Software

Zotero logo

Zotero is an easy-to-use yet powerful research tool that helps scholars gather, organize, and analyze primary and secondary sources (citations, full texts, images, and other objects), and lets them share the results of their research in a variety of ways. An extension to the popular open-source web browser Firefox, Zotero includes the best parts of older software that assisted the scholarly process (reference managers like EndNote)—the ability to store author, title, and publication fields and to export that information as formatted references—and the best parts of modern software and web applications, like the ability to interact, tag, and search in advanced ways. Zotero integrates tightly with online resources; it can sense when users are viewing a book, article, or other scholarly object on the web, and—on many major research and library sites—find and automatically save the full reference information for the item in the correct fields. Since it lives in the web browser, it can effortlessly transmit information to, and receive information from, other web services and applications; since it runs on one’s personal computer, it can also communicate with software running there (such as Microsoft Word). And it can be used offline as well (e.g., on a plane, in an archive without WiFi).

The 1.0 release of Zotero already provides advanced functionality for gathering, organizing, and scanning one’s research, as well as significant import/export capabilities (including integration with Word and an API for communication with any program or service on the web). In 2007, Zotero users will gain the ability to share and collaborate on their collections with other users through an exchange server, and receive recommendations and feeds of new resources that might be of interest to them. In short, over the next year Zotero will expand from an already helpful bibliographic browser extension into a full-fledged tool for digital research and scholarly communication.

H-Bot

H-Bot logo

H-Bot is an experimental artificial intelligence program that attempts to answer historical questions. It is still learning about history but is fairly good at answering simple questions such as “When was [an event]?” or “Who was [someone or something]?” or “When did [something happen]?” H-Bot was the subject of an article in First Monday.

Web Scrapbook

Web Scrapbook logo

Think of it as a clipping file for the Internet. Into that file you can place images, excerpts, and whole web pages that you find while you surf the web or that reside on your computer. In addition, you can annotate these items, sort them into folders, and add memos to those folders. Unlike a bookmarks file or favorites list that is stored by your web browser on your computer’s hard drive, you can access items you save to the Web Scrapbook from any computer connected to the Internet.

In addition, the Web Scrapbook is a collaborative environment. You can grant other Web Scrapbook users access to any folder you choose, and allow them to annotate, comment upon, copy, move, and delete items within those folders. They can also add items to those folders if you give them permission.

Using the Web Scrapbook, a class working on a project together could place all of the items they wish to discuss or annotate into one shared folder. Groups with a common interest could collaboratively build, sort, and annotate a list of relevant web pages, images, and passages.

Syllabus Finder

Syllabus Finder logo

Syllabus Finder locates and analyzes syllabi on any topic. It is an experiment in the fledgling world of web services , where computers talk directly to each other to try to solve complicated problems or complete tasks that would be difficult to do otherwise. In this case, the computers that talk to each other are the Center for History and New Media’s web server and Google’s web server. The Syllabus Finder sends an optimized, specially packaged version of your query to Google, which sends back information and possible matches. The Syllabus Finder then processes this information and combines it with simultaneous searches of its own database of over 600,000 syllabi as well as other in-house databases (e.g., a database of educational institutions, so it can tell you which university or college a syllabus comes from). It also has algorithms that try to extract additional information from matching syllabi, such as assigned books. When this complex process is finished, the Syllabus Finder displays all of the information it has found. The Syllabus Finder has been featured in the Chronicle of Higher Education, and in my article on U.S. History textbooks in the Journal of American History.

Survey Builder

Survey Builder

Survey Builder allows you to easily create and manage online surveys suitable for Internet-based oral history projects, course evaluations, and other endeavors that involve collecting feedback. You do not need to know how to build a Web page that has forms, set up a database to store entries, or do any of the other technical tasks that are normally required to produce interactivity on the Internet. Survey Builder will take care of all of these elements for you.

Poll Builder

Poll Builder

Poll Builder provides a free, simple, one-step process to create polls that you can embed in your Web pages. It also creates bar graphs on the fly of poll results.