The internet isn't only for checking stock prices, keeping up with the cricket and wasting time at work (note: we did say only). Find the right tools, and you can send yourself notes, coordinate meetings, get invites and have your favourite blogs emailed to you.
Here at PC Advisor we're swiftly coming around to the idea that our web browsers are the most powerful tool on our PCs. We're big fans of Zoho's online productivity suite, constantly beam out instant messages and VoIP calls, and grab our entertainment online where we can.
But there's still that nagging feeling that we're missing out on the coolest features of the web. So we challenged leading technology author and regular contributor to US website PCWorld.com Steve Bass to guide us through the niftiest and best web applications he used this week.
Over to you Steve:
Every couple of days a new web service pops on to the scene. Some are forgettable, but the ones I've got for you this week are definitely keepers.
Jott: send yourself a note
Say you're driving home or walking the dog and have a gem of an idea. (Not me, of course. I'm thinking of you.) If your mobile phone lets you, you can record the thought as a personal message. But there's a better way.
Use your speed dial to call Jott. Talk for 30 seconds and Jott turns what you say into text, then sends it to you via email. Have others you'd like to send a Jott to? Just add their name and email address to your Jott contact list.
Sadly (for you guys) Jott is currently available only in the US and Canada. Is there a UK version? If not why not? Perhaps one of PC Advisor's readers could start one (and cut PCA in on the profits, naturally).
Use Doodle to coordinate a meeting
Take 50 people and try to get them to schedule a get-together or a meeting.
As my friend Monica said, when she told me about Doodle, "it can be a nightmare of emails, and back and forth phone calls as you try to find the perfect date and time".
The trick, she said, is to use Doodle, a free web-based service that lets participants vote on the best time, date, location - whatever.
Give it a try, and let me know what you think. (And don't forget to thank Monica, if you see her.)
Get hard-to-come-by web invites
I get more than my fair share of invitations into web-based services; I've tried Joost, Pownce, and GrandCentral, for instance. But then, I'm a huge star in the IT firmament (coughs). Lest you miss out on the fun, I've found a site that might make it easier for non-journalists to get invites to new services.
InviteShare lets visitors request invitations from others who have extras. If you have invites you're not using, you can offer them on the site.
Get your blogs in email
I'll read a blog online only if I'm forced into it. My preference is to have the blog delivered to me via email. That way I can choose to read it now or later or not at all.
Yes, I know, I'm an oddity. (Don't rub it in.) Most people seem to use one of thousands of RSS readers - but I don't need yet another program sitting in my system tray.
For a long time, I used Squeet.com. The site let me configure all my RSS feeds for delivery by email. One day Squeet stopped working. "Squeet will be unavailable while it is undergoing an extended maintenance period", they said. Very extended.
Hamid Shojaee, the CEO of Axosoft, the brains behind Squeet, had a candid reply to my complaints: "After pushing it for nearly eight months, we had VERY LITTLE interest in the product. Only 10,000 users (non-paying, of course) and the servers used for it were starting to choke because of the sheer volume. (Squeet checked over 50,000 feeds per day, most of them multiple times.)
On top of that, Outlook 2007 and nearly every other email client also has RSS capabilities built-in. So we had a hard decision to make - keep investing in a system that seems to be a dead-end or refocus our efforts on other stuff."
As I said, very extended.
I moved all my RSS feeds to Yahoo Alerts and it was terrific, for a while. Then it stopped.
I'm on a new service now, RssFwd. It does what Squeet and Yahoo Alerts did; the big difference is that it still works.
It's easy enough to use. Copy and paste a blog's URL (try the PC Advisor blog: http://www.pcadvisor.co.uk/blogs/index.cfm?blogid=4) into the Submit field. RssFwd finds the XML content feed.
A reader this week suggested two slick sites I definitely plan to try.
If you try them before me, be sure to leave a comment!