These sites are handier than a pocket on a shirt
There's a certain simple joy to be found in a good tool, and we present 28 fabulous online gadgets in this collection.
These websites run the gamut, from custom font design to tech (and drink!) recipes to digital brainstorming tools.
And they're all free to use!
Upload your favorite photos and videos to this site (or grab them from wherever they’re stored online), add words and music, and Animoto’s video engine will produce a high-definition video that you can share with friends and family by embedding it into your Facebook page or blog.
The free service limits you to 30-second, web-quality, online-only videos. The Plus plan ($30 per year) delivers full-length videos that you can also download burn to DVD, and the Pro plan ($249 annually) delivers unbranded videos, 2,000 commercially licensed music tracks, and more. Animoto.com
Can I Stream It
The biggest problem with watching videos online is that popular movies and TV shows are spread across a multitude of services.
Downton Abbey, for example, is currently on Hulu Plus. But starting in June, Amazon Video on Demand will be the exclusive online provider of the period drama for season 3 and, in 2014, season 4.
Navigate to Can I Stream It, type in the name of the movie or TV show you’re looking for, and the site will let you know where you can stream, buy, download, or rent it online. CanIStream.it
Take a trip in the way-back machine with ChronoZoom for a visual tour of the origins of the universe, our solar system, and humanity itself.
Developed in partnership with Microsoft Research, University of California, Berkley, and Moscow State University, and currently in beta, ChronoZoom presents an interactive timeline the universe using photos, videos, and audio to explain the origins of our existence.
You can see when the Milky Way Galaxy was formed more than 13 billion years ago, and then jump ahead to more recent events of human prehistory. ChronoZoomProject.org
Did They Read It
Are your emails being read or simply ignored? Use this free invisible email tracker to find out.
DidTheyReadIt will tack itself to an email message and let you know when—or if—your message is read, how long it was open, and where in the world it was opened.
It’s a great way to determine if your boss is simply trashing all your emails agitating for a raise, or if your “sick” employee is actually kickin’ it at the beach. DidTheyReadIt.com
From the producers of Salesforce, Do helps you manage home and small-business projects. The service includes group task lists and notes, and the ability to collaborate on documents using Google Docs. You can also install an app on your Android or iOS device and receive project alerts.
There’s a limited version available for free, and a premium service starting at $15 per month for three group members. Do.com
You’re in the mood to listen to Sinatra. Should you be drinking a martini or an old fashioned? Enter the recording artist you’d like to hear and Drinkify will not only begin streaming their music, it will suggest the perfect cocktail to go with the music.
We have to wonder about some of its recommendations, though. Sex Pistols: PBR, served cold. Check. Lucinda Williams: Sipsmith gin laced with honey and Tobasco sauce. Check. Sinatra: Bottle of merlot, served room temperature with a maraschino garnish. Huh? Drinkify.org
It’s amazing how fast email piles up. You’ll have to deal with that expanding inbox sooner or later, so why not make a game out of it?
The Email Game merges fun and productivity by giving you a limited time to deal with 30 messages, one-by-one. The faster you reply, delete, or archive messages, the more points you earn.
But that’s as far as the gaming element goes, there are no social features like leaderboards or the ability to compete with friends. And the Email Game works only with Gmail and Google Apps, so Outlook and Yahoo Mail users are out of luck. EmailGa.me
This is a great site for downloading free software, shareware, and trialware free of viruses and spyware. Every file on offer is accompanied by a detailed description and a change log explaining the updates introduced with each new version.
The site retains the old versions of software, so that if you update to a new version and don’t like it, you can go back to previous version you did like.
The user-focused site earns revenue from advertising, but it does not accept software submissions from publishers. FileHippo.com
Can’t find a typeface you like? Want something unique? Visit FontStruct and you can design your very own custom TrueType fonts using the site’s free, easy-to-use, Flash-based font-building tool.
You can start from scratch by arranging geometrical shapes in a grid pattern, or you can clone a font that someone else has created and shared in the FontStruct gallery and modify it to your liking.
The service is completely free, although you do need to establish an account on the site. The fonts you create are private by default, and you can copyright your designs using various Creative Commons licenses. FontStruct.com
If you were sorry to see Meebo disappear after Google acquired it, you should look into IMO. It’s a web-based multi-service instant messaging client just like Meebo, and it brings all your chat accounts into one browser tab.
IMO works with most major chat clients including AIM, Facebook, Google Talk, ICQ, Skype, and Yahoo. IMO.im
Give your desktop a boost in the looks department with InterfaceLift. This website features thousands of gorgeous, user-submitted high-definition wallpapers, all of which are completely free to download.
Most images are landscapes, macro photos, or computer-rendered art that you can browse by desktop size.
The site has plenty of dual-screen images and even some triple-screens. You’ll also find user-submitted high-res typeface sets here. InterfaceLift.com
“If this then that.” That’s the basic operating principle of IFTTT.com, a web-based utility that helps you set up alerts, triggers, and status updates in novel ways.
Using an IFTTT “recipe,” for example, you can have your weather app send you a text message if it’s going to rain. Or you can have your Facebook photos automatically sync with Dropbox.
Worried you might have a malicious file sitting on your hard drive? Upload the troublesome bits to Jotti.org, where any file up to 25MB can be scanned by 12 anti-virus programs, including scanners from such major security vendors as AVG, Bitdefender, F-Secure, Kasperksy, Panda, and Sophos.
