Pearltrees helps you to organize the web – visually

Dec 2nd, 2009 | By | Category: Web-Based Mapping Tools

pearltrees, mindmap, mind map, visual mapPearltrees is a new visual bookmarking tool that utilizes a mind map-like interface to help you to organize your web page shortcuts in a much more intuitive way than the typical browser bookmark list. It also enables you to connect with other users who share similar interests, which places it in the same camp as other social bookmarking tools. But Pearltrees is different – very different.

Before I can explain how it works, we first need to get a bit of terminology out of the way:

Pearl: A pearl represents a link to a web page. It’s more than that, however. It’s an interactive object that you can move around your visual map. You can also share it with others who “pearled” the same content and discuss it.

Pearltree: A pearltree contains other pearls. The closest analogy is to think of it link a folder that you can use to store pearls/URLs. Like a folder, you can expand and collapse it.

How to add content to your Pearltree

When you first set up your Pearltrees account, the application gives you the option of adding several toolbar buttons to your browser: Add a new pearl for the web page you’re currently viewing, choose where to put the pearl (in an existing tree or a new one), and go to your Pearltrees account. While looking at an article about Pearltrees on Mashable.com, I clicked on the “add a pearl” button. Next, I clicked the second toolbar button to tell the application to place it in my main Pearltree. This functionality seemed a bit odd to me, because it was a two-step process. Why can’t this be accomplished with one toolbar button? In its present form, it’s not exactly intuitive.

You can also create new pearls and pearltrees manually, using a horizontal window pane at the bottom of the screen that contains buttons to view details about the current pearl, create a new pearltree or create a new pearl. The weird thing is that if you choose to create a new pearltree, the application opens a pop-up window, in which you type the name of your new “branch.” It then inserts this item into the dropzone at the bottom of the workspace, from which you can drag and drop it anywhere in your visual bookmark map. But the problem is that the pop-up window obscures part of your map – which means you first need to close it before you move the new pearltree into your map. Again, just a little too clunky for the average user.

Whenever you click on a pearl, the application pops up a window that displays information about it – such as who has connected to it and who is discussing it. It also contains a screenshot of the web page; to navigate to that page, you simply click on the screenshot. This dialog box also contains buttons that enable you to share, copy, cut, delete or rename the current pearl. While this was informative, it got annoying after a while, especially if all I wanted to do was to expand part of my bookmark map to view the links it contained.

When you navigate to the web page that the pearl refers to, the toolbar always remains visible at the bottom of the screen, enabling you to easily return to your “home” map. You can also use “prev” and “next” buttons to visit each web page in your pearltree, one at a time – ideal if you want some random stimulation for creative thinking.

Social aspects of Pearltrees

pearltrees2-300pxWhat is especially intriguing is that you can view other users’ pearltrees. In order to see other users, you must collapse the root level of your pearltree. A bunch of other users’ icons then move into view (see screenshot – my account, in the center of the image, has a blue halo), which you can expand and explore at will. The problem is that it’s not a very intuitive way to access others’ pearltrees. I only discovered that you could do this by accident. There’s nothing obvious that says “click here to view others’ pearltrees.” I think there needs to be something like that to help the average user to access this functionality.

Also, I’m not sure why these users appeared – were they selected at random by the application, or because they contained pearls that were closely aligned with the ones I created in my account? I assume it’s the latter. I’d still like to see a keyword search capability, so you can quickly locate other Pearltrees users who exactly match what you’re looking for.

Also, when I was viewing someone else’s pearltree, I couldn’t figure out how to return to mine. I finally discovered, through trial and error, that if I clicked on the blue “Pearltree” logo in the upper left corner of the workspace, it would return me to my account. I think this application needs some sort of a “home” button that you can use to quickly return to your own account.

If you find links of interest while browsing other users’ pearltrees, you can drag and drop them from that tree to the “drop zone” at the bottom of the screen. You then return to your own account, and drag and drop this pearl into your own pearltree. Very interesting, but it’s a little hard to understand this process at first.

If you’ve built a pearltree that you’re proud of, the application enables you to share it in a number of ways, including:

  • Via Twitter
  • Via Facebook
  • Embedding it in your blog or website
  • E-mailing it

You can also request the permalink URL of your pearltree, so you can share it almost any way you want.

A few final thoughts about Pearltrees: For some reason, certain pearltrees I created displayed a pearl that had the same name as the pearltree, but with the word “end” next to it. What does this mean? It’s a mystery to me! Also, after I was using Pearltree for a while, I started to get error messages when creating new pearls. Like any web-based application, this one has a few rough spots that hopefully will be eliminated as its developers improve it.

Conclusion

As a visual bookmark manager and social bookmarking tool, I think that Pearltrees has a lot of potential. But before it can be successful, its developers need to fix some of the quirky things about it. Pearltree is free; you can set up your own account here.

