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Software and tools
1. ThinkFree Office
is a powerful suite of productivity apps that includes a robust word
processor, spreadsheet and presentation tool. The suite has subtle
touches such as an inline spell-checker, and you can work offline if
the Internet goes down. There's also support for 11 languages and
helpful PDF export capability. Most importantly, you can share
documents with other users and work on files collaboratively. The suite
is free if you can live with 1GB of storage, or upgrade for a nominal
fee to a premium account.
is a highly useful web portal for being productive on the go. More than
just a word processor and task manager, Zoho has a multitude of small
web apps for taking notes, storing contact information and project
management. There's even a web conferencing tool. APIs are available
for the web services in Zoho's word processor and spreadsheet, too.
There's also a slideshow creator so that you can make calls from
another website – for example, an accounting site could read tables
from a Zoho spreadsheet. The site is one of the first to support VB
macros and the document mark-up language LaTeX.
3. It's time to ditch Microsoft Excel. EditGrid
is powerful enough for basic number crunching without the extensive
pivot table and worksheet functions. Its main strength, unsurprisingly,
calls and a data exchange between spreadsheets and even between the
spreadsheets hosted by other users. There's a plugin that reads Excel
data, templates, mash-up features for integrating data from websites
like Yahoo! Finance and plenty of text formatting options. Registration
is quick and there are three pricing plans: one free account, a premium
account for just a few dollars per month and a multi-user company plan.
Unfortunately, it does not work in Internet Explorer 6.
Web project management has taken a beating these last few years,
especially since tools like www.basecamphq.com stress simplicity over
actual features. Clarizen is
easy to use and runs fast on a 3Mbps connection on a 64-bit 3GHz Vista
PC, but it also has deeper features. For example, you can update your
task list by sending an email to the project inbox. (You can also
request a daily task list by sending an email.)
5. The original idea for SlideShare
came when co-founder Jonathan Boutelle was at a conference and saw how
attendees were easily sharing large videos and photo collections
online, but had to physically pass around USB keys to distribute sales
presentations. He created SlideShare as a way to host and store
PowerPoint files. It has became incredibly popular.
6. It may not have the flare and design of Microsoft Visio, but the online flow-charting program known as Gliffy
certainly has an expansive set of features. There are icons for
networking, office design and organisation charts to help you put some
order around any idea. Line connectors automatically snap into place,
or avoid certain shapes when you move them around the screen – a
powerful programming trick, especially since the site does not use any
plug-ins or require you to download any software.
7. Part online presence for slideshows and part client-side tool that helps you create presentations and post them online, sliderocket.com
has one major benefit: it's lightning fast. In tests with several
different PCs at different connection speeds (including one at a public
hotspot), we found that we could create a detailed sales presentation
with several high-res graphics in no time The site uses Adobe Flex and
the AIR client. 'Presentation analytics' (now there's a buzzword) tells
you who saw your presentation and even how long they looked at each of
is not quite a word processor, although it looks like one at first.
Instead, it's actually a content creation tool that you could use to
publish your own technical papers, schoolwork, or even a novel online.
It's also one of the only document management tools we have found that
is free and publicly available (Scribd also offers a closed service).
Storage and files
9. Our favourite online storage portal, box.net
has the most fascinating social networking features. Other users can
tag and comment on your files (if you give them permission). You can
use APIs to link the storage (a basic account is free, premium services
cost about £4-£10 per month) to popular web services like www.zoho.com and www.picnik.com.
If you do go with the premium account, you get 5 or 15GBs and the
ability to see version history on files. Alas, there does not appear to
be a desktop folder as with Dropbox.
10. It's easier to understand Pando
by what it's not: you can't sync files, store them online or make
back-ups. Instead, it's the best site we' found for sending large fi
les by email. Instead of using attachments, you just send your
recipient a Pando link. Max file size is 1GB, and there's a video
sharing version for consumers and corporate users – all free.
11. Although it's not what we really want (a full Microsoft Word client on the web), Workspace
is as close as Microsoft is willing to get at this point. It's a 'store
and share' site that is worth your time because you can archive
thousands of Word docs for free and make them fully searchable online –
for you or for any user you give permission to access the archive.
12. Instead of just storing your files online or syncing them between computers, MozyHome
is both a web portal to view your archived files and a client-side
back-up app. Its main feature is the ability to monitor important
folders and archive them to the web so that you can restore them at any
time, regardless of whether you are even using the same computer.
MozyHome is the free version that comes with 2GB of online storage,
while Mozy Unlimited costs $5 per month and Mozy Pro is a network
back-up utility with several pricing plans.
14. It might be easy to dismiss EyeOS
as an attention grabbing alternative OS that runs in a browser. After
all, it could be argued Firefox is a kind of operating system that runs
associations and one-click access to your favourite apps. The OS
includes 60 popular apps, including word processing and audio players –
you can get more at www.eyeos-apps.org. Still in its infant state, EyeOS reveals a tantalising glimpse of what Windows could look like if it ran in a browser.
