We've all been there. You started reading something on the Web, saw something interesting in the article, searched for it, wound up somewhere else, and after about 12 hops you've forgotten exactly what it was you were looking for. If only there were some way to select that topic midstream and have the information automagically appear for you, without disrupting your workflow or sending you traipsing off into the wilds of the Web.
Juice is ridiculously easy - and addictive - to use. Simply highlight the text into which you want to delve - or grab a link - and drag it ever so slightly. That's the only cue Juice needs to go to work. And suddenly your sidebar is filled with research results from Google, Wikipedia, YouTube, Google Blogsearch, and more.
Juice also adds the ability to capture images and video to a personal library - similar to some of the functionality found in Twine - enabling users to access those assets regardless of what they're doing in the main browser window.
How does Juice accomplish this? The Linkool team describes Juice as an "intelligent discovery engine," highlighting:
This engine, comprised of a natural language processing system and a dictionary management system, helps to evolve the semantic web by connecting keywords with the most relevant, rich content from third-party web services.
Of course, the mention of the "Semantic Web" caught our attention. It's no secret that we here at ReadWriteWeb are fans of the Semantic Web, but unfortunately, we often find the concept reduced to a buzzword that - once implemented in a product - has a hard time living up to the hype.
Juice seems to avoid some of the more traditional stumbling blocks of Semantic apps by taking a very top-down approach focused on a distinct data set. Confining the activity to user-selected terms, Juice manages to sidestep issues that have plagued apps which attempt to consume and use much larger sets of information. Smaller chunks of data allow Juice to return more compelling results.
Room for Improvement
But for all its ingenuity and ease-of-use, Juice isn't without its shortcomings.
As mentioned, it's currently only available on Firefox 3, meaning users of other popular browsers will have to continue their current searching rigamarole or convert to Firefox. That, and it's part and parcel of the browser on which you install it. There doesn't seem to be any synching with a Web account to allow you to use your data on different machines.
When it comes to where you search for information, there doesn't seem to be any way of customizing the resources that Juice chooses to search. So if you prefer IceRocket or Ask to Google Blogsearch, you're out of luck.
If you're into customizing your look and feel, Juice doesn't appear to have any options there, either. The information pane always appears on the right of the browser. I couldn't find any way to move it to the bottom, where I would prefer to have it.
Based on what Juice delivers, none of those are showstoppers, especially given that Juice is currently in beta. Those shortcomings aren't going to prevent many users from taking it for a spin and likely integrating it into their browsing experience.
The simplicity of use is definitely there. As is the compelling depth of research that occurs with a simple click-and-drag. Combine that functionality with Juice's ability to let users work and research without disrupting their workflow, and Juice appears to be a worthwhile addition for any Firefox 3 user.