101 Fantastic Freebies

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Blogs and News Reading

Personal Web

Assemble your customized Web home page easily with Pageflakes.
Assemble your customized Web home page easily with Pageflakes.
Winner: Pageflakes
Home pages are passé -- what you really want is a Webtop, a personal Web space you can customize with news feeds, chat tools, weather info, and plenty more. With Pageflakes you build your custom Webtop from a collection of components, including RSS feeds and news, plus direct feeds from Flickr, YouTube, and similar sites. You also get tools such as an address book, notepad, and clock, and you can even have a widget that lets you read your Web-based e-mail messages. And in the downtimes, you can try a game of poker or a Sudoku puzzle.

Netvibes
With dozens of feeds, news sources, and widgets to choose from, you'll find it easy to build the exact Web home you want.

Protopage
This site is more for play than work, with plenty of cartoons, podcasts, video feeds, and widgets. But if you must get something done, it has productivity tools as well.

Google Personalized Home
For fans of minimalism, this clean-looking Webtop is mainly all text, but it has an array of feeds and tools.

Windows Live
Though Microsoft's Webtop is buttoned-down and corporate-looking, it offers lots of customizable content, plus access to your Windows Live Mail or Hotmail account.

Online RSS Reader

RSS reader Bloglines is Web-based, but it acts like a peppy software program on your PC.
RSS reader Bloglines is Web-based, but it acts like a peppy software program on your PC.
Winner: Bloglines
The Web-based Bloglines loads quickly, sports a sophisticated interface, and delivers such snappy responses that you'd almost think you were using downloadable software. Bloglines makes subscribing to and reading feeds easy, as well. We're particularly fond of the Clippings feature, which allows you to add any blog or Web page text to a special Clippings tab; that way, you can keep all of your important posts in a single location for easy retrieval. We also like Clip Blogs, which are clips from blogs that you can keep private or share with others.

NewsGator Online
NewsGator Online comes a close second to Bloglines. We particularly like the way this offering delivers feeds in a clear, clutter-free display.

Google Reader
Google excels at many things, but simple Web-based software interfaces is not necessarily one of them. Though this site does the job, nontechies might be confused by the arcane interface.

Software RSS Reader

Sage complements Firefox, marrying an RSS reader to the browser; this Firefox extension is both easy to use and great at managing feeds.
Sage complements Firefox, marrying an RSS reader to the browser; this Firefox extension is both easy to use and great at managing feeds.
Winner: Sage
What's the best way to integrate RSS news feeds and the Web? Don't use a separate RSS reader. That's the secret behind Sage, which integrates directly into Firefox (but not Internet Explorer). Using it is simple: Click the Sage icon in your toolbar; Sage will then drop down on the left. Whenever you visit a page that has an RSS feed, you click the Discover Feeds button to add the feed. The rest of the Firefox window then becomes your reader. Sage lets you organize your folders, search through feeds, and import and export feeds lists.

Active Web Reader
If you'd prefer an Internet Explorer plug-in, this simple-to-use, downloadable reader is a fine choice. Active Web Reader lets you organize feeds by category, import and export groups of feeds, and search feeds.

Tristana RSS Reader
Fans of Microsoft Outlook will like this reader: It mimics the overall Outlook interface, with folders on the left and a reading pane on the right that shows RSS topics. The program can download podcasts, too.

MCE RSS Reader
Here's an RSS reader with a difference: It downloads RSS feeds and then displays them on your Media Center PC. Why would anyone want such a thing? Some RSS feeds now include videocasts (sometimes called vodcasts), but Windows Media Center unfortunately has a problem handling certain video formats; this tool, though, can deal with them all.

Blogging Site

Setting up a blog and adding posts is simple on Blogger.
Setting up a blog and adding posts is simple on Blogger.
Winner: Google Blogger
Blogger is home to tens of thousands of blogs, and with good reason. Because it's template driven, getting started is simple; posting is also a snap. But you have plenty of powerful tools here, as well, such as the ability to make RSS feeds yourself, and the ability to create posts merely by sending an e-mail message containing the text.

PC World readers also love Blogger, with one reader noting the service's "easy-to-use features [and] nice themes."

WordPress
Another worthy blogging competitor is WordPress.com, a site that's brought to you by many of the same people who develop the open-source blogging software available at WordPress.org.

LiveJournal
This blogging site is noteworthy for letting you create private "journals" that you can share with family and friends, and it includes easy-to-use community features for putting you in touch with other people who share your interests.

Microsoft Windows Live Spaces
Though this offering isn't the most sophisticated of blogging sites, both setting up your blog and posting entries are simple -- plus, a big community is there, just waiting to hear from you.

AOL People Connection
AOL keeps blogging easy. The sheer size of its massive community, however, is what makes visiting worthwhile: If you have an interest, you can be sure lot of others will share it.

Yahoo 360
Here is the blogging site to watch. Yahoo 360 was in beta as we went to press; but we liked what we saw, in particular the simplicity of starting your page and posting.

At a Glance
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