The Web is a big place. Really big--around 300 million sites and counting. So no one could blame you if you don't have time to browse through all that stuff, try all the latest and greatest online services, and find the very best. Good news: We've done it for you.
PCWorld's editors have roamed all over the Net seeking the finest sites for travel, search, dining, news, shopping, finance, and more. Presented in this article package are 46 amazing sites--the best on the Web. These phenomenal Websites should be your go-to resources for everything you need to do online.
But we didn't stop there. Because every user is unique, we've also collected great alternatives that do things the top sites can't. From quirky-but-cool photo tools to off-the-beaten-path vacation rentals, this roundup is brimming with sites you'll love.
Below are the finest sites and services for getting work done, keeping your schedule in order, and finding useful information. For more of 2010's top Web destinations, see "The Web's Best Entertainment Sites" and "The Web's Best Travel, Shopping, and Dining Sites."
Over the past few years, Web-based office suites have grown from humble roots to rival the flexibility and features of full-blown desktop apps. Google has led the way in this burgeoning category with its popular Docs family of programs, though rival Zoho offers a broader, easier-to-use, and more sophisticated suite of tools. But while most online suites have slightly kludgy interfaces that come with their share of quirks, Microsoft's introduction of Web Apps with Office 2010 offers the familiar, refined interface you already know, directly integrating a desktop suite that outstrips all online competitors.
Most people rely so heavily on their word processors and spreadsheets that it's difficult to depend on a solely cloud-based system. Microsoft's Office Web Apps (free) provide the best of both worlds; combined with Office, they allow you to work in a robust desktop suite as well as to store, access, and edit your stuff online.
If you're a Gmail user and your needs are modest, Google Docs (free) is a highly serviceable secondary choice. It suffers from quirky formatting and compatibility issues with Microsoft Office files, but its integration with Gmail makes it worth a try.
For a full-service cloud-based suite with options for everything from accounting to human-resources management, be sure to check out the massive array of services from Zoho (free for personal use).
Conventional wisdom states that Google's Gmail (free) won the battle for e-mail dominance long ago. After all, the service's 7.5GB of storage and relatively large 20MB attachment-size limit make it hard to beat. On top of that, Gmail integrates nicely with Google Calendar, Docs, and the rest of Google's online apps.
But if you think it's time to close the book on the e-mail wars, think again. For its innovative search features, Gmail still gets top honors. If you want a solid alternative, however, Yahoo Mail has come back from the brink of irrelevance. Yahoo Mail (free) now offers an unlimited--that's right, unlimited--amount of storage, which makes any amount of drive space measured in gigabytes seem paltry. And Yahoo Mail now includes apps for popular Web services, so you can easily connect your mail account to Evite, Flickr, PayPal, Photobucket, and more.
One of the greatest challenges of the mobile age is keeping your essential files online, accessible, and in sync from all your devices. Dropbox (free) rises to that challenge with 2GB of online storage that syncs to apps on Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, and iOS.
If you need 25GB of online storage, Microsoft SkyDrive delivers (free). The service lacks good mobile integration overall, but it works great on Windows and gives you a clean Web interface for Mac computers and Linux systems. As of this writing, SkyDrive also permits you to share pictures by way of Windows Phone 7 handsets, and a possible update to the OS due in January could add mobile access to other files as well.
Want unlimited storage to back up your entire hard drive? Trend Micro SafeSync gives you just that, plus the ability to share files and folders with anyone on the Web. At $60 per year, SafeSync's unlimited capacity is only half the price of Dropbox's 50GB paid service.
Since the dawn of the PC, personal finance software has been a staple of home computing. Just as Intuit's Quicken package has dominated the home finance software market for years, the company now handily dominates the online finance arena as well with Mint.com. Mint is free, and it can track all of your bank accounts and investments. In addition, it monitors your budget and helps you meet your savings goals.
When you want to make sense of your financial options, you need access to a good assortment of financial calculators. CalcMoolator provides free calculators to help you compare mortgage options and auto loans, determine how much you could benefit from paying down your credit card debt more aggressively, and more.