15. The concept of a 'social database' might seem like a contradiction – but Blist
pulls it off. You can enter vast quantities of data – the entire
fantasy football roster for all your friends, for example – and then
share the data between Blist users. Templates are geared for those who
want to weed out duplicate data.
16. The holy
grail of file syncing is the ability to drop files into a folder and
have that same folder show up on every other computer you own and work
exactly like a network drive – except that it's online. Dropbox
(still in beta) solves this issue. Just add a folder to your desktop
and copy files. You can also share complete folders so that anyone with
access to the folder sees and is able to use the shared, synced files.
is a unique online back-up utility that sits in your system tray and
watches important folders, such as those containing 'dev' files or Word
documents, automatically archiving them to a secure website as you
work. There is no limit to the storage space available, although the
program will only upload a couple of gigabytes per day. Strangely,
after install, the clientside app reboots Windows Explorer.
18. There are no extra frills offered by dafont.com
– the main draw is that the site houses over 7,000 fonts, all freely
available to download for Mac or Windows. Linux users will have to
convert the fonts. You can grab every single font in one eMule or
BitTorrent file; just go to www.dafont.com/faq.php#howmany and look for
the 'zip' file links.
19. Part Flickr replacement and part entry-level photo editor, Photoshop Express
proves that Adobe is on a clear path toward online apps. It's fairly
basic: you can apply a handful of filters for lighting and exposure,
rotate and re-size images, embed photos into a web page and share your
shots with other users – even those on Flickr. The site shows huge
potential: with 2GB of free storage, imagine being able to apply
complex editing tasks to a series of photos where 'the cloud' does all
the processing for you.
20. There's a plethora of general purpose how-to sites on the web, including the fantastic www.wonderhowto.com, but Luxa is
for the technical-minded Photoshop user. You may already know how to
perform a Gaussian blur, but Luxa teaches you how to make neon glow
effects, complex layering, text design within Photoshop and many other
21. Don't avoid Bluestring
just because it's owned by AOL: the site is an example of how the web
can be a powerful ally in digital media collection. You can upload
music, photos, and videos. The handy status bar lets you do a massive
bulk upload and switch to a different tab, then check back to see how
much data has been uploaded.
22. Ecommerce sites have changed dramatically over the years. Imagekind
is a unique site that lets you preview museum art and photos on various
picture frames and even different canvas materials before making the
purchase. Prints generally cost about £15 each. You can also sell your
23. Web users are always in a hurry, which is what makes Flauntr
so attractive. You can click one option to see multiple views of how a
filter will change your photo. Using the 'PicasR' filter, you can pick
a work of art from Picasso and apply that technique to your image. The
site isn't exceptionally fast, but the drag-and-drop interface and
one-click effects are worth exploration.
24. If registering with Simplebucket
could be easier, we'd be surprised. To upload photos (2MB max per
image), you don't even need an account. You just type in your email,
select photos and upload. You can then view those photos associated
with your email account by clicking on a secure link the site sends
you. Simplebucket is free, although you can buy more 'upload credits'
for a few dollars – you get five free per day. If you want a password,
you can always upload a photo and then click 'Settings' to create an
actually has about 7,000 fonts to pick from, each with a useful
preview. You can also perform a 'custom preview' to see how the font
looks with the text you intend using. There's also a download option to
buy 7,000 fonts all at once, which costs about a tenner.
is a vast collection of icons, images, wallpapers and random clipart,
which can help you add some flair to a web app or an interface. You can
also just download desktop wallpapers — it's an amazingly good
collection and all the artwork is free to use.
27. Similar to Photoshop Express, Picnik
goes much further with an extensive array of photo-editing effects,
histograms, fine pixel alterations and colour correction. You can
upload photos from your PC, a webcam and any website.
Research and e-learning
28. Not all sites have to use a flashy interface. Martindale's
reference desk is essentially a collection of links to really useful
information. There's a huge wealth of reference material on disparate
topics such as banjo lessons, world clocks, time and expense
calculators, eye tests for computer users, a science database, currency
convertors and just about anything you can think of. As the web moves
closer to a 'single use' model where one site performs only a simple
function, Martindale's throws the book at you – virtually.
29. Ever wonder how to embed a picture to a cell in Microsoft Excel? At eHow,
you can find the answer in just a few clicks. They have categories for
electronics, careers, health and many others. The site is almost all
text, so you can find the answers you need quickly.
is a hosted service for your web API – it allows you to create links
between, say, Yahoo! maps and Flickr photos, or plot the location of
public parks with disc golf data you pull from a volunteer site. It
supports usage tracking, asset management, encryption – everything you
need to link data form one host to another.
31. Amazon uses the term 'artificial artificial intelligence' (sic) to define what the Mechanical Turk
site is all about. It's actually a site where you can sign up to
perform very repetitive tasks, such as typing text transcripts for
videos. You pay just a few cents per completed Human Intelligence Task.
These are generally things that a computer is not very good at. It's a
very illuminating example of where AI is faltering.
