Pearltrees

16 09 2013

Accessing the internet is more and more done by mobile devices. It’s simply much more convenient than taking out a laptop computer and waiting for it to boot up. If you also do so the majority of your bookmarks will be located on your mobile devices, which can make it inconvenient to share a couple of links referring to a special topic with your friends. Sharing and collaboration is hampered because syncing of bookmarks across devices is usually limited to one and only one Google (Chrome) or Apple account (Safari).

Furthermore it’s not possible to add notes or other stuff to bookmarks managed by browsers.

As an alternative one can use a mind mapping tool like iThoughts for the iPad where the main topic is connected to subtopics containing links to websites. Using these links is usually followed by opening the devices standard browser and so you always have to return to the source application to view further topics.

Based on these considerations an app called Pearltrees (universal app for iPad and iPhone) was developed. It’s intended to bridge the gap between simple bookmarking and visualization of information retrieved from websites.

The features …

The developer describes his application as

Pearltrees . Cultivate your interests.

A pearl is an object which may contain a link, a photo, or a note.
Pearls can be organized in trees that means they can be connected to each other and build up a pool of information with the main topic in the center.

So a pearltree is like a folder that contains subfolders which can be pearls or further sub-pearltrees. You can collect what you like by turning it into a pearl and then organize your pearls into pearltrees as you like. Pearltrees can be opened (expand), closed (collapse), and put it into other pearltrees and share where and with whom you want.

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A visual interface allows you to create an unlimited number of folders and subfolders containing links, photos, or notes.

Because Pearltrees is a collaborative digital library, you can discover the pearltrees others have already organized on topics that interest you. For this you can explore related pearltrees, use search, or let yourself be guided by the notifications you receive.
Pearltrees also allows you to follow the activity of pearltrees organized by other enthusiasts. By ‘picking’ a pearltree and adding it to your account you will be informed when new pearls or comments are added. Finally, you can collaborate with others to organize a topic as part of a team.

A glimpse on the Home Screen of Pearltrees shows that it doesn’t follow any guidelines for a suitable user interface. There are two taskbars (one would be enough) with controls which aren’t in any context with the creation process (e.g. Buttons for the installation of the Pearler bookmarklet, What’s new, and Go Premium). All controls should be only accessible when opening the settings dialog.

Summarized:

Pearltrees is a visually organized collection of links and photos which can be accessed from others. So it’s like a social network where ‘posts’ (pearls) are arranged around topics similar to mind maps.

It’s like Pinterest with a mind map-like layout.

Can Pearltrees compete with main functionalities of a social network?

No, it can not.

It will not get the importance of a social network as it is limited to those users having Pearltrees installed on a device running with iOS or Android. All other networks just require a browser without additional software.

Collections of commented links with added images would be useful but in many cases it’s indispensable to use this collection in an additional context e.g. as an outline in a text document or on a website. Pearltrees doesn’t offer any different file format like OPML (Outline Processor Markup Language), PDF, or a simple text format. So all information is bound to the existence of the app.

So the companies announcement

Sharing with whom and what you want

is a bit boastful and in reality limited to a small number of people having an account on pearltrees.com.

Obviously collected information can be created with an underlying structure but it’s highly confusing to take advantage of it. It’s the wrong approach to organize and share interests except for leisure purposes.
Admittedly mind mapping is a perfect technology for visualizing information but Pearltrees provides a map layout which is a bit confusing. Opening a pearl hides all other pearls so the overview of collected pearls gets list. Additionally, rearranging of pearls cannot be done by just moving objects to other pearls using gestures. You have to do it within a dialog.
Other well-known format attributes available in mind mapping tools like color, text size, etc. are not available. Expanding and collapsing selected topics is also not available.

Getting started …

After installing the app you have to sign up for an account at pearltrees.com.
Objects will than be created on a cloud storage of the company.
Sign up can be done via Facebook, Twitter, or by E-Mail.

The app starts with a pearl in the center.

The first thing you have to do is installing a bookmarklet for Safari, which enables you to collect links as pearls. The installation procedure is clearly described. For frequent use of Pearltrees it’s recommended to locate the bookmarklet within the visible part of the bookmarks bar.

After doing so the app is ready to add new pearls.
If you tap on + you can select the type of the new pearl. It can be a Pearltree, a weblink, a photo gallery, or a note. To add a weblink you need to know the address. If it’s in the clipboard it can be pasted, if not, close Pearltrees, open Safari and use the installed Pearler bookmarklet to collect links. After tapping on the Pearltrees bookmark you can select the location for the new link.

The following steps were carried out to create the pearltree shown in the image below.

  • 01 Open Safari
  • 02 Open the website iNotes4You
  • 03 Select the article ‘Apple, a unique company’
  • 04 Tap on the bookmarklet ‘Pearltrees’
  • 05 Add the website to the central pearl ‘iNotes4You’
  • 06 Open the website ‘Air Mail by Apple’
  • 07 Add the website to a new pearl named ‘Printing on iOS devices’
  • 08 Adding two more websites about printing

The disadvantages …

In most cases information is retrieved from links to websites so Pearltrees competes with usual browsers and their bookmark feature.

So what’s the really new idea of Pearltrees?

I didn’t find an answer except the unusual layout which looks nice but gets a bit confusing if there are many trees with many pearls but not clearly defined pearl titles.

Note
To edit the title of a pearl -which is generated from the link and not often suitable- you have to close Safari and do the work in Pearltrees.

It’s neither an innovative mind mapping nor a suitable note taking tool. It allows saving links by using the Pearler bookmarklet which is quite comfortable.

If there is no connection to the Internet there is an option named ‘Poor connection. Tap here to start offline!’. This option doesn’t work. A message comes up and prompts to quit the app.

Because of it’s form factor Pearltrees is not recommended for smartphones like the iPhone. It might be used for a special topic with a small number of links.

In Pearltrees everything is public and collaborative by default. So you have to register for a Premium version with annual fees to keep your bookmarks private. Otherwise all the pearls you create are publicly accessible.

It’s not acceptable to pay for a workspace if you don’t use the app regularly for a long time. There are many free cloud storages available where you can share all kinds of files. I understand that the company is interested in continuous payment flow but this strategy is not accepted by the majority of the users.

The Benefits …

A funny application of Pearltrees could be to summarize a holiday with some links, notes, and many photos. Friends with access to this data can easily explore your experiences and holiday highlights posted on Facebook, Twitter, or sent by an invitation via E-Mail.

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For Twitter and Facebook fans it might be interesting to pearl the links posted on their accounts. Transferring Tweets or Facebook posts to a further platform might be a way to summarize information spread over an account.

Thanks for visiting iNotes4You.
I appreciate your sharing to other networks.


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