One-Click Holidays: Free Web Apps Make It Easy

It's That Time of Year again, and even if you don't celebrate The Holidays, chances are you have other people in your life who do. There's so much to get done as the end of year approaches, it can be hard to keep track of it all. And while paper might work for your own holiday wish list, these free Web apps can help organize the rest.

Thanksgiving

Planning a big dinner? If you're just having a couple of people over there won't be much problem tracking who's coming and who's not. But if you're having a big group over, electronic invitations can be quite handy.

Unless you and your guests are all under 25, odds are everyone isn't on Facebook, in which case you'll need an online invitation service. Having heard good things about Socializr , I used it to send out invitations for an open house last autumn, and it worked great. You can design your own electronic invitation and decide whether or not invitees can see the guest list or invite more people. And people who just want to send a simple response don't need to sign up for the site.

If you're cooking the big meal (or just bringing over multiple dishes to your host) and don't plan to make the same old favorites, some recipe-tracking help is in order. In my case, I've got a shelf of cookbooks, a stack of magazine clippings and a hand-written recipe notebook, making it tough to quickly zero in on a new cranberry relish recipe or that wild rice recipe I made 3 years ago that everyone liked.

OK, geek confession: Actually, I can find recipes I've already made before, since I hand-coded a recipe database years ago. Since then I've entered most things I've cooked that I think I'll want to make again. But that app doesn't scale to collecting all the recipes I come across that I might want to try someday.

Enter Evernote , the clipping/note-jotting service that runs on your desktop as well as in the cloud. Now as I'm leafing through cookbooks or magazines looking for Thanksgiving weekend inspiration, if I find something interesting, I jot it down in my Evernote "recipes" notebook and tag it "Thanksgiving." Typing in the entire recipe would be a drag, but I do enter key ingredients and a little about preparation and cooking time, as well as where to find the complete recipe.

Or I could scan the page -- Evernote does text recognition within images. Or, if the item is from a magazine with a robust Web site, I search for the article online and then use Evernote's Web-clipping tool within my browser.

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