The scan should take just a few minutes—unless the site is experiencing heavy traffic. Viruscan.jotti.org
Language is a Virus
We’re not talking computer viruses here. This site designed for people who write creatively for a living—or those who just enjoy creative writing—is filled with terrific games and exercises designed to get your creative juices flowing. It’s a lot of fun. LanguageIsaVirus.com
Let's Take a Screenshot
Need a quick screenshot of a public Website? Give this service a try. It will grab the entire page in one image, including content that scrolls beyond what’s visible on your display.
It’s not the perfect tool for every situation, though. It won’t capture a site that requires a password, and some sites behind pay walls, such as The Wall Street Journal, might block article text from showing up in your newly captured image. CtrlQ.org/screenshots
Intuit’s Mint and Quicken properties get plenty of coverage, but Personal Capital is an underrated gem when it comes to personal financial management tools—and it’s completely free.
It presents far fewer ads than Mint, which is also free, and its tools are far superior. You can also download mobile apps for managing your money on the go. PersonalCapital.com
This is the perfect online tool for people who want to liven up their photos, but can’t wrap their minds around advanced editing tools such as Photoshop or Gimp.
Start by uploading a photo and then use the site’s visual tool set to add text, visual effects, enhance color, remove eye wrinkles, banish red eye, or just crop and rotate. PicMonkey.com
Imagine having all the standard tools you’d expect to find in a photo-editing package embedded right in your web browser.
With Pixlr, you can separate image layers, add filters and layer masks, add effects, and use standard tools such as clone, smudge, and crop.
If Pixlr’s advanced tools are too much, switch to basic mode or the Instagram-style service that lets you add funky filters to your images. Pixlr.com
You don’t need to buy Microsoft’s Office suite to get great presentation software. Armed with this browser-based tool, you can create presentations that look more sophisticated than what you can achieve with Powerpoint.
Yes, it’s really that good. Prezi.com
Print What You Like
This tool turns every element on a Webpage—photos, ads, site logos, links, and text—into an editable element, so you can print only the elements you want.
Remove background images, hide site margins, increase text size, and more.
PrintWhatYouLike can be unruly until you’re accustomed to it, because everything can be deleted, enlarged, or singled out for printing. PrintWhatYouLike.com
Public Domain Review
Troves of media become free to all each day, thanks to expiring copyrights. We monitor Public Domain Review to stay on top of the coolest, quirkiest items.
This great blog highlights the works falling into the public domain. You can visit daily to find new archival footage, vintage magazines and photos, or you can subscribe to their free newsletter and have the best items delivered to your inbox every two weeks. PublicDomainReview.org
So your friend asks you to fix his wireless network, but he’s not only forgotten the router’s admin password, he’s also thrown away all the documentation. You can reset the router to its default state, but you still need to know the default password to get into the firmware settings.
Visit RouterPasswords.com—on your phone, since your friend’s router isn’t working—enter the router’s brand and model number, and the service will display the router’s factory default login information. RouterPasswords.com
Not to be confused with the insurance-related Simplee, Simple is a tech-friendly bank alternative—don’t worry, your money remains FDIC insured—with a Mint-like user interface.
It will categorize all your financial transactions and generate reports you can use to analyze your spending habits. Simple.com
Death, taxes, and medical bills are inevitable. Simplee can ease the pain of the latter.
Punch in your insurance and other medical-related logins, and it will draw lovely charts illustrating precisely how much you're spending or owe on prescriptions, doctor visits, and surgeries. Simplee.com
Self Nutrition Data
Know exactly what you’re putting in your mouth with Self magazine’s Nutrition Data, a free nutritional database packed with information gleaned from USDA databases.
You can use it to keep track of how many calories you’re eating, of course, but Nutrition Data is also a handy free tool for researching food allergies, looking up ingredient lists for popular products, and calculating your overall nutrition needs. NutritionData.Self.com
Lack of sleep can make it difficult to get through your day. It can also negatively impact your metabolism, memory, and cardiovascular health.
Sleepyti.me helps combat those problems with a simple Web-based calculator that determines what time you should fall asleep based on your target wake time.
Sleepyti.me takes into account our natural sleep cycles, which typically last about 90 minutes each. Waking in the middle of a sleep cycle can leave you feeling groggy, so the utility suggests wake times that fall between cycles so you get the best start to your day. Sleepyti.me
Have you ever made a phone call and hoped it would go straight to voicemail, instead of having the person answer?
That’s just what will happen when you use SlyDial. You can use the service with any U.S. phone: Just dial 267-SLYDIAL and then enter number. SlyDial also offers Android, BlackBerry, iOS, and Windows Mobile smartphone apps. SlyDial.com
The Quiet Place
The Quiet Place offers a relaxing, 90-second breather to take your hands off the keyboard and tune out the constant barrage of social updates, email alerts, and instant messages.
Unlike other relaxation sites, The Quiet Place doesn’t feature a cheesy voice trying to get you to relax. Instead it soothes you with the familiar life and death theme from the hit TV show Lost.
The downside is that listening to the Lost theme might have you wondering all over again what the heck that light at the center of the island was supposed to be. TheQuietPlaceProject.com/90seconds
Need to know the date 180 days from now, or the population of Chicago? WolframAlpha is your go-to source for finding basic facts and information that are harder to uncover on Wikipedia or Google.
The so-called computational knowledge engine gives you instant answers to natural language questions such as “how many grams in a cup?” or “where is the constellation Andromeda?” Students can use WolframAlpha to help correct their algebra and geometry homework.
The tool can also analyze your Facebook presence and deliver fascinating information about it. WolframAlpha.com
10 ways to goof off at work without getting caught
You work hard, you deserve a little break. Once you finish perusing through all these handy websites, why not visit your personal favorites—without getting caught.
Click here to check out how to do just that.