1. Perry, William MA, RN

Article Content

The Internet has brought the spirit of global communication and collaboration to nurses and other healthcare professionals in ways never before thought possible. These resources are offered to expand your opportunities for discussion, reference, education, and research.


A couple of years ago, I became interested in the concept of Personal Learning Environments and how Web tools could be used as a repository of information and links from a variety of sites. I have collected bits and pieces from all over the Web, including images, blog links, and articles, all of which are part of my personal network of information.


While I have used PageFlakes ( as an information aggregation tool, there are several free tools that serve as a personal online notebook.


Zotero is a free application that works only with Firefox. When you create an account at and download the application, it installs itself to work with Firefox. What can you do with it? Here is the feature list directly from the Web site:


* Automatically capture citations


* Remotely back up and synchronize your library


* Store PDFs, images, and Web pages


* Cite from within Word and OpenOffice


* Take rich-text notes in any language


* Wide variety of import/export options


* Free, open source, and extensible


* Collaborate with group libraries


* Organize with collections and tags


* Access your library from anywhere


* Automatically grab metadata for PDFs


* Use thousands of bibliographic styles


* Instantly search your PDFs and notes


* Advanced search and data mining tools


* Interface available in over 30 languages


* Recommendation engine and RSS feeds



The ability to export citations in multiple reference formats, including AMA, APA, ASPA, and Chicago, is a tremendous asset for student and faculty publications.


Since I had already created a flash-drive version of Firefox (, I installed Zotero on the drive and my PC. It worked like a charm and synchronized the flash-drive documents and citations with the Web version.


While it works only with Firefox, it is compatible with Windows, Mac, and Linux platforms.


David Rothman's recent posting, "Screencast: Evernote as a Medical Student's Peripheral Brain" (, prompted me to look more closely at this application. Offered in both a free and a fee-based version, it is a personal notebook that you can fill with documents (PDF), video, audio, and links. Evernote also has the ability to synchronize information between your personal computer and cloud storage as well as the ability to run the application from a flash drive.


There are also applications for both the iPhone and iTouch to get to public folders. It also is available for both Windows and Mac computers.


There are other healthcare professionals who have been using this application for a variety of tasks. The Efficient MD blog posted a three-part series that suggested several uses for Evernote, including how it could be used as a "hybrid electronic health record."


(See "The Efficient MD-Life Hacks for Healthcare How Doctors Can Use Evernote as a Professional Memory Accessible Anywhere [Part 1 of 3]" at


I signed up on the Web site (, downloaded and installed the application, created a flash drive version, and saved several sites during the day. From my home computer, I logged into the application, and everything I had worked on from a different computer was synchronized with my home desktop.


Both free and premium versions offer access to all versions of Evernote, synchronization across platforms, and text recognition inside images. The differences between the two are as follows:


* Monthly upload allowance: The free version allows 40 MB; the fee-based version allows 500 MB.


* File synchronization: The free version allows images, audio, ink, and PDF; the fee-based version allows any file type (although a single note is limited to 25 MB).


* Support: The free version receives standard support; the fee-based version receives premium support.


* Security: The free version offers standard security; the fee-based version is SSL encrypted.



Last but not the least, important for many will be the lack of advertisements and promotions on the premium version, something that may be worth $5 per month or $45 per year depending on user preferences.


These are both excellent tools to create an organized collection of professional or personal links and resources. If you browse only with Internet Explorer, you cannot use Zotero. If you use both Firefox and Internet Explorer, you can use either or both from your PC or a flash drive.


Contributed by


William Perry, MA, RN