16 Productivity-Enhancing Websites
Need some assistance in taming your various to-do lists?
In this story, we've vetted 16 incredibly useful Web services and sites that can keep your tasks and notes in order, help you with your personal finances, streamline your Web surfing, track lost gadgets, and more.
We looked at a total of 52 incredibly useful sites. For the others, check out the stories below.
- 13 Top-Notch Web Services for Business and Communication
- 13 Terrific Sites for Managing Media and Sharing Files
- 10 Great Shopping, Dining, and Travel Websites
- 52 Incredibly Useful Sites: The Full List
Better To-Do Lists
Most to-do apps are little more than static lists of pending responsibilities. Teux Deux, though, is a slick, simple, and free online task manager that visually groups your upcoming chores by date, giving you a clear view of what you need to accomplish in the coming week.
The site's interface works particularly well with the popular Getting Things Done method for enhancing productivity. Each date acts a bit like a folder, keeping all of the tasks for the day contained and compartmentalized, so you can focus on what matters most in the moment. Tasks with no specific due date linger in a ‘Someday' box on the main screen, so you can put them off without forgetting about them.
Learn Anything Fast
Whether it's learning conversational Japanese, memorizing state capitals, deciphering the periodic table of elements, or mastering the fictional language of the Na'vi, the free, goal-oriented online courses at Smart.fm can get you up to speed in no time.
In fact, you can add photos, data files, Web URLs, and messages to any physical object. You simply download a Stickybits bar code and slap it on anything, and then link the bar code to any digital file or address. When someone scans that bar code with their phone's camera, they'll go straight to your linked data.
Hey, Wake Up
You don't have to stay in some fancy two-star motel to get a wake-up call. Wakerupper allows you to schedule wake-up or reminder calls to any phone at any time, for 5 cents a call, complete with a snooze option. If you type in a reminder, you'll hear an oddly disquieting computer voice read it back to you on the call.
Evernote lets you capture ideas, images, or audio clips from your PC or phone, and then sync them to the cloud for easy retrieval and organization. It even works with handwritten notes, turning your chicken scratch into searchable text.
Remember Specific Things
Like Evernote, Springpad helps you organize your information, but it doesn't focus on just notes and Web clippings. Instead, Springpad offers unique templates for organizing data about your personal life, from recipes to your music collection to your favorite movies, wines, and restaurants.
The recipe features are particularly cool. First, enter a recipe directly into the template, or link to an online recipe to have it automatically imported into your Springpad recipe collection. Later, when you want to cook the recipe, click ‘Add to shopping list', and all the ingredients will appear on your shopping list. You can even search for coupons from your local supermarket. In addition to basic information storage, Springpad offers task lists and reminders to help you keep your life on track.
Control Your Spending
Would you spend $3 per month to get your finances under control? The simple PearBudget online budgeting app offers a drag-and-drop interface for organizing all of your expenses and tracking them against your income. You can create custom categories, enter receipts, and review your spending from any computer. PearBudget also lets you print what it calls GoCards, 3-by-5-inch cards that you can toss in your wallet to keep track of how much you have left in your budget for any given expense category. It's a great way to avoid overspending, with no high-priced gadgets required.
Manage Personal Finances
For a more complete set of financial tools, try Mint. This free financial powerhouse--from the same people who make Quicken and TurboTax--automatically syncs with your bank accounts, tracks your spending, and gives you detailed graphical reports that show you where your money comes from, where it's going, and how you can save more.
Send Payments via Twitter
Strange as it sounds to use a public social network like Twitter to send money, TwitPay's PayPal-driven payment system is a great way to drum up buzz around a fundraiser or to kick-start an office pool.
Spark Your Creativity
Brainstorming can be tough. Bubbl.us takes the hassle out of getting your ideas down with free mind-mapping tools that are dead simple to use. You can map out your thoughts with colorful drag-and-drop diagrams, and then share them with friends and colleagues, print them out, or embed them on your site.
Find the Right Zip Code
You know what city you're sending something to, but you don't have the zip? The U.S. Postal Service's Zip Code Lookup is a must-use utility for getting packages to their destination.
Run Remote PCs
An Endless Stream of Online News
Tired of static online-news aggregators that force you into rigid content categories? Topicfire lets you choose categories of interest and then fills the page with fresh content constantly, so you always see the latest news that matters to you.
If you're using the same password for every online account, you're just asking for trouble. The Passpack online password manager takes your brain out of the equation, generating secure passwords for you and storing them in the cloud. When you get to a new computer, just head to Passpack.com, drag the login button to your browser, and enter your password. Afterward, all of your online accounts will magically open for you as you surf.
When you want to access content that's blocked for your region, a proxy server comes in handy. Proxify allows you to select a custom level of security and removes ads and cookies from sites you visit, letting you see what you want to see, without being seen.
Clock Your Connection
Are you certain you're getting the Internet speeds you're paying for? Find out with the bandwidth test at Speedtest.net. Just click 'Begin Test', and the performance calculator will evaluate your upload and download speeds to see exactly how your Internet performance measures up.