Firefox Scrapbook Hacks – Viewing and Saving Webpages from Anywhere!
This weekend I decided to wrap up a couple cool knowledge management “hacks” and share some code on GitHub. I primarily use the Firefox Scrapbook plugin to save all web pages of interest and use it as a general “digital snippet” repository. Since I started using Scrapbook in 2006 there have been a number of online services that have come along to offer this functionality (namely Evernote, Zotero, and countless others). Some of these services make it very easy to universally access and save webpages between multiple devices. As part of my usual DIY philosophy, I’ve made an effort to stick with Scrapbook and build the missing features myself. This is in large part due to data ownership (it’s my data and I don’t want to be tied to a single service/company), plus it’s fun to tinker and make these useful “hacks”.
In Dec ’09 I shared a blog post about how to synchronize the scrapbook data between multiple computers. This was the first major step to sharing data between multiple devices, but still lacked some of the ubiquity that I desired. In a nutshell I’ve made 2 major enhancements to Scrapbook:
- An email ‘bridge’ to Scrapbook so I can email links from any device (PC, iPhone, iPad) and have them saved by Scrapbook
- A centralized web-interface to browse/search/filter my scrapbook data.
I’ll start off with the less visually-stunning hack (email bridge), but by far the craftier of two.
Hack #1 – Scrapbook Email Interface
Whenever I began synchronizing my Scrapbook data between the 2-3 computers this solved a huge problem with being able to save webpages from anywhere. Since 2009 a lot has changed, and devices like iPhone and iPad (yes, Apple fan boy to a degree) have changed the way we consume news. Recently I’ve been using apps on the iPad like Zite and Flipboard to consolidate my Twitter, Facebook, and Googler Reader feeds into a single personalized newspaper. This means that now > 50% of my reading time is spent from a device that has no visibility into my Scrapbook data. I simply wanted a way to automatically email a link (built nativily into these apps) and have it automagically saved into my Scrapbook folder. I could have simply cut corners and wrote a script to hand-edit the Scrapbook RDF Files and save the web page using something like wget or curl. But, it just wouldn’t be the same…. I want the webpage saved EXACTLY as Firefox would normally render and save it.
The setup process is simple:
- Setup and install the POW and Scrapbook plugins in your browser
- Configure POW to run a desired port and create a new directory /scrapbook/
- Setup a new email box or alias (e.g. email@example.com)
- Either run scrapbook2email.pl manually or run as a CRON job every couple minutes
- Simply send emails to your new Scrapbook email, run the email script, and watch your pages be saved automatically
At a high-level this is accomplished with 2 scripts:
Email Interface script (Perl)
This script uses IMAP to retrieve scrapbook email requests from a designated folder. Along with doing basic sender/recipient validation, the script is also aware of plain text/multipart messages. Once the email request is parsed, the link of the requested web page to be saved will be extracted. Given the request URL the script will then contact the POW server and pass the requested URL (e.g. http://127.0.0.1:6670/scrapbook/?url=http://yourwebpagetobesaved.com/?articleID=3q4e3332). Note that this version of the script requires that Firefox/POW be running and makes no attempt to launch for you.
For a copy of the script click here (GitHub).
This script does the heavy lifting, and is essentially running at the other end of the POW server URL (http://127.0.0.1:6670/scrapbook/). Once the requested URL is detected the browser will spawn a new tab, automatically execute the Scrapbook Capture request, and save the webpage to a new top-level folder (e.g. Unfiled/MM-DD-YYYY). This script was tested with Scrapbook v.1.3.7.
For a copy of the script click here (GitHub).
It’s nifty now to email a link to my Scrapbook Bot and wihin a couple minutes a little notify popup shows in Firefox indicating my page was saved.
Hack #2 – Scrapbook Browser
This code was actually written back in Dec ’09 after I wrote the synchronize blog post (and around the time I wrote the Document Viewer), however I haven’t shared until now. What I’ve done is write a simple Perl/JQuery web app that used Simile’s Exhibit to view Scrapbook data in a tile, table, or timeline. This interface also has a file/folder view so you can browse snippets just like you can through the native Scrapbook plugin interface within Firefox.
Here are some screenshots:
To download the code click here (GitHub).