Tomorrow night Yahoo is planning to unleash Search Pad, a note-taking tool integrated with the search engine, to the masses. The company first showed off the product last February, but until now it hasn’t been available for public consumption. The new feature will go live to the general public tomorrow night at 9 PM, PST.
Search Pad is pretty similar to a host of other annotation apps that are already out there, with competitors that include Google Notebook. The biggest difference is that Search Pad tries to pre-populate your notes. For example, if you start running a number of queries related to a certain car model, Yahoo will detect that you’re going to ‘research mode”, and will then present a small bulletin asking if you’re like to launch Search Pad. If you click yes, the last few queries (in this case, the ones pertaining to the car) will already be in the text field.
As far as text entry goes, Search Pad is pretty straightforward. You can add links and thumbmails to the page, as well as your own notes. One cool feature: if you copy and paste text from a page, Search Pad can figure out where you probably grabbed the text from, which makes it great as a bibliography tool (or just to remember where your notes were coming from).
So why is this important? Because of the way Yahoo is promoting the product — automatically prompting users if they’d like to use it whenever it thinks it might come in handy — this is probably going to be seen and used by millions of people. And because there isn’t a plugin required, the barrier to entry will be much lower.
That said, the lack of having a plugin available can be seen as a shortcoming. The way Search Pad works now, there’s no way to set up a hot key to pull up your notes — you’ll have to browse over to the Yahoo page that’s displaying Search Pad. This may work fine for casual note taking, but for those really intensive projects where you’ll be collecting copious amounts of data, it could grow frustrating. Yahoo won’t comment on its future plans for the product, but I’ll be very surprised if they don’t offer a browser plug-in or stand alone program in the next few months.