Using SpringPad for small businesses and consulting

By Sally Church

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SpringPad is a really useful new free tool I’ve recently been playing with and it has quickly become a way to sort and organise information easily.   In the past, I’ve been a big Evernote fan, but while it is useful for collecting abstracts, photos, papers etc, SpringPad has a whole different set of utilities and dimensions that I find myself using on a daily basis, both in the office, and while mobile at conferences.

One of the challenges in my work is sifting through vast amounts of data and generating useful insights, either for posts here on this blog or as a consultant.   I’ve tried a lot of different web 2.0 tools over the last 7 years, but occasionally one comes along that sticks in my workflow.  SpringPad is one of them.

The first thing I did after signing up, was download the iPhone app and the web clipper for Chrome, my preferred browser.   This makes life a lot easier when you come across anything interesting:

SpringPad web clipper

SpringPad web clipper

You can also email items such as webpages, links and PDF files to SpringPad using your own personalised SpringPad email address (in the settings).

Once in the SpringPad web app (similar layouts for the iPad, iPhone or Android phone are available in an app too), your top level notebooks appear something like this:

SpringPad Notebook Dashboard

SpringPad Notebook Dashboard

You can colour code them for easy visual appeal and finding things.  Of course, I’ve also hidden the mission critical client projects, but you can see the general gist of what my recent science topics look like.

The nice thing about this approach is that you can create Notebooks by topics and then once you’ve clipped or emailed relevant information to SpringPad, it can be organised efficiently.

For example, the JP Morgan Healthcare conference is ongoing this week in San Francisco with lots of news emerging by biotech company, drug and pathway.   I can clip, then tag the information and also assign it to several Notebooks.  Information emerging from the meeting on Keryx’s perifosine might get added to the Keryx, colorectal cancer and myeloma Notebooks, for example.  This makes it easier to find information later when you search for it, or later look at all the information you have collected to date on say, lung cancer or a particular pathway, to look at the big picture trends.   I also diligently tag items across a broad range of topics so they will appear later in the database searches.

Another useful feature of SpringPad is that you can collate information around an event.

Once inside a notebook, for example, the recent one I created for the ISGC meeting at MD Anderson to keep me organised with a one stop shop for all the preconference information, to-dos and post conference notes looked like this:

Inside a SpringPad Notebook

Inside a SpringPad Notebook

While travelling to this meeting, I had everything I needed for the event in the iPhone app and could add new notes, to dos, places, contacts, pictures, photos, url links etc while on the road for other projects.   This worked really well, even on the plane, since SpringPad will sync the notes once internet access is available later.

The iPhone is small, so it is not good for rapid note taking at meetings and wifi was gippy at best, so I made most of the notes on my Mac laptop in Twitter using a hashtag and also in an offline text app, Notational Velocity, which syncs with Simplenote.  I’m now looking to see if I can email my notes on each presentation to SpringPad or worst case scenario, cut/paste them into the notes created.  Another way to do this efficiently would be to use an iPad, but that’s still on my geek wish list in the Gear Notebook :)

Assigning dates to To-Dos and items is a really useful feature – you can check your Alert box and see what’s immediately due.  I added in contacts from Google Contacts and was pleased to see it created a map on my iPhone when I needed to check an address while going to a new place for the first time.

Another feature I really like is the ability to import Delicious bookmarks (I have 3,000 of them!) as well as the associated tags, so these are now searchable in the context of any other information I might have collated in SpringPad.   When a client rings up or sends an email asking about something, this makes the answer much easier to find than Googling and getting lots of spammy results, which seems de rigeur in public searches of late.

SpringPad is not only useful for business things – you can plan meals and recipes, renovation or kitchen projects, create a wine library, the kids school activities, craft projects, writing ideas – the list is endless.  There are plenty of popular examples on the SpringPad blog to help you get started.

There’s a lot more functionality in SpringPad not covered in this review, but I will add more updates as it becomes more familiar and a bigger database is built up.  Has anyone else tried SpringPad yet?  If so, what were your experiences or do you have any cool tips to share?


Sally Church

Sally Church PhD is a scientist interested in improving cancer outcomes through research and more targeted, less toxic drugs.

She runs a small boutique consulting firm based in Miami, FL that provides strategic advice to Pharma and Biotech companies in strategic analyses, thought leader market research and business intelligence.

You can find out more about her insights into cancer R&D on her blog at

Springpad is great, but it desperately needs offline desktop / HTML5 support, and a way of exporting your data in an open format. I’m worried about piling lots of stuff into it, and then it disappearing.

Oooh! You know I’m ever on the look out for better ways to be organised, Sally. Another to try because one day I WILL be organised again (though have to admit that I’ve caved in and got myself a wonderfully old-fashioned T-Card system!

Keir, I totally agree about the need for a desktop app and actually asked if they have one, sadly not.

The need for exporting the data is on my wish list too. One of the challenges of free tools is that they may not always be available if someone buys them, as I discovered on receiving an email from another tool saying the service would no longer be available after Salesforce bought them. Sigh.

*wonders what a T-card system is*

Seriously Babs, anything that keeps us organised is to be applauded! I still use my Moleskines for daily to-dos and reminders as well as notes. They go back a few years now and will never be obsolete :)

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