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Organizing Offline Data

I use a program called Surfulater to manage all the resulting mess. It was designed to be used on a computer while you are browsing and is the ultimate web researchers tool. As you browse you can quickly capture just the content you are interested in. You select text and hit a hot key to create an article, which contains the selected text, images, and a link to the online web page. You can then edit the data, add your own notes, and attach additional content or web pages. You can organize the articles into a folder structure and all the content is saved for offline use - in an organized, searchable fashion. You can even save the entire webpage offline as an attachment. You can do the same thing for existing offline content you have saved or are transferring to your computer via the Flash drive.

If you want to gather lots of pages from a single website, there is a program called Portable Offline File Browser. It installs on your USB stick and does not require any additional installation on the host computer. This is important because most GOOD internet cafes won’t allow you to install any software; it’s too easy for hackers to get on. It is designed to help you save the entire website's page or sets of pages. Say you found a page that interests you but you don’t have the time to read it all in the cafe. With POB, you have a couple of options that help save the website’s pages. You can use their browser in record mode to save the content you visit, or download the page you have selected and all of its links. I usually check out the links in another browser and then browse in the recording browser if I want to save that specific page. With the automatic download, it will search the specified page for ANY links to other pages. It then downloads those pages and follows the links to the depth you specify (say three levels).  You also have control over which additional sites it navigates to (as it find links) or you can contain it to just the site you’ve specified (my preferred solution). It downloads the files in parallel so it is fast and it saves the data to your USB flash drive in a structure that you can still easily navigate/share once you get back to the boat. You also have the option of translating links to offline files so that you can navigate the downloaded pages as if you were online (by following the links on the pages). This is much easier than trying to find pages you saved with “File Save As” and opening them individually.

Windows has an offline mode that supports downloading portions of a website (or all of it) onto your computer. You can access it offline and browse it as if you were online. This works great if you can always find a connection for your computer. There's a couple of inherent issues for general use.  It uses Internet Explorers cache (compressed unrecognizable files) which makes it impossible to extract the data to take from the Cafe back to your computer or to share with others once you’ve downloaded it. It can take up a lot of disk space and congratulations, you've just moved the craziness of the internet to your desktop. Google Desktop helps you search your desktop including your web history but the inherent problems with the cached files are still there.

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