Web-based applications, or web apps for short, are continually popping up all over the internet as they promise us greater productivity, connectivity, and even entertainment. Such applications have only become feasible with the advent of constantly online high-speed connections like DSL and cable. In addition such applications become even more attractive now that you are able to access them from many cell phones and other mobile devices. Here are 5 such free applications I’m not sure how I would live without:
Gmail is Google’s web-based email service. I’ve been using Gmail for the past two and a half years. It quickly replaced all other forms of email for me, and now all of my many email accounts (currently about 7) end up in Gmail. I originally thought that I would not like reading all of my mail through the web interface of Gmail and that I would instead download all my mail using a local program (such as Thunderbird, Outlook, etc.) since that is what I was used to. However, Gmail’s ability to make all of my email quickly and easily accessible from any computer with an internet connection won me over. I love being able to do a full-text search on all 12,000 (yes twelve thousand) emails I have stored in Gmail to quickly find what I want. And even with that many emails stored I am only using 7% of the 6.6 gigabytes I’ve been alloted. Wow.
2. Google Reader
If you’ve read my post on RSS then you’ll know I’m a big fan of Google Reader. Google reader serves as an aggregator for the news feeds published by many web sites. As those sites update their content Google Reader receives the content and makes it available to you without having to surf to the original web site. You can put your feeds into folders so if you only want to read tech news, blogs, or any other particular category you can easily sort through all of the posts. You can also view your reading trends and share items with other friends who use Google Reader. In addition, there’s an offline mode so you can read your news even when you don’t have an internet connection.
3.Remember the Milk
I’ll admit it, I’ve never been good at keeping to-do lists. I don’t remember to write things down or check them off. Thankfully Remember the Milk (aka RTM) has come to my rescue. RTM makes to-do lists fun for the geek in me. Their website is extremely easy to use and they have plug-ins and services for many different platforms and applications including Gmail, Google Calendar and iGoogle. By having RTM show up right beside my Gmail inbox I can remind myself to keep it up to date and do what’s on it. My wife and I both use RTM and we can share tasks like chores so that we’re both kept up to date on what needs to be done around the house. I could go on and on about how great RTM is but I’ll save that for another post. Of course you could always just sign up for a free account and try it yourself!
If it weren’t for Remember the Milk I probably never would have given Jott a try. Jott is a free online “speech to text” application that you use with your cell phone. There’s a toll free number you call in on and from there you can use voice prompts and natural speech to do things like send emails and text messages, or even update your RTM to-do list or Google Calendar. Recently Jott has started to add links with sites like Amazon, Twitter, and even WordPress to enable users to do all sorts of things by just using their voice. I particularly like using Jott with my cell phone’s hands-free headset or speakerphone to send messages and set up to-do items at times I otherwise couldn’t, like when I’m driving down the road. Safety first!
5. Google Calendar
At the risk of this post turning into a Google love-fest my fifth indispensable web-app is Google Calendar. Google Calendar (or Gcal for short) helps me to keep track of the many different things I’ve got going on as a student leader, husband, employee, and human being with a social life. It puts many different calendars within easy reach and allows me to only see the ones I need at any given moment. It also has some rudimentary collaboration and free/busy features that help others figure out what is going on in my life as well. I admit I don’t use Gcal to its full ability but it is still one of the apps I couldn’t live without.
What web-apps do you find indispensable, if any? Are there some you wish you could love but just can’t seem to get into? Let’s hear about it in the comments.