LiquidText Wants to Be the Evernote of Reading Digital Documents

Taking notes in documents has not changed that much beyond marking up pages with a highlighter—even in digital form. Now, New York-based LiquidText says its app is a more malleable replacement for pen and paper, and for other software options on the market.

Launched this month for the iPad, after a year of beta testing, LiquidText’s creator says the app does more than let folks put comments in the margins of digital documents. “We want to be the Evernote of reading,” says Craig Tashman, the startup’s CEO and founder.

The idea behind LiquidText was the subject of his doctoral thesis in computer science at Georgia Tech on improving the reading process for professionals and researchers. He says the objective with the app was to create something that functions more like putty than the rigid structure of paper and most digital documents. Tashman founded the company in 2012 as he was graduating.

Lawyers, college students, and senior executives—people who need to pore over lengthy documents—are prime examples of who might use LiquidText, he says. The app imports and converts various types of documents, such as Web pages, PowerPoint, and Word files, into a PDF, which is the format the software natively works with.

There are lots of existing ways to take notes within digital documents. Microsoft Word, for instance, lets users highlight sections and add comments, frequently to make edits. A variety of apps and services such as Quicklyst are available for outline-style note taking on tablets. The Adobe Reader app has features to highlight sections and add sticky-note comments in PDF files. LiquidText is trying to bring more relevance to those marked-up sections.

CEO Craig Tashman

CEO Craig Tashman

“The problem with highlights is they help you find things later, but they don’t really do anything to help you keep an eye on what’s important as you read,” Tashman says.

LiquidText’s annotations can be organized, grouped, and presented in ways to make it clear what the relationship is between different sections of a document. With a pinch of one’s fingers on the tablet screen, parts of that document can be squeezed together like an accordion, to better show what connects the sections. When those sections get grouped together, the app retains links to the original references to avoid confusion about where the information was sourced from.

Later this year, Tashman says, LiquidText plans to release a feature that will let users make connections across different documents. “The million-dollar functionality is when you can open half a dozen documents at once, and pull out things from all of them fluidly,” he says.

The plan is to bring this software to other types of digital documents, Tashman says, such as e-mail and comparison shopping for products. LiquidText is also working on bringing the app to other platforms, including Android devices and desktop computers.

So far the startup has raised about $250,000 through angel investors, and is pursuing another funding round, he says.

This is Tashman’s first experience as an entrepreneur, but not his first time dabbling in innovation. After high school, he patented and sold a way to create a type of 3D display. He also worked at IBM Research through his undergrad years.

The LiquidText app is currently free, though it will go freemium in the future. In late 2016, a premium licensed enterprise version is expected to debut, and it will let large institutions distribute content through LiquidText. “We need this software to be everywhere,” Tashman says. “Google wants to organize the world of information; we want to be the place people go to comprehend the world of information.”

Getting there, though, will mean expanding the current team of three. “We want to bring on a bunch of engineers,” he says. “Right now there’s just two.” LiquidText also wants to hire staff to work on user experience.

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