32. Agreeing on basic business principals often requires written contracts and lawyers. You can skip that chaos by using Mumboe,
a site that hosts online applications for business agreements. The free
account is quite limited: you can only host up to 10 agreements and
only three users can apply. Pricing for premium accounts runs to about
£12 to £24 per month for unlimited users, secure and searchable
contracts and version control. Registration is a little clunky: you
have to agree to the terms twice and the confirmation email took a
while to send.
33. Not quite a web aggregator, yet more than a simple search engine, PageOnce
lets you add secure sites to one page – you can see your bank balance,
airline ticket info, Netflix rentals and a host of other data.
Registration was pretty easy: no codes to type in, just a confirmation
link sent through email.
34. The problem with most video chat software is that everyone you chat with needs to have downloaded the client. TokBox works
online for two-way chats and multi-point video conferences with no
software to download, and the registration is Web 2.0-streamlined to
get you talking straightaway.
35. Other online
conversion sites show you a laundry list of other options besides
currency, for example weight, measurement and even language. Xe focuses entirely on currency, which means that it's easier to navigate and conversion options are all on the main screen.
36. While many online flight search sites are US-only, Skyscanner
lets you choose any country as your origin, supports many different
languages and presents an uncluttered, mostly ad-free interface for
finding the lowest rates on international flights.
37. A web whiteboarding tool, Twiddla
lets you visit any site and then host a meeting online where you can
chat about the site, host an audio chat and mark it up with shapes and
notes to participants. It's very useful for web developers and
designers who want to visit a site in production to talk about the look
and feel of it. It's also just a good meet-up site for mobile users who
need to exchange ideas, and best of all, it's free.
38. Mobile users can watch TV any time they want with Joost
- and the service has recently switched to an online viewer instead of
requiring that you download a client. With 28,000 shows online, Joost
has a leg up on other more 'premium' sites such as Hulu, although don't expect a high bit-rate or HD quality for any of the online streams.
is unique. It lets you arrange a phone conference by calling a Vello
number that re-distributes the conference call number to anyone that
you want. There's no registrationor sign-up for attendees, and the site
even offers a seven-day free trial to check it out.
Instant messaging aggregators are handy because they put all of your
accounts into one page so you can chat with your associates and friends
without installing any software. Orgoo
is helpful if you tend to visit Internet cafes or use a borrowed laptop
from work, or just want one-click access to IM. Still in private beta,
it also offers a new video chat service that uses your webcam and is
now open for unregistered use.
41. Like an open-source version of Microsoft Exchange, Zimbra
is a mail client for business use where you host all of the mail online
for every user. You can share all of your personal folders, assign
specific tasks to certain people, instant message, integrate IMAP and
POP mail as well as use an iPhone client to access the mail repository,
and arrange meetings with your team.
42. Note-taking apps are usually small utilities that you download and use on your desktop. Evernote
is a webbased version that collects all of your fragmented data into
one searchable portal. You can scan documents, send an email to your
account and upload photos, videos or just about anything you can think
of to your own secure site. Then, when you need to find that one
website or phone number, or that hilarious photo from the last business
outing, you can fi d it on the free notes database online.
is a business card manager for the web. Adding a contact is very quick:
you type the name, then add the phone numbers and address for that
person. You can also import data from Outlook or using a the vCard file
format and you can export your contacts database for use in other
programs as a vCard or CSV file.
44. It's about time someone created an aggregator for video content. OVGuide
doesn't actually host any videos, but it helps you find where they are
located on the web. It's agnostic about the legalities of full-length
feature films, merely pointing you to known locations.
45. Weeding out the undesirables and trolls on Internet forums is a Herculean task. Daniweb
is a different kind of IRC chat: only IT professionals can join and the
chats tend to be highly technical rather than just mindless chatter.
46. Google searches are a million miles wide and a centimetre thick. Stumpedia
only returns the results that other users think are valuable. We
searched for virtualisation on both search engines. On Google, we saw
millions of links, most of them poorly worded definitions and myopic
marketing sites. On Stumpedia there are just three links, including a
site entry that does the server technology justice – it's worth a
47. The brilliant thing about trip planning site TripIt
is that it knows where you are. If you plan a business trip to London,
you can load all of your contacts from email clients and then track who
will be in the area at the same time as you.
48. Intense – that's the initial reaction we had when using TunesBag
(still in private beta – you have to request an invitation). Legal
because the site is hosted in Austria, you can upload all of your music
files to the site and then listen to the songs from any computer – or
share the music with anyone you want. Use it while it's still alive!
49. If you use an RSS reader then it's worth checking out Toluu.
The site is an 'aggregator of the aggregators'; you can import multiple
RSS feeds from various sources and read them all in one spot before
sharing the feeds with other users. Sharing is key: it means that you
see what people who have subscribed to the same feeds as you are
is a catch-all for journaling to yourself (reminders, thoughts for the
day), finding travel deals, social networking with other users and
sharing photos. We love the area where you can play games like extreme
sledding and hyper pong against other SoSauce members. [via tech radar]
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