Sites for Collaborative Work and Play
Whether you're putting together an important document or an anniversary party, these services will help get everybody involved. Also, check out a snazzy online photo editor and a new way to search.
Anyone who has collaborated with multiple people on a document knows the true meaning of frustration. You have to distribute the file to the entire group, convince every person to review it by a certain date and time, and get them all to sign off on it. Approver.com lowers the pain quotient considerably. Upload the document you want to track, and the site routes it to everyone who needs to see it. It also lets you set deadlines for reviewing the document, and keep track of approvals and comments. Approver.com works with a number of apps, including Microsoft Office, Adobe PDF, and Open Office; alternatively, you can use the site to create documents, and have your colleagues read them online.
Though the whole world seems to know about Wikipedia these days, many people and organizations don't realize how useful it can be to build their own wiki. In business settings, it's an ideal way to share information within a group. For individuals, it's perfect for planning a get-together, organizing a fan club, or sharing memories with family members. Pbwiki makes creating miniature versions of Wikipedia a breeze. The site's simple, Web-based tools are perfect for building a wiki--you don't need to have any HTML know-how--and getting others in on the editing action.
Planning a party, but unsure of what date works best for your friends? MyPunchbowl is basically Evite with a little extra kick. Like any self-respecting online invitation site, MyPunchbowl lets you create party invitations and then track who's coming, who's not, and who has yet to respond. But the site also enables you to send pick-a-date e-mail messages to see which day works best for people, set up message boards (useful for organizing things like who's bringing the vino), and produce a map of the shindig's location using Google Maps. You can also create an after-party message board where people can share comments, photos, and videos--if, um, appropriate.
You probably have hundreds or thousands of digital photos on your PC. And a lot of those photos would probably benefit from a little tweaking. But that doesn't mean that you have to download and install photo editing software. Picnik supplies a nice suite of tools for editing photos online. All you have to do is upload your photos, or have Picnik grab them from a site like Flickr (which doesn't have editing features), and then get to work. Picnik offers tools aplenty for performing simple editing--cleaning up red-eye or resizing photos, say--as well as doing more-extensive work, such as changing the exposure, fixing a color cast, or applying special effects.
Quintura provides a new way for you to search for things on the Internet. When you enter a search term, Quintura returns an ordinary list of results on the right-hand side, while on the left it offers a visual map (or "cloud") of related terms. Click any of these words, and the list of results changes to encompass the new term as well, which can help you narrow your search. The process may sound clunky, but it's surprisingly effective.