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There are thousands of apps and Web services out there. New ones are hitting the Internet as you read this. Here are 10 bona fide tools that can actually improve your life.
New online services are launched all the time. It can be an exercise in frustration to separate the fluff from genuinely useful Web services. To help you along, we've identified 10 online services that contribute to your personal productivity by doing things that you may not have though possible before.
Pronounced as "gift" without the "g," IFTTT (free) is an online service that lets you create handy triggers to automate yout online experience without any prior programming knowledge. The service works with more than 100 channels, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn, and involves If-Else actions called "receipts" that can be published and shared. Examples of receipts include inviting any new iPhone contacts to connect on LinkedIn, updating your Twitter profile picture when your Facebook profile picture changes and saving starred Gmail messages to Evernote.
Toggl ($5 per user per month) is what a modern time-tracker looks like when you design it with mobile devices, Internet collaboration, cross-platform support and the cloud in mind. At its base is a website designed to let users create and track the time across multiple projects. What makes Toggl stand out is its capability to be used within project teams and its multiplatform support. Dedicated apps are available for the Android and iOS mobile platforms, as well as Windows, Mac and Linux on the desktop. Reports are also available in both a summary and a detailed view.
Nitro Cloud converts your PDF files to Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents within the cloud, and vice versa. Converted Office documents are fully editable, with layout and tables intact. The service is free for users working with five or fewer documents per month. Business users (starting at $7 per user per month) can also log in to sign a PDF file or access its advanced collaboration features. The paid version also offers the capability to add sticky notes and comments, mark up text or navigate through all versions of a PDF file.
Feedly (free, with paid options) is a cloud-based news aggregator that gained prominence after Google shut down Google Reader last year. Optimized for RSS feeds, Feedly is a Web service with a minimalistic design and quick performance. Accessible from both the iOS and Android platform via official apps, Feedly's open and extensible design has also birthed a large ecosystem of third-party apps and browser extensions that syncs with the Feedly backend.
This free note-taking application appeals to users who prefer the minimalism of text-only input. Simplenote loads much faster as a result. You can use Simplenote to keep notes, make lists or quickly jot down an idea or two. It works directly from a standard Web browser, from its official Android and iOS apps and from a fairly large number of third-party apps. Multiple versions of each note are automatically saved and can be previewed and retrieved as needed.
The Trillian instant messaging chat client works with today's top chat networks. The client is available on Windows, Mac as well as the Android and iOS mobile platforms. In addition, the Trillian for Web client offers the same capabilities as the dedicated apps, making it perfect for users encumbered by strict firewall settings. Standout feature of the Trillian for Web client include its capability to view the full archived message history and a "continuous chat" capability that mirrors chat conversations across devices. Trillian is free, though you can pay $20 per year for an ad-free experience.
The LastPass password manager saves passwords and other important data in an encrypted vault that can be accessed through its website. Though the data vault is stored online, all data is encrypted and decrypted from the local computer. LastPass offers support for all desktop and mobile platforms, with data from the vault synchronized automatically between them. LastPass is free, though a Premium version ($12 per year) offers access to the official mobile apps and additional multifactor authentication options.
Hootsuite is a social media management system geared towards brand management, or users looking to engage on social media in a big way. The online service makes it easy to schedule messages on a variety of social networks, and will also track the progress of various social initiatives to determine its success (or failure). Hootsuite works with a large number of social networks, including Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest and the Chinese microblogging site Sina Weibo. Though it's a sophisticated tool, Hootsuite is free plan, though paid plans with more advanced functionality start at $8.99 per month.
The HelloFax cloud-based electronic fax service lets you handle both incoming and outgoing fax messages without purchasing a fax machine and expensive consumables such as ink and paper. Messages are managed from an online portal, and can be delivered to more than 70 countries. Incoming fax messages can be uploaded automatically to cloud services such as Google Drive, Dropbox, Box, OneDrive or Evernote; outgoing emails can be attached as an email attachment. HelloFax is free for the first five pages sent; paid plans start from $9.99 for 300 pages per month.
Google Translate offers instant, online translation. A minimalist user interface design masks support for a mind-boggling number of languages under the hood – more than 70 at last count. Content you to translate can be copied and pasted into its text box, entered by speech recognition or even manually written out, which is great for languages such as Chinese or Japanese. In addition, you can input the URL of a specific page, and Google Translate will either translate the entire Web page or use its automatic language detection to figure out the language.