Magazine article Online

Webforia Reporter a Review

Magazine article Online

Webforia Reporter a Review

Article excerpt

Webforia Reporter is an excellent tool for the Web researcher who needs to find, organize, and share information with others. Reporter combines Web search, bookmarking, and page-capture capabilities with a heavy-duty presentation tool. Reporter places equal emphasis on providing powerful tools for information gathering and organization, and on features for creating high-quality, professional-looking reports. All of these capabilities are seamlessly integrated into a deceptively simple and easy-to-use program that's one of the most useful tools for Web research that I've come across in recent months.

To test Reporter, I used it to research an article on online bookmark services. I've placed the resulting report online for readers to examine at http://websearch.about.com/library/bl_webforia.htm.

INTERFACE AND OPERATION

Reporter's interface sensibly builds on the familiar structure of Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) and other common programs. This framework gives Reporter an intuitive feel that's readily mastered. The program also comes with an excellent interactive tutorial that highlights key features and demonstrates common tasks.

There are four toolbars available. The General toolbar features IE browser commands and controls the overall operation of the program. The Author toolbar contains icons for creating, editing, and formatting report content. The Address toolbar is for entering URLs. And the somewhat confusingly-named Markup toolbar is specifically for working with Notes (why not call it the Notes toolbar?).

Beneath the toolbars are work areas that open as panes. To the right, the Main Pane displays Web pages and other content that make up the meat of your report. The left pane displays the Report Outline, a display of the sections and links to pages in your report. Other optional panes include Display Properties, which contains information about specific parts of the report, Web Search options, and Clip Tray contents.

Reporter operates in two modes: Authoring mode, used to capture and organize the information for your report; and presentation mode, used to view the report in its final, stylized format.

When you start Reporter, a Start-Up dialog box gives you the choice of creating a new report (either blank or based on a template), or opening an existing report. Reporter automatically opens in authoring mode for new reports and presentation mode for existing reports.

Toggling between the two modes is as easy as clicking the appropriate button on the General toolbar. This lets you continuously check the layout and format of your report as you build it, eliminating the time-consuming, post-processing step that's usually required when you use nonintegrated research d organization tools.

CREATING REPORTS

Reports are organized into sections, which serve both as major topic headings and folder-like containers with links to content. The program is tremendously flexible--you can plan and create sections before you add content, or add new sections on the fly as your research progresses.

Reporter gives you two options for archiving your research discoveries in your report: you can either bookmark a Web page or "clip" the document. Bookmarks are simply links to pages that must be retrieved each time the link is clicked, requiring a live connection to the Internet. Clipped pages, on the other hand, are actually downloaded from the Web and stored to your system, making them available offline. Since they are stored locally, clipped pages require more storage space than bookmarked pages.

Bookmarking is the best choice for content that changes frequently, or that you have little need to modify. Clipped pages are more flexible--you can "trim" clipped pages to include only the part of the page that's relevant to your report. This can be handy for hiding distracting or unimportant information, like ads, off-topic external links, and so on. …

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