I've mentioned it a few times in comments on HN and you've provided a ton of valuable feedback.
Basically, it's like an IDE but for books and web content.
You put all your documents in it, tag them, and you can read them directly within Polar. You can annotate them, add comments, create flashcards, create highlights, etc.
The flashcards sync to Anki and you can view all your annotations on the sidebar.
I wanted it to be similar to an IDE where you have everything at your fingertips.
I also wanted to add support for "incremental reading" where you can suspend and resume a document where you left off before:
... and it keeps track of your reading progress.
It's also very hackable. It's based on Electron and React so if you're a developer you can extend it easily enough.
I'm also going to write a plugin API so that people can add 3rd party extensions.
Anyway. Hope you guys like it.
Love the enthusiasm!
> Do you have any plans / strategy / tips for handling video?
Yes. Working on it now.
The next revision will actually handle capturing video and we just show an embedded player now. So at LEAST you can use Polar to keep track of the videos, tag them, etc.
I'd like to make a full player including annotations too so you can keep track of the pointer in the video so you can jump to the time where the annotation/comment was kept.
With videos becoming 1 hour for a lecture having them in something like Polar is critical.
Generally, though, I'm watching talks on iOS devices... bouncing between devices makes everything more complicated.
Right now if I want to play through a game with a walkthrough (usually HTML or text only), I load it into my tablet and leave it in a browser window. This is an inefficient way of doing things, because the page generally sits there for about a month as I'm slowly progressing through the game, and very often the browser will forget its place if the tab loses focus or if the tablet goes to sleep.
This will also probably be much better for going through Programming Books than my normal e-reader app.
I feel like there was a missed UI opportunity with the pagemarks and annotations: When you add your page marks, the percentage bar at the top increments, but there is no easy way to jump to where you were last reading. Likewise, if you add multiple pagemarks, if e.g. you've read multiple sections, there is no way to know this from the progress bar.
Instead of highlighting the progress bar at the top, I would just highlight the scrollbar on the right. This would (1) free up space at the top, (2) make it trivial to jump to where I was reading last, because I would just click on that spot on the scroll bar, (3) make it obvious if I have marked multiple page marks, and (4) open that pattern up for other uses, such as marking on the scroll bar where I have made annotations (which are presumably very important passages).
I am thinking of the scrollbar in an IDE. For instance, in VS Code, I can see all the lines with errors etc directly on the scroll bar, and I can click on those marks to instantly jump to that section.
oh.. I think we could solve that by migrating to another visualization. I'll have to mock it up.
I had thought of this but of course Polar is very MVPish right now.. but getting to the point of being a real product her soon.
The problem with highlighting on the right is that it's hard to do multiple columns but maybe I could have a full page visualization on the right.
We created a web based multiuser web annotation and discussion system, for inline annotations around ‘99-00, then the dotcom bubble burst and we had to shut down. I have been looking for something along those lines since then. There have been several attempts by others but it seems that the alternatives (PDF, screenshots, email etc) are hard to displace.
Polar is a single instance app. You can't open multiple docs at once. It will just re-focus the window you already have open.
I think I might be able to re-implement by checking only the files that are open.
That said. I'm planing on implementing cloud support natively in Polar. Offline-first and always but we will have cloud sync.
Keep up the good work!
Regardless of whether it ends up being something I start using, I'm very glad to see people working in this direction. Thanks a ton for sharing.
One question - since this is Electron, it's based off Chrome's engine, right? Does that mean when you talk about adding 3rd party extensions you're including Chrome extensions in that? Having a hackable browser that I can directly mess with gets rid of the need for me to have a lot of extensions -- but there are a still a few (uMatrix, uBlock Origin) that would be a huge benefit. Even when I'm just downloading a document for offline access, I still don't really want to have a bunch of trackers in the stuff I access.
Electron doesn't support Chrome extensions.
I agree that extensions would be awesome but Electron won't ever get extensions while it's based on libchromiumcontent.
NW.js (an Electron alternative) does support extensions though and if Electron drags its feet I might consider porting Polar to NW.js. That might be a herculean effort though.
I've got some ~150 tabs I'm holding onto just because I'm not ready to archive them into bookmarks yet, just waiting to be moved into this thing. If this thing works as well as I'm imagining, this is really going to fix my shit (and probably save me tons of ram)
Edit: A couple issues I've noticed from a few minutes of usage however, at least from my interest of using it as an archive: there doesn't appear to be a proper way to retrieve the original url of a document (important for sharing, especially to non-polar users), and its not clear if the polar archival format stores it in the first place. And ofc, a convenient way to find the polar archive, for sharing to polar users
There also doesn't appear to be a proper way to edit & save a polar archive (important for archiving; cleaning up). You can't edit properly pre-fetching the webpage, because of the webview/js trick you're doing, and you can edit but not save when viewing the archive post-fetch. It would also be a useful bandaid until readability or something is attached properly.