Tags: , , ,

5 comments
Leave a comment »

  1. Hi Chuck,

    Thanks a lot for this interesting review of Pearltrees! As the community manager of Pearltrees, I am very happy you find Pearltrees has “a lot of potential”. Since Pearltrees enables everyone to organize its Web and to integrate part of other’s Web into its own, I believe the Pearltrees’ community is building a truly collaborative organization of the Web, maybe the first human-powered organization of the Web.

    As a collaborative project still in its “alpha” phase, we welcome all the comments and feedbacks that will help us improve the product and make it always simpler to use.

    Here are just a few precisions :-)

    -the reason why there are 2 buttons in the Firefox add-on is to help you put the content you like directly in the right pearltree in your account, so you can organize your account very quickly!

    -Concerning the visibility issues of the pearl window, we’ve designed the window so that you can read a pearltree even if it’s open except for smaller screens. Could you indicate me the size of your screen? It could be very helpful to improve our UI!

    - There are several steps in Pearltrees game play so all the members of the community don’t use all the features. That’s why the mini-pearl which allows you to see others closest pearltrees is something people have to discover . However, there’s a more visible “what’s connected” button on the upper left corner which plays the same role :)

    -Your guess was right: the pearls which appear when you click on the mini pearl//what’s connected are not selected randomly. They are the most connected pearls to the pearltree you selected!

    -The “end” pearl indicates where a pearltree ends: when you click on a pearltree, it opens. All the pearls between the “start” pearl and the “end” pearl are inside this pearltree^^

    -There is a “Home” button: it’s on the upper left corner of the interface, and allows you to return to your account.

    Thanks again for your feedbacks, Pearltrees is still in development and things will remain that way for a long time, so keep in touch with next iterations. I look forward to read your next pearltrees :))

  2. Hi Chuck,

    Thank you very much for the wonderful write-up on Pearltrees – it was very helpful in getting me started to experiment with this great website.

    Pearltrees is wonderful. I’ve been waiting for a bookmarking website like this forever. Once you get a chance to play with it a bit, it becomes quite intuitive and user-friendly. It’s just like mind-mapping and we all know how to do that.

    You even get an email every time someone copies or creates one of your pearls – a great chance to make friends (although it will probably get annoying soon; don’t worry, there’s a chance to disable the notification feature). You can also search for people and look at their pearls and make them friends.

    Here’s a link to my Pearltree: http://www.pearltrees.com/conciselearning/map/1_227851/ where I’ve compiled a Pearltree on visual mapping. Please let me know if I’ve missed anyone so that I can add you to the tree.

    One drawback that I encountered is that Pearltrees can’t handle more than 20 pearls in a tree (or a branch); hence, I had to use two Pearltrees for visual mapping blogs (web pages were randomly added to both Pearltrees). Also, it would be great if one can sort or arrange (e.g., alphabetically) the pearls within the tree. Another down side: it lets you add duplicate websites to the same tree.

    In summary, I like Pearltrees more than Del.icio.us or any other bookmarking website that’s currently available. Highly recommended!

    Thanks again for finding and sharing this great resource!

    profTK

  3. Wow…. seems amazing …
    I guess I`ll try it…
    Thanks…

  4. ‘Sup Chuck,

    Since you’ve posted this there have been several updates to PearlTrees.

    There are actually three buttons added to Firefox now. I’ve found that, after editing the settings on them, it is useful to hide two of them and just keep the “Pearl this” button.

    There is a keyword search now.

    Loving PearlTrees ;) It’s already my fave way of sharing bookmarks and for that matter browsing the web.

    I’ve seen the future and it is PearlTrees yeh!

  5. One thing i like so much about Pearltrees, is that you can 'stay' on your own 'program' while fully using al kinds of content. Putting stuff in a tree can be like creating your own program, let's say like a newsprogram with different items, while you still are rememberred all the time it's your program, by the simple, discreet, but clear white area on the top, where your tree name is and you can skip to the next item.

    In this way, you can create a web-world that focus you more instead of distracting you, like a lot of compiling sites do, especially social media – with it's endles spam, and pressure to 'share' wich a lot of time is in misleading ways.

    Another thing are the objects abillity to move by your mouse, wich makes all such more easy.

    Anyway, without giving all further reasons, to me this application is FAR MORE a new step in internet use than all that social media thing all together. The blonds in the world can experienece here to bring more depth instead of speed in there present experience, the non-blonds have a great tool to pass the speedy nonsence influence and destract pressure you can hardly escape from on internet.

    Like the strenght of Google allong the years, i hope Pearltrees will mainly care for it's innitiate it's simplicity, as most of internet applications to help you out, are or have become a distraction in itself. They are like budget programs that have such a lot of functions, you never have time left to pay any bill.
    Right now, pearltree looks like a new internet haven of simplicity. I hope – again, like the slow speed = strenght of Google -, the will keep the simplicity in it. Forget about a million options to colour each section of the screen. We come to browse, review, do something with ''content''.

    All goods to Pearltree!

Leave Comment