We’re reading more than ever before on screens. From news to learning resources, text delivery over the web is not only allows information to be shared quickly, but to be searched, dug out, and consumed so easily. Even this very piece is yet another example of online text.
Managing all these varied sources can get complicated, however. There’s Pocket for saving webpages for later. Evernote for clipping segments of a page. And RSS readers like Feedly which allow you to constantly check in on regularly-updated content like news.
In fact, text’s ubiquity online has meant a bunch of products have rushed in to plug the gaps. And unfortunately, a lot try to outdo each other by offering a rich set of features. Sometimes, those features can just get in the way.
Evernote, for example, with its infinite notebooks, voice clips, and tagged searching can sometimes just feel like too much, making you jump through hoops to just get the basics done. Liner wants to do something different.
Highlight the web
Liner is an app that has one goal: allow you to highlight anything online and save your highlights in an easily accessible spot.
The Liner interface, both on web and iOS, foregrounds a list of your highlights, showing where they’ve come from. The default view is to see only the highlight: only the important bit that you wanted to keep track of. With just a click, you can expand out into the webpage it was made on, seeing the highlight in context.
These highlights can also be commented on, maybe to serve as a reminder of why you highlighted or to draw connections to something similar.
Liner then is not only a super powerful tool in your back pocket when reading the news, a bucket to fill with interesting takeaways to strengthen knowledge growth. When the tool is applied to learning - whether just something personal like cooking or rigorous like a diploma or degree - Liner really steps into its own.
If you ever wished you had a magic highlighter to use directly on the screen of your device, Liner is for you.
The crucial thing about highlighting is that it’s active. The fact you have to do something means you’re more likely to retain the information being highlighted.
The decision of what to highlight is also an important step: forcing a value judgement as to what is critically useful, what knowledge must be retained.
As much as working with pen and paper is helpful retention, it’s simply not realistic to expect that everything we read these days can be handled this way. Web tools like Liner make too much sense to ignore.
Getting set up
Liner is a little different from most apps, however. Because of its functioning “above” existing webpages, there are a few things it has to do different from Evernote or Pocket, apps that essentially just capture URLs.
For one, Liner on the web is a Chrome extension. It sits out of sight, activated with a press of the #### button on your keyboard. Pressing this button turns your cursor into that magic highlighter.
You’re able to select text as normal, watching it get highlighted in your choice of colour once the mouse click is released.
Installing the Chrome extension will take you through the set up and how the tool is used which, once you get the hang of it, starts to feel natural.
A word of warning: highlights are public by default, part of Liner’s usefulness as a news tool. Public highlights appear in an “Explore” tab which foregrounds trending news stories. If you’re using Liner to keep personal tabs on the web, or for things like studying, turning off the “Contribute to Explore” feature will keep your highlights for your eyes only.
The Chrome extension also serves as both a drop-down view of your recent highlights as well as a link to your Liner profile - the repository of all your highlighted wisdom. You can even share your highlights - a great way to point out exactly what’s important to a study buddy or friend.
Liner works a little differently on your iPhone or iPad (iOS only at this point).
Download Liner from the App Store and open it up. Like the Chrome extension, you will be shown the specific way to use Liner on mobile. Basically, you “Share” out of an app - Safari, Feedly, Facebook - to Liner and a “highlight layer” is loaded atop it. You can tap-hold and drag like you normally would when selecting text to make your highlights on the page - of course all of which end back up in the app to be reviewed later.
The iOS app does have a little trick, though. In that “highlight layer”, there’s a little icon in the top right-hand corner (a finger pointing at lines of text). Tapping this activates “Touch highlight” mode. The app then recognises sentences and simply tapping on a sentence is enough to highlight it - getting around the sometimes fiddly text selection tool on iOS.
Sharing to Liner on iOS also prompts you to “Highlight later”, allowing a link to be saved, ready for you to markup later.
Getting involved with your study is so simple that you’ll wonder how you ever went without it.