for later, you drag it into the box you’d like to store it in. The whole process is very intuitive and only takes a few seconds.

Clicking on the toolbar’s SimplyBox logo brings you to your profile page, where you can access and sort through each of your boxes. Clippings appear as large images that clearly show their contents, and can be displayed in a desktop view (where you can drag them around), a list view, or a grid. Users can also add comments to each of the snippets.

In practice, the plugin seems to work well, especially when conducting research across a number of sites. For example, house hunters could easily use the service to keep track of the homes they’re interested in, clipping photos and summaries for future reference. The site also allows users to share their boxes with friends, so they collaborate on a single project. Finally, the toolbar includes a “box and send” function that sends snippets in Emails as image files.

SimplyBox’s biggest flaw is that its snippets are simple images – they don’t retain any of the functionality of their original source. If you were to snap a clip of a YouTube video, it would only appear as an image, and you’d have to visit the linked page to see the video itself. That said, it’s still a big improvement over simple bookmarks.

There are a number of other “clipping” tools available, including Sazell, Diigo, and to some extent, Safari’s Webclip.