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January 22, 2012 / carlispina

Research and Write on a Single Screen with Shelfster

Shelfster is an interesting new writing tool that streamlines the researching and writing process. It allows users to pull together resources from across the internet and organize them as a project using a combination of browser plugins, bookmarklets, apps and other downloadable tools that will match virtually any software that the user may be using. Sources can be bookmarked or snippets of text can be pulled out and saved. Images, videos, and audio recordings can also be saved for inspiration. Once the sources are organized, users can enter their Shelfster account and begin writing with all of the information they have collected visible on the left side of their browser window.

Completed projects can be exported to pdf, to Google Docs or as a zip file and more file formats are planned for the future. In addition, there are also plans to make it easy to publish directly to WordPress, Facebook and Twitter in a future version. While the word processing platform is fairly simple, it does support basic formatting options, though it is worth noting (as the Shelfster site does) that these formatting options do not always work perfectly when exported to Google Docs. Documents can also be saved within Shelfster or printed directly from the application.

Shelfster is designed to support writing projects of any size, from a blog post to a book. Personally, I can see using it for shorter writing such as blog posts, especially since it makes it so easy to save inspiration and sources as you browse the internet. If direct publication to social media sites is added in the future, it will only be easier to use Shelfster for this purpose.

However, I do have some reservations about using it for longer research projects. When I first registered, I had high hopes that Shelfster would make it easy to generate citations for bookmarked and saved snippets and sources, but unfortunately, Shelfster only includes basic source information such as URL in its current format. Moreover, I could not find a way to even manually add footnotes. I hope that in the future they will make it easier to add footnotes and generate citations for sources that are saved to their projects. This could make Shelfster a great teaching tool for educators since it would then have the potential to make it much easier for students to properly cite sources that they find online. However, I have high hopes that this change will ultimately be made since Shelfster is currently in beta and seems very open to comments (I even put in a suggestion already). Even without this feature in place, Shelfster is well worth trying for writers. And, it is extremely easy to try since users can demo the product without registering (though registration is fast and free so there is no downside to trying out the full product). I look forward to seeing how Shelfster continues to develop in the future.

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