Saving online links

A reader asked this question: What are some tips for organizing and saving online links, data and ideas for later reading? Currently, I have 70 Gmail drafts with things I’ve saved over time and haven’t gotten to yet, probably because of this lack of organization.

This reader has identified a universal challenge. Thanks to technology, we have plenty of information. With a good system, it appears exactly when we want to see it again. When we want to find something, it’s easy to find, and we can find the online links or data from anywhere. We find ourselves looking for one special program for something like saving online links, another app for another special feature, etc.

The trouble is few people teach systems for making it happen. The secret is to ask one question about the link or piece of data. Is it an action item or a reference item? In other words, is there something I need to do with the information? Or, do I just need to be able to find the information should I need it later.

Action Items

Action items include the following examples:

  • An online article you don’t have time to read now but want to see tomorrow.
  • A recipe for chocolate chip cookies, and you plan to bake cookies this weekend.
  • Online links or data you want to discuss with a coworker during Wednesday’s meeting.
  • An online review of a product you want to have in hand when you go shopping on Saturday.

In each example, you want this information to come back on a specific day in the future. This type of information goes in your “digital task list.” Create a new task, such as one of these examples:

  • Read this article about the best stock investments.
  • Bake cookies with this recipe.
  • Discuss this data with John.
  • Walmart-See if they have this model computer.

Any good digital task list includes a “notes” field for each task. Copy and paste the link or other data in the note section of the task. Finally, add a due date. The task goes away and returns on the exact day you wanted to take action. To save a link from a mobile device, click the “Share” menu. You will find a number of apps to which you can share the link. One of them will be the app for your digital task list.

I use Remember the Milk for my digital task list. You can read more here.

Reference Items

Reference items include the following examples:

  • An article that might be of interest in the future. If you wanted to read it, you would like to be able to find it.
  • A recipe for chocolate chip cookies. While you have no plans to use that recipe now, you might want to use it in the future.
  • Interesting data related to your field.
  • A good review of new laptop computers. While you are not planning to buy now, you would like to be able to share it with others who might ask.

Reference items require a good “digital filing cabinet.” My favorite is Evernote. A good cook might have a “Recipe” notebook in Evernote and store the one for chocolate chip cookies there. The Evernote “WebClipper” allows the reader to click one icon and save an article directly to Evernote from the computer. From a mobile device, save by clicking on the “Share” option.

Saving online links certainly falls in the realm of reference information. I see three basic options:

  1. Use a dedicated bookmark manager.
  2. Combine them with your other reference files
  3. Clip as a “bookmark” to Evernote

Use a dedicated bookmark manager to save online links

I use Google Bookmarks. The first thing to do is look for the statement that says, “Bookmark pages more easily. Drag this bookmarklet to the Bookmarks bar of your browser.” When you are on a page you wish to bookmark, click the button for the bookmarklet in the toolbar.

The bookmarklet opens this box

The bookmarklet will pre-populate the name and URL fields. As you type labels, Google Bookmarks suggests labels based on those already used. Clicking a label on the left-hand side of the screen will show all saved URLs tagged with that label.

The advantage of this option is the “Notes” field. Before opening the bookmark, you can see a description of what’s there.

Combine saving online links with your other reference files

Perhaps you considering getting a puppy. You have created a folder for the project. Inside are various documents. As you find online links that are on point, it makes sense to save them in that same folder. While on the webpage, click just to the left of the URL and drag to the folder. The folder now includes a link to the desired page.


Click to the left of the URL and drag to a folder


Saving online links

Link to the URL

The advantage of this option is that URLS related to a specific topic can be combined with other resources related to that topic.

Clip as a bookmark to Evernote

The Evernote WebClipper offers several options for clipping information. One of the options is to save as a bookmark. That option creates a new note in Evernote with a preview of the information included in the URL. Should the content on the webpage change, the bookmark saved in Evernote delivers the current version of the content.

One advantage of this option is that other elements can be saved in that same note. Drag a photo, record audio, type notes, or attach a document within the note.



What if It’s Both?

What if you want to use the new recipe to make chocolate chip cookies this weekend and also save that recipe to use in the future? Save the recipe in Evernote. Every note has its own link. Right-click on a note and select the option to copy the link.

Go to your digital task list and create your task: “Bake cookies.” Assign Saturday’s date. In the note section of that task, paste the link. On Saturday, you see the task…baking the cookies. In the note section, you see the link. Click it. Now you are looking at the recipe housed in Evernote.

Our information is no good unless we can see it at the right time. Having a good system makes all the difference.