The World Wide Web is simultaneously a means of entertainment, education, productivity, and innovation. In the business world, whether you are working from home, in a small office, or are part of a global corporation, the Internet provides you with the resources you require to complete any creative or professional project. The tools available online can also help with marketing, scheduling, file conversion, document storage, and note taking. There are even websites that can lock you out of Facebook for a few hours or remind you to pick up the dry cleaning.
Many of these free and readily available web applications are well known, but there are others that are found in the cracks and corners of cyberspace− and since I know few people have the time to dedicate to hunting them down, I wanted to share several websites that I find practical and useful, not only in the business world, but also for the stay-at-home moms, the pseudo photographers, and those just getting started online.
For the designers, web developers, and photographers:
Did you know that Google Chrome offers a free, full-featured photo editor that is available in your browser? It’s called Pixlr Editor. You don’t have to download or purchase any software; there is no waiting, no product key− it’s 100% free. If you are familiar with Photoshop or Paint Shop Pro, you will be right at home with this software; it offers many of the same features but without the headache. Some of the tools included are: red eye reduction, spot heal tool, drawing tools, clone tools, sharpen and blur tools, and many more. You can turn your modern digital image into a vintage looking photo with the many filters that are available, and the program even offers Adjustments that are fairly advanced, such as Levels, Curves, Cross process, Desaturate, Auto levels, Hue/Saturation, and Brightness/Contrast. You can upload images right from your Desktop and once you are done working with the file, you can save it, email it, or print it out.
Another alternative site that provides a similar service is BeFunky.com, a Turkish startup website that is known for special effects. The site also has a popular mobile app option that contains more filters and editing options than Instagram and any other photo editing mobile app put together. The image-editing process is easy and accessible, and gives you the opportunity to create beautiful, professional-looking photographs from your computer, tablet, or phone. What makes this site different is that the editing process is merged with an intriguing social aspect. You can work with your photographs to bring out their best qualities and then you can share them with others placing them into categories like nature, tattoos, music, pets, and more.
Have you heard of Sketch Toy? This website provides another tool for people to practice their creativity by offering drawing tools. Sketch Toy is a free use site that offers a simple drawing interface but with a unique twist− the lines you draw appear as shaky animations as if watching a still image or cartoon on an old television. The canvas you are given has a texture that highlights this animated effect. You can choose from a solid drawing or a dashed one, there are various colors and effects, but there are no regular shapes because all the drawing is done freestyle by using your mouse.
For the savvy, productive, office-bound busy bee:
Your coworker emails you a document that cannot be opened on your computer because the file format isn’t recognized – what do you do? A few years ago, you might have panicked or responded with an email asking him or her to save it again, some other way, and resend it. This is no longer an issue today thanks to online file conversion websites. I like to use Online Convert. Here you can convert m4a files to mp3s, or videos to mp4− and the converter lets you specify dimensions, video quality, audio quality, frame rate, and video duration of the resulting video. If the file you want to convert is online, you can provide its URL instead or uploading it from your computer. You can convert image files, documents, videos, audio files, and there is even a hash generator. Zamzar also offers a similar service.
Many of us have heard of Evernote, I could write an entire article just about the productivity and efficiency of this one application, but I will offer a short summary. To say that Evernote is simply a note taking software is a severe understatement. With this application you can capture images, create voice recordings, edit screen shots, and create lists. You can then add your notes directly to the images you create or the voice recordings you’ve saved. For example, when we have a business meeting, I can record the entirety of the meeting while taking notes and then go back and edit what I had missed. Evernote works on a cloud system so it is available on any device, at any time. If you make a shopping list on your iPad, the list shows up on your mobile device so you can access it while you’re at the market. There are even little check boxes so you can mark off the items as you locate them. You can store recipes, project ideas, and reminders all in specific folders, then easily access them by searching for keywords in the top corner of the app’s home screen. If you aren’t already using this application, you need to be, and you can download it for free on any device.
When I first found wakerupper.com I was slightly amused. I thought the site was kind of a joke, not because it wasn’t useful and well designed, but because I thought that perhaps setting alarms and reminders on my phone was all I needed− that maybe this site was designed to be fun and silly. I was half right. This site offers an amazing resource; scheduling reminders I can do from my phone, but setting a wake up call? Now that is incredible. You can have your phone ring to wake you up and even record or notate a message to your ‘not a morning person’ self. Some of the alternative uses that people have been raving about are that you can schedule calls to remind your husband or children to clean the house− you can schedule calls that can save you from a horrible date or a boring business meeting, and you can even set calls to urge your elderly parent to take his or her medication when you are on working or on vacation.
For the academics and overachievers:
Has anyone in your circle of friends or coworkers mentioned something called a TED talk? Maybe you’ve heard of or even seen one of these presentations, but on their website you can watch hundreds of them for free. TED talks are inspiring conversations written and presented by remarkable and highly successful people. You can find one on almost any topic. There are conversations about biomechanics and engineering, and others explaining why we see colors when we smell certain things. There are talks on social media, the obesity epidemic in America, sustainable architecture, and our education system.
The Khan Academy is another incredible tool; the website offers a library of over 2,100 quality educational videos on various subjects including math, physics, biology, test prep, literature, history, and more. Read more about the Khan Academy, and how people are using it here.
Another service that is well known, but worth mentioning, is Dropbox. Dropbox and Google Drive actually function in a similar fashion, so this paragraph can be applied to both resources. Dropbox lets you sync selected files or folders between computers and mobile devices. Any file you save to Dropbox is instantly transferred into a cloud storage system that is then accessible from any other device anywhere else on planet Earth. The main difference when using Google Drive is that once you share a document in the drive, the parties that have access to the file are able to download it or edit it right in the browser providing a dynamic and collaborative workspace. With Dropbox, once the receiving party has access to your document, they would have to download it, edit it, save it, and re-upload it to Dropbox. While both are easy, the Google Drive option is more immediate.
I found most of these web tools using Stumbleupon.com, the final site that I want to talk about. This web service is not only a means of inspiration, but also a source of knowledge, a research aid, an entertainment center− and sometimes a time suck. But if used properly, you can sometimes avoid being lost in its trance forever. When you create an account, you are urged to select your interests from a list of various choices like travel, music, literature, online games, Internet tools, fitness, philosophy, art, humor, and more. You then hit the orange button that says, “Stumble” and the random generator brings you to one of billions of webpages. With every click of the stumble button you arrive at a new website that suits your interests− and you can choose to remain in one category or stumble all of your interests at once. Sometimes you will land on a picture of some tropical paradise, other times you will land on a gardening blog, a space exploration tool, an article about collecting jazz records, or a digital relaxation experience− a website that uses satellite imaging and ambient noise recodrings to make you feel like you are on a private Caribbean beach.There are unlimited possibilities when you stumble, and each time you are guaranteed to find something new and interesting. Stumble Upon is like a flashlight illuminating the dark shadows and unexplored spaces of the web.
Every day new websites are erected out of a human necessity for efficiency and time management. Like stars and planets, there are hundreds in the works this instant and millions that we have yet to discover− the web was nicknamed cyberspace for a reason. For more interesting and useful web applications, you can select the sub-category “Internet” or “Internet Tools” on Stumbleupon.com and continue the hunt. There are useful tools everywhere if you take the time to discover and play− and if you don’t have that kind of time, then I hope this article was helpful in highlighting some of the amazing resources that are just one click away.
By Sasha Novikov | Creatine Marketing