Since these all appear to be absent from roadmap, I'm wondering if the project has (my) interest as a shareable archival system, or is it intended primarily for personal usage? In terms of my own interest, I'd be looking to replace bookmarks & tabs with this: the offline archive has both value for speed/convenience, but also the defense against site-decay; but bookmarks/tabs also operate as my reference for sharing, and the site would be preferred, with polar second, and webarchive last.
With the current (roadmap-planned) setup, I'd need to maintain both systems: bookmarks for (slowly) decaying, shareable archiving, and polar for personal, long-term archiving/reading. And probably a third system for proper, shareable, long-term archiving (ie webarchive).
Thanks for the hard work!
We're going to ship a chrome extension to sync with Polar and I'd like to have 1 click button for Feedly, Hacker News, Reddit, etc.
Some of these features I would have to charge for though as there aren't OSS alternatives.
There are some surprisingly powerful OCR libraries you could run locally, Tesseract.js not the least of them.
Cheers, and awesome project!
I'd like annotations to be the way forward for the web.
Just as a thought experiment, this comment I'm making.
Where does it go to live permanently? Why is all this typing I'm doing ephemeral on my computer?
Why can I make comments all over the web and it's very likely I have no way of tracking the fact that I made the comment longer term (even if I spend 30 minutes typing some instructions or help for example).
No regular way of hearing responses to it?
No solid way of copying it or morphing it for another output other then laboriously (possibly having to google my own comment) finding it on the original site (which was it?) etc.
Why can't I search my own comments over time?
==Hint: This is not a plea for yet another flakey web service==
It's a weird world when you consider how much you type into these boxes all to evaporate for your own use.
As part of building a different world what relationship does Polar have with https://web.hypothes.is/blog/annotation-is-now-a-web-standar...
Why or why not?
We will double down and investigate web standards once Polar is a bit more solid. Right now it's just extra work when I haven't validated that Polar is going to be useful to 100s of thousands of people.
Another thing I'd like to see is a mobile app, on iOS and Android.
We're going to re-write the viewer backend at some point and once that's done I think ePub will be straight forward.
Couple thoughts on some exploring:
- Webpage capture: seems that only links with `http` in front work, would be great to get resolving working nicer (say news.ycominator.com should work). Can't see this being a large issue as mostly I would copy paste from my browser, which keeps the http
- The "inspect element" menu in the editor seems a bit unnecessary, as I don't really think of PDFs as HTML. I guess this may be nice for some folks who are familiar with HTML but for me its a bit confusing.
- I managed to crash a page by highlighting a section and using the page down buttons(unsure exactly what caused this)
- I had some performance issues when resizing the page on a longer pdf (140ish pages), crashed and then wouldn't reopen until I restarted the application
As I said a bit rough around the edges still, but as you hopefully get more use these bugs/inconveniences will get ironed out. Excited to see this develop and great work!
We will ship a chrome extension so you can do one page sync between Polar and your browser.
We're going to use Firebase for the auth and sending of this data between instances.
> - The "inspect element" menu in the editor seems a bit unnecessary, as I don't really think of PDFs as HTML. I guess this may be nice for some folks who are familiar with HTML but for me its a bit confusing.
I will probably remove it by default and add a 'developer' mode which turns these on.
> - I had some performance issues when resizing the page on a longer pdf (140ish pages), crashed and then wouldn't reopen until I restarted the application
That's weird. It's usually pretty solid for me.
Meanwhile, I'd find helpful a shortcut for the 'Capture' command – ideally it would also be pre-populated with the clipboard, like Pocket does on mobile – when detecting a url in the clipboard.
What's the rationale for not using compression in PHZ files? Is there any reason for me not to update all my PHZ files to using compression?
Replicated twice running 64-bit on a windows machine.
Once the bugs are ironed out this could be really useful, good luck!
Feel free to jump on our Discord if you have any comments:
I see 'added' and 'last updated' columns on content - do you keep historical versions or update in place? If you only update in place, then the content can break or change for any number of reasons. Even if it's only configurable, I'd rather use the extra space (text is tiny anyways) to store the history (with an infrequent update schedule).
Idea: consider linking it up with fx. Zotero, so you don't need to maintain two document repositories.
Edit: Similarly, I find lack of any epub support kind of weird.
They are apparently broken due to a bug in Ubuntu's snap but I don't have a work around.
Could you try to install canberra-gtk-module and let me know if the problem goes away?
EDIT: The deb works perfectly indeed, thanks!
Website doesn't say.
Basically, they're apps that don't need to be installed to a single system. They can execute from a dropbox directory, usb drive, etc.
I think we could publish one if this is frequently requested.