vulog - My web logger, bookmarker and highlighter

vulog is a chrome extension that allows you to (1) bookmark web pages, highlight text on those pages, and take notes, (2) save your browsing history,  and (3) see the cookies tracking you on various web sites (and delete them). 

I wrote the first version of vulog 3 years ago to keep a log of all my web pages. It seemed to me that all the large tech companies were keeping track of my browsing history, and the only person who didn't have a full log was me! I wanted my browsing history sitting on my own personal server so that I can retain it for myself and do what I want with it.

At the time, I had also added some basic bookmarking functions on vulog, but I have been wanting to extend those features and make them much more useful:

  1. Keyboard only - Most extensions are accessed via a button next to the browser url bar. I wanted to make it faster and easier to add bookmarks and notes by using the keyboard alone. So now you can do that by pressing 'cntrl s', or 'cmd s' on a mac. (Who uses 'cntrl s' to save copies of web pages these days anyways? )
  2. Highlighting - I wanted to be able to highlight text and save those highlights. This can now be done by right clicking on highlighted text (thanks to Jérôme).
  3. inbox - I wanted to have a special bookmark called 'inbox' and to add items to that inbox by  right clicking on any link.

So these are all now implemented in the new vulog here:

https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/vulog-logger-bookmarker-h/peoooghegmfpgpafglhhibeeeeggmfhb

The code is all on github.

This post is supposed to be a live document with the following sections:

  1. Known Issues
  2. Instructions
  3. Privacy (CEPS)
  4. Future developments
  5. Acknowledgements

1. Known Issues

Here are some known problems and deficiencies with vulog :

  • cntl/cmd s doesn't work on all sites, specially those that make extensive use of javascript or which have menus with high z-indices. ;)
  • Highlighting - On some web page, vulog cant find the text you have highlighted. It should work on most simple sites but not on interactive ones where content is always changing. But you can always see your highlights by pressing the extension button.
  • The notes and tags functionality has a bug in the current version, thanks to my clumsy fingers changing a function call name just before submitting it to the app store. But you can always take notes  This is fixed in the new version.


2. Instructions

Current tab

Click on the vulog button to see the main "Current" tab, and tag a page or bookmark it using these buttons:

- The 'bookmark' and 'star are buttons for regular bookmarking.

- The 'Inbox' button is for items you want to read later. You can also right click on any web link on web pages you visit and add it to your vulog inbox right from the web page.

- Links marked with 'archive' do not show in default search results when you do a search from the Marks tab.  For example, once you have read a page from your inbox,  you might want to remove the 'inbox' mark, and add it to your 'archive'.

- The 'bullfrog' button makes the link public. Note that you need a CEPS compatible server to store your data and to publish it, if you want to use this feature. (See Below)

Marks tab

In the Marks tab, you can search for items you have bookmarked.

Click on the bookmark icons to filter your results. (eg clicking on inbox turns the icon green and only shows items that have been marked 'inbox'. Clicking it again will turn the button red, and you will only see items that have NOT been marked 'inbox'. You will notice that the 'archive' mark is red by default, so that archived items do not appear in the default search results.

In the marks tab, you can search for the items you have bookmarked.

When clicking on bookmark buttons, you will filter your results. (eg clicking on inbox turns the icon green and only shows items that have been marked 'inbox'. Clicking it again will turn the button red, and you will only see items that have NOT been marked as inbox. You will notice that the 'archive' mark is red by default, so that archived items do not appear in the default search results.

History tab

Search your history. The general search box searches for words used in your tags and notes and highlights, as well as meta data associated with the page.

Right Clicking on web pages

On any web page, you can right click on text you have selected to highlight it, and you can right click on a any link to add it to your inbox

Cntrl/Cmd S on web pages

When you are on any web page, you can press cntrl-S (or cmd-S for mac) and a small menu appears on the top right corner of the web page, to allow you to bookmark it. While the menu is open, pressing cntrl/cmd-I adds to inbox,  cntrl/cmd-A archives, cntrl/cmd-B adds a bookmark, and pressing cntrl/cmd-S again adds a star. You can remove marks by clicking on them with your mouse. The Escape key gets rid of the menu, which disappears automatically after a few seconds in any case.

Data storage

Your bookmarks and browser history is kept in the chrome's local storage, which has limited space. After some weeks (or months depending on usage), vulog automatically deletes older items. 

3. Privacy (CEPS)

vulog doesn't send any of your data to any outside servers, and you can always delete your data from the 'More' tab. If you want to store your data on your own server, you will need to set up a Personal Data Store. vulog was built to be able to accept CEPS-compatible data stores. (See here for more details on CEPS - Common End Points for Personal Servers and data stores. ) 

Having your data sit on your personal data store also means that you can publish your bookmarks and highlights and notes. Press the bullhorn button to publish the link from your server. 

4. Future Developments

I expect to use vulog as an example app for the development of the CEPS sharing protocol.

5. Acknowledgements

Highlighting functionality was largely copied from Jérôme Parent-Lévesque. (See here.)

Rendering function (dgelements.js) was inspired by David Gilbertson (who never expected someone would be crazy enough to actually implement his idea I think